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Monterey Peninsula, CA

A Coastal Slice of Heaven Spellbinding, breathtaking and spectacular are words frequently used to describe 17-Mile Drive . This winding road hugs the Monterey Peninsula coast through the gated community of Pebble Beach offering you wonderful things to see during your California vacation. In addition to providing glimpses of some seriously challenging golf courses, it is famously scenic—and as scenic drives go, this one definitely does not disappoint.

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The two main access gates for a sightseeing jaunt are at the northern and southern ends (off SR 68 and SR 1, respectively). The toll for visitors is $10 (cash only) per vehicle, and the gate attendant will provide a map/brochure denoting 21 points of interest along the drive. If you enter through the Carmel gate at the southern end, you'll encounter the highlights described below in order as the road snakes along the coast toward Pacific Grove.

The Lodge at Pebble Beach , site of the world-class Pebble Beach Golf Links, is hallowed ground for lovers of the sport. If you've budgeted the time before your 17-Mile Drive jaunt, take a stroll around the hotel grounds, duck into one of the specialty shops selling high-end resort wear and every golf accessory imaginable, and just wallow in the luxuriousness of it all. You could also have breakfast on the outdoor terrace at the Stillwater Bar & Grill and admire the view of the Pacific as golfers line up putts on the 18th green.

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At Pescadero Point the views of deep blue water, thick green carpets of ice plants, gnarled tree branches and rounded rocks are spectacular. A bit farther on is a roadside marker denoting the Ghost Tree. Bleached white by the salt air, this twisted tree trunk is devoid of any greenery or sign of life. The multimillion-dollar mansions in the vicinity are set back from the serpentine road, shaded by groves of pines.

The Lone Cypress is an iconic coastal California landmark; it’s estimated that the tree has survived for more than 250 years. Perched atop a rock overlooking the Pacific, it has the flat-topped look characteristic of the Monterey cypress, which grows wild in only two seaside locations on the Monterey Peninsula.

At Cypress Point there's a lookout perfect for snapping a photo of the rocky coastline, which extends as far as the eye can see. Another outstanding photo op is nearby Fanshell Overlook. You might spot a harbor seal on the white-sand beach, or maybe an artist attempting to capture the idyllic scene on canvas. This spot is off-limits to visitors during the spring pupping season.

Continue along past Spyglass Hill, designed by Robert Trent Jones and regarded as one of the world's toughest golf courses. The holes, which have enviable backdrops courtesy of the ocean and the Del Monte Forest, are named after characters in Robert Louis Stevenson's classic “Treasure Island.”

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Seal Rock is a great place for a picnic or a stroll along the beach. Nearby Bird Rock, just offshore, is a perching spot for gulls and other seabirds. Farther on is China Rock, an outcrop named in tribute to Chinese settlers.

Early seafarers often crashed into the rocks at Point Joe, mistaking it for the entrance to Monterey Bay. Like many other pullouts along 17-Mile Drive, the sight of ocean waves breaking against rocks almost compels you to pull over, get out and marvel at the view.

The road curves a short distance inland past another one of Pebble Beach's spectacular courses, The Links at Spanish Bay. The landscape here bears more than a passing resemblance to Scotland's rolling green hills.

The junction with SR 68 marks the northern end of 17-Mile Drive. At this point you can either take SR 68 toward Monterey or turn left onto Sunset Drive and continue north past Asilomar State Beach and Point Pinos Lighthouse to Pacific Grove, another charming Monterey Peninsula community.

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Monterey Peninsula, CA

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