My husband and I chose to do the 17-Mile Drive during our honeymoon because it is a fairly quick drive right off the Pacific Coast Highway (Route 1). Our goal during this trip was to see the beautiful coastline on the PCH, as much as we could, and this certainly fell that category. It also fit perfectly into our very tight schedule. 17-Mile Drive is a scenic road that goes through the Pebble Beach area. It’s located on the Monterey Peninsula in California and has several pull offs, so you gaze off into the mesmerizing ocean, watch birds, listen to harbor seals or even ogle lavish mansions. It is one of those offbeat things we didn’t want to pass up while we were in Monterey/Carmel. We got up fairly early, had a quick seaside breakfast and then hopped into the car.
The 17-Mile Drive costs $10 per car, as non-residents of the Pebble Beach community have to pay to use the road. For some people one of the attractions for the 17-Mile Drive are the expensive mansions which are all found deep within the drive. Right at the beginning there’s lots of beach to see and trees covered in a thick, green wispy moss. A bit later you’re welcomed with several pull offs with names for each beach.
We stopped at the Restless Sea sign, because it sounded awesome and it was what it said it was! A quick peek revealed restless water that churned over the rough stones below, making the current look dangerous and unpredictable. Certainly not something you’d want to tackle if you were out looking to ride a wave, or take a quick swim. A few stops later and we were at Bird Rock, which had piles of birds and harbor seals lounging about, taking in what little sun they could get. They were kind of far off and hard to make out. So, I paid to view the rock through one of those nifty little view finders placed along the railing, but it really didn’t zoom in worth a damn and I left wishing I could get my cents back.
We also saw a tsunami sign that, for this landlocked girl, I found myself intrigued with. It’s surprising how differently we all live based on whatever the geography roulette wheel gave us. In Tucson, AZ (home) it’s “a dry heat” which could literally mean dehydration, seat belt buckles that burn your legs and the occasional drought. Hey, in California coastal towns apparently it’s earthquakes, tsunamis and FOG, which I think are a bit more concerning. I mean have you ever read The Mist by Stephen King?
At this point, we continued on until I spotted a beautiful hawk (which was later identified as a Red Shouldered Hawk) the flew up from the side of the road toward a nearby fence. Its wingspan had me staring at it with my mouth agape; it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a good sized hawk. Then, it jumped from the fence, to the roof of a nice looking home. From here I was able to get a few photos before it disappeared into the surrounding cypress trees. Quite a lovely bird.
In various places throughout the drive, but most notably Fanshell Overlook, there were walls built up with signs telling us that it was baby Harbor Seal birthing season and that we weren’t allowed to bother them. So, we didn’t. But that didn’t stop me from whining about how I really wanted to see baby harbor seals, and it didn’t stop my husband from looking for places where we might find some. We never did see any, at least not here (we saw baby seals later on at Point Piedras Blancas near Hearst Castle).
We continued on until the houses became two story homes and had huge yards, all the while still facing the ocean, of course. We joked about buying one and living there part time. Because who doesn’t want ocean front property in their wildest dreams? Only weirdos who love the mountains, that’s who! Another attraction for this drive is what is called the Lone Cypress Tree. This cypress is part of the 5,300-acres of surrounding Monterey Cypress trees and is hundreds of years old. Cypress are rugged trees, which can be a great sight especially if they’re very old, or packed tightly together. Parking to view the this cypress was fairly easy, but during busier seasons I wouldn’t be surprised to see a line waiting for spots. Once parked, the Lone Cypress can be found clinging to the granite facade in the distance with a stone wall surrounding its base. And, you guessed it, it’s mostly alone out there, dangling above the ocean. We took pictures with it in the background, like total tourists, and then headed out eager to see the Ghost Cypress!
Back in the car we noticed that it’s around this location that the houses became mansions and the figures became 5-10 million dollars for these homes. How’d I know what the houses are worth? Well, Zillow of course! A 10 million dollar mansion is certainly a sight to behold. Some of the mansions on the drive had their fancy or clever names emblazoned upon huge stone signs. Distracted by the ridiculously lavish mansions we quickly arrived at the Ghost Cypress tree. Sadly it was simply a dead cypress tree, I guess I should have figured that out. But come on, the name was intriguing, but not completely obvious. It probably has a story and some history that I completely missed as I was complaining about how it’s just a dead tree.
There was a bit of construction on the road leaving the Ghost Tree and it was hectic in this particular area. So, now it’s time for something whacky for those of you comic book nerds out there. My husband and I had to stop and take a photograph of the logo for the “Bay Area Traffic Solutions.” It reminds me of the Dark Knight, Batman logo! It’s fantastic. I have to confess, yes the million dollar mansions were cool, but stumbling on the “BATS” logo for the first time and imagining Bruce Wayne was living among the rich and powerful on the California coast, was somehow slightly more fun to imagine. This find was certainly cooler than a dead tree.
To end the drive we finished it with a short drive toward a green and gorgeous golf course. We exited around at the Pacific Grove “entrance” and then headed out to the Pacific Coast Highway, but not before cruising through some land that looked like an enchanted forest! It was really beautiful and capped off the drive in a very pleasant way. In retrospect, I would imagine the entire drive is far more outstanding when the sun is burning bright, the sky is blue and the ocean is clear and visible. We were driving our little convertible during the beginning of April and unfortunately, for us it was cold and windy, but it was still fun. There’s nothing quite like looking at all the lovely nature and expensive homes, in this maintained California coastal area, to remind you just how much nature can affect us. So much so that people would pay millions of dollars to be wrapped within it.
The title is sang to the tune of The Proclaimers – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), just for fun.