We all love the seaside. We all love long drives. How about a drive along the coast? What if it is that of the Pacific Ocean that we are talking about? One great place to do this is the 17-Mile Drive. 17 mile drive runs through the Del Monte Forest beside the Spanish Bay, Carmel Bay and Stillwater Cove, which fringe the world’s largest ocean.
This scenic drive in Monterey, CA, meanders through a gated community that is home to golf clubs, resorts and some colossal houses. However a drive through the 17-Miles has much more to offer. Over 9 miles of this road is by the sea. That apart, there are around a score of points-of-interest, where you can stop, take pictures and chill out.
The 17-Mile Drive had been on our must-visit list for a long time. We had made plans a couple of times and each time something would come up and we would end up not making it there. After several of those foiled attempts, we finally did it. And it turned out to be a lovely trip.
We took the gate by Highway 1(near exit 68 W). There we paid a toll and picked up the brochure, which told us about the various points-of-interests on the way. There was a map to go with it and this made it all the more easier. This is a must-have if you don’t want to miss any of the viewpoints or you have to grab something to eat or even answer nature’s call. Thanks to the Pebble Beach Company that owns this little part of the earth, the 17-Mile Drive has all the tourism infrastructure that it needs: restaurants, restrooms and picnic tables. Apart from that, this gated community also has some essential services like two fire stations, a hospital and a gas station too; a lot to be thankful for.
It was in 1602 that Spanish explorers discovered the Monterey Peninsula. Later in 1880, Hotel Del Monte (which is now the Naval Post Graduate School, Monterey) opened here and bought the Del Monte Forest land. The then property manager F.B. Morse is said to have been the one who got Pebble Beach Golf Links designed for this area and with this, he founded the Pebble Beach Company, which is now the proud owner of The Lodge, The Inn, Links at Spanish Bay, Casa Palmero and The Spa at Pebble Beach.
This area is blessed with beaches, viewpoints and some natural wonders. If the company had not opened its gates for the public, we would not have been able to bask in the beauty of this naturally dramatic drive. The Shepherd’s Knoll, Huckleberry Hill, Spanish Bay, The Restless Sea, Point Joe and China Rock are some of the first few points-of-interest if you take the Highway 1 gate. Then there is the Hunt Course, Bird Rock, Seal Rock, Fanshell overlook, The Lone Cypress, The Ghost Tree and the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center, among others.
Shepherd’s Knoll and Huckleberry Forest are the first two viewpoints of the 17 Mile Drive and from here you can see the Santa Cruz Mountains and get a glimpse of the sea. This just makes you want to skip the next two POIs and head for that water you see from afar. At least for me that was how it was. It had been a while since I had been out there and so I was yearning to see the sea, hear the waves and feel the spray.
When we stopped at Spanish bay, the sun was at its zenith and our near-empty stomachs were asking for food. So that was where we sat and watched the waves as we had our lunch. There’s ample parking space and several picnic tables. There’s the sea out there and friendly birds calling at your table. What more would you need when on a date with nature? `Sun n’ sand’ does not say enough about this place; if it’s Spanish Bay, it has got to be Sun and Sand and Pebbles. Now it is not difficult to see how Pebble Beach got its name.
The next stop on the way was the Restless Sea. Here, if you looked out into the sea, you would notice a very disturbed patch on the water — restless indeed. I was wondering what was really happening there, when my eyes fell upon a board, which said it was probably a place where ocean currents collided creating all that turbulence. It goes on to say that a still probable reason could be the some rocks below the surface of the water causing the waves to break early. Hmm…which of that are we to go by? Maybe this time we should leave the science behind and take in that not-so-common sight, just say, “Wow,” and move on to Point Joe.
Point Joe is a siren of rocks, on which ages ago, mariners are said to have crashed upon, mistaking it to be the mouth of the Monterey Bay.
Yet another point on the 17-Mile Drive itinerary that I really wanted to see was Bird Rock and Seal Rock that promised to show us some sea life. At first I saw nothing. Then I thought I saw some shapes camouflaged against some huge rocks in the distance. Thankful to have brought a pair of binoculars, I pulled it out and managed to spot those aquatic birds and seals. Now, if you are not carrying binoculars, while you are on this drive — worry not. You won’t have to rely on your naked eye alone, for there are telescopes here. Drop a quarter and help yourselves.
If there is another feature on the 17 Mile Drive that you just cannot leave without seeing, it is the famous Lone Cypress. This tree is said to have survived on a rocky edge for over 250 years. Highly promoted, this tree is also the symbol of the Pebble Beach Company.
The Ghost Tree on the 17 Mile Drive is no tree that houses a spirit. Its just one of those oddly shaped things that give people ideas. Actually there are a few odd looking trees at this point. Any one of them could be the ghost tree.
A drive through these interesting points of interests leaves you with a feeling of satisfaction. The 17-Mile Drive is much more than just a drive and much more than a trip to the seaside.
17 Mile Drive (Monterey, CA) is around:
75 miles south of San Jose and
120 miles south of San Francisco.