Spanning the coast between Pacific Grove and Carmel, the 17-Mile Drive is one of the most famous toll roads in the nation. Opened in the 1880s, the route initially took guests of Monterey’s posh Hotel Del Monte on a scenic carriage ride along the coast through the newly planted Del Monte Forest between Carmel and Pacific Grove. Guided by Samuel F. B. Morse, son of the inventor, the formerly wild area underwent development beginning in the 1920s, first with golf courses like Pebble Beach and Cypress Point, and since then with resort hotels and posh homes.
Enter the drive at any of the gates, where you’ll pay the toll ($8.50) and be given a map and guide to the route, pointing out all the scenic highlights, especially the trussed-up old Lone Cypress, subject of so many Carmel postcards. It’s definitely worth doing, if only to say you have, but to be honest, the views from the drive are no more or less splendid than they are from the toll-free drives, like Ocean View Boulevard in Pacific Grove, Scenic Drive in Carmel, or Hwy-1 through Big Sur. You do, however, get to stop at the Lodge, where your toll will be deducted from the price of lunch or dinner. If you’re in the mood to splurge on wanton luxury, you can also stay overnight at either of two extremely plush golf and tennis resorts: the modern, suburban-style country club of the Inn at Spanish Bay, which is also home to an Ansel Adams photography gallery, or the stately, old-money Lodge at Pebble Beach. Both resorts charge upwards of $500 a night; for details on accommodations (or golfing fees and tee times), call 831/647-7500.