Pacific Coast

17-Mile Drive and the Lone Cypress

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.

The famous lone cypress tree grows on a rock in the Pacific at Carmel's 17 Mile Drive.
17 Mile Drive’s famous Lone Cypress. Photo © Mariusz Jurgielewicz/123rf.

Enter the drive at any of the gates, where you’ll pay the toll (about $10; bicyclists are free, and motorcyclists are banned) and be given a map and guide to the route, pointing out all the scenic highlights, especially the trussed-up old Lone Cypress, the legally trademarked subject of so many Carmel postcards.

It’s definitely worth doing the drive, 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 Road in Carmel (see the map below where the road winds around the Robinson Jeffers Tor House), or Highway 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.

Carmel's scenic road curves to the left as the sun sets over the ocean.
Carmel’s Scenic Drive is a toll-free alternative to 17 Mile Drive. Photo © frwooar/iStock.

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 (2700 17-Mile Dr., 831/647-7500 or 800/877-0597, $740 and up), or the stately old-money Lodge at Pebble Beach (1700 17-Mile Dr., 831/624-3811 or 800/877-0597, $820 and up). For details on accommodations or Pebble Beach golf fees and tee times, call 800/877-0597.

Map of 17-Mile Drive and the Monterey Peninsula

Map of 17 Mile Drive and Monterey Carmel - Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

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