Attractions along the 17-mile Drive – A Trip Report

We did a weekend road trip through the 17-mile drive in Monterey peninsula and onto San Luis Obispo through Highway 1, a scenic stretch of 250 miles along the Pacific Ocean, dotted all along with world famous attractions. Our first stopover was at the 17-mile drive ($9.25 per vehicle except for residents). 68W from Highway 1 gets one easily to the park entrance. It was the weekend of the 15th of August and remarkably the roads were bursting with sleek vehicles commanding six figures – it was the first time we ever saw these many raring Ferrari’s in one place. Things clicked once we realized it was the weekend of the Concourse d’Elegance car show. Talk about a metallic high!

There are twenty one major points of interest along the 17-mile drive. A brief description and rating are mentioned below:

  1. Shepherd’s Knoll (Rating - **) – The vista point offers a good outline of the Santa Cruz mountains.
  2. Huckleberry Hill (Rating - *) – Located at the zenith of the peninsula, huckleberry bushes dominate the landscape.
  3. Poppy Hills Golf Course (Rating - ***) – Home of the Northern California Golf Association – this course is a host of the annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Green fees for the general public is around $200 while for $55 NCGA members can get a tee-time. The facility includes a restaurant and clubhouse and is open to the public.
  4. The Inn & Links at Spanish Bay (Rating - ***) – The facility which includes multiple shops and restaurants (no driving range) is open to public and is considered among one of the best public courses of California. A round of golf is expensive at around $260 (resource guest rate, others higher) and many consider the course quirky.
  5. Spanish Bay (Rating - ***) – The first point on the drive with access to the shoreline.
  6. Restless Sea (Rating - ****) – The rocky terrain causes waves to break early rendering an aura of restlessness. Abundant sea-life thrives in this unique ecosystem.
  7. Point Joe (Rating - ***) – Vista point with great views of the rocks, restless sea, and sea-life.
  8. China Rock (Rating - ***) – A rock formation along the shore used by Chinese fisherman to build lean-tos for their homes in the late 19th and early 20th century.
  9. Bird Rock Hunt Course (Rating - **) – A fairly level area on the other side of the road across from Seal Rock picnic area by the Spyglass Hill golf course (no markers).
  10. Bird Rock (Rating - ****) – A giant rock gone white with bird droppings off the shore filled with birds, seals, and sea lions. The marine life is visible to the naked eye, and good binoculars come really handy.
  11. Seal Rock Picnic Area (Rating - ****) – A nice sandy beach area ideal for picnicking with a great view of bird rock. The place is always surrounded with birds, seals, and other marine life.
  12. Spyglass Hill Golf Course (Rating – ***) – Considered among the best public courses in America; pricing is hefty at around $340 (resource guest rate, others higher) for a round. It is a difficult course and can easily take upwards of 5 hours depending on the pace set by the groups ahead – the first 5 holes have breathtaking views. The facility has a pro shop, restaurant, and bathrooms.
  13. Fanshell Overlook (Rating - ***) – The beach area is home to annual visits by harbor seals to bear their young ones. As such, the area is closed between April 1 and June 1. View of the Cypress Point golf course, the famous private course, again considered among one of the best courses in the world is another attraction here.
  14. Cypress Point Lookout (Rating - ***) – Closed April 1 to June 1, is a popular spot with an excellent view.
  15. Crocker Grove (Rating - **) – A 13-acre forest (nature reserve) that is home to the biggest and oldest Monterey Cypress trees in existence.
  16. Lone Cypress Tree (Rating - *****) – The most photographed tree in the world!
  17. The Ghost Tree (Rating - ****) – The one marked Ghost Tree is a Monterey cypress trunk as opposed to a living tree, but there are several specimens around that take on a spooky appeal.
  18. Pescadero Point (Rating - **) – The tip of the peninsula with a great view.
  19. The Lodge at Pebble Beach (Rating - ***) – This is the main public facility in 17-mile drive complete with a golf shop, market store, dining, and shopping options. A round of golf will set you back half-a-G (resort guest rate, others higher) – views of the beautiful 18th green and fairway is outstanding and can be tempting for golf enthusiasts lolling about with pocket change of that size. The course was rated #1 public course in America by Golf Digest for 2009-2010.
  20. Peter Hay Par-3 Golf Course (Rating - ***) – This is the only course palatable to our frugal mind-set among the 19 courses in Monterey peninsula. The course across from the world famous Pebble Beach course is a smallish (819 yards with the longest hole clocking in just over 100 yards) par-3 course. Nevertheless, it is well-maintained and the rates are pleasant - $25 adults, $5 juniors (under 17), and free for kids (under 11). The All Day Green Fee, Unlimited Play, per player policy makes this a very satisfying deal.
  21. Pebble Beach Equestrian Center (Rating - ***) – The place offers guided horseback trail rides. Group rates start upwards of $60 for a 75-minute ride. The views on the trail are exceptional and that works in its favor – the place is very popular hence making a reservation is smart.

All will agree to agree that the stretch from Monterey to San Luis Obispo is one of the most beautiful stretches on Highway 1 to burn rubber. Big Sur is breathtaking with the Santa Lucia Mountains rising abruptly out of the ocean and Highway 1 winding through the incredibly steep terrain. It is enough to bring the bard out from the unbeliever. Bixby Bridge that appears to jut-out of the mountain is a unique site worth braking for. Remember to be on the lookout for the vista point. Hearst Castle, about 90-minutes south is a good stopover, but requires a minimum of 3 hours – the main tour takes 1 hr 45 minutes and the tour ticket also includes the 40-minute movie “Building the Dream”. Tickets cost $24 for Adults and $12 for kids. It involves a short bus-ride from the visitor center to the castle at the top of the hill followed by a guided tour of the castle. The fudge there fared better than the castle itself to the kids.

For our overnight stay in San Luis Obispo, the rates were reasonable ($269 for a suite with two rooms and three queen beds) and the ad said “The finest in San Luis Obispo Hotels and Lodging”.While the location and the setting were reasonable, the room was a major disappointment – extremely small made even smaller by the cumbersome furniture cramped into it. Their cookies were good though.

Last Updated: 02/2011.

1 comment :

Maria said...

great post! really enjoyed reading it. I especially liked your rating system! awesome idea! At Fox Rent A Car Blog we like to give travel advice about different cities. We therefore wrote a post on the 17 mile drive as well including dining info, and such. We like to give the inside scoop on great sights to not miss!
thanks again for sharing this great post.

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