Monterey: 17 Mile Drive

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One of my goals for 2014 is to travel more and in the process document past and future trips on this blog.  While this blog may have started off as a craft blog, I want to use it to document life and get a bit more personal.  I shared an overview of our Monterey trip the other week, but promised a detailed posts on the aquarium and on our experience with 17 mile drive.  We did not do the specific route and added a couple stops before actually getting on 17 mile drive since we were starting from Monterey, so here is a quick map showing the loop we took with the major destinations noted.

17 mile drive

If you are looking for more information on 17 mile drive in particular I found this Interactive map to be really helpful.  We did this drive on our last day after checking out of the hotel, and then headed straight out for home afterwards.  Now settle in for a long read, and I plan take you through all 15 stops on our version of the beautiful 17 mile drive.

1. Lovers Point Park & Beach in Pacific Grove

Stop one on our drive was Lovers Point Park in Pacific Grove.  It is a nice little park along the coast and near the road, so a great place to start our site seeing.

Lovers Park

Seal statue in Monterey

Butterfly Statue in Pacific Grove

Pacific Grove Park

17 Mile Drive, Monterey

2. Point Pinos Lighthouse

On a whim, we heard about Point Pinos lighthouse and decided to stop off on our drive and check it out.  This light house boasts being that longest/oldest operating lighthouse on the Pacific coast.  Pretty cool!  Unfortunately if we had done our research a little better would would have known that it has very limited hours.  Oops, at least it was not that far off the path! If you want to go by and take a tour, it is open 1-4 Thursday-Monday (closed Tuesday & Wednesday), and the grounds are fenced off when closed.  At least we got this nice artistic picture of the lighthouse behind the fence, and we can tell people there is some deep meaning behind it right?

17 Mile Drive- Lighthouse

3. Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove

Next up was the home of the Monarchs, otherwise known as Monarch Grove Sanctuary. I was really excited to see all the butterflies, but unfortunately we were a little late in the season.  The best time of year to catch a glimpse of the Monarchs here is October through February in case you are planning a trip to this area and want to make sure to have a good viewing of these majestic little buggers.  Even without an abundance of butterflies it was still a nice stop along out drive.

Monarch Grove Sanctuary

It is crazy how fragile these beautiful butterflies are and how important the migration is to their survival.  At temperatures under 55 degrees they seize up and enter “suspended animation” being unable to fly and vulnerable to being eaten or trampled as they wait to warm up and take wing again.

Monarchs in Pacific Grove

As we strolled around the habitat we did spot a few groupings of butterflies up in the tree tops, and then a few more flying around.  While it was nothing like the volume a hoped for, I was happy we at least got to see a few.

Monarch Sanctuary

While walking around the sanctuary we stumbled across this super cute Monarch bench, I mean can’t you just imagine it in a sweet backyard garden?  I just love it!

Monarch Grove Sanctuary bench

And then, through the forest we spotted a little friend grazing on some grass.  A cute little deer, seemingly unaware of the people walking around.  We stood watching him for quite a while taking pictures and enjoying a little piece of unexpected nature.

Deer at butterfly sanctuary near Monterey

Once we had our fill of circling about the sanctuary, it was back on the road and officially on 17 mile drive.  As you enter this stretch you must pass through a check point and pay $10 to access the loop.  I thought it was great that they mark the center of the road with red dashes to help you know you are on the right path of 17 mile drive.

17 Mile Drive along California's Coast

4. Spanish Bay

The first stop we made on 17 Mile Drive was to stretch our legs walking around Spanish Bay.  The views were gorgeous looking out over the bay with the fog rolling by.  Just inland from Spanish Bay is the Inn at Spanish Bay.  While we did not go check it out, I have heard that it is  a great resort with fantastic restaurants and golfing.

Spanish Bay

5. Restless Sea

Next up was Restless Sea.  Along the drive there are there great painted wood signs to help let you know what stop each is, along with other information placards as to what each spot is named for and more about the area.

Restless Sea- 17 Mile Drive

This spot was appropriately named for the seemly constant waves created by under water rock outcroppings.  While watching the crashing wave you maybe even feel a light feeling of mist on your face.

Restless Seas

Along the shore we found piles of rounded stones tossed about and then stacked into little monuments.

The beauty of Monterey

6. Point Joe

Next up on the drive is Point Joe.  The sign below gives a history as to the name of this location.

Point Joe

This spot was know to have many ships crashing due to the turbulent waves and underwater shallow rock formations, but the views were simply beautiful as the fog began to lift.

Point Joe

7. China Rock

The large rock along this next part of the path is named China rock.  Apparently it was the location where many Chinese immigrants set up camp in lean-tos, hence the name.

17 Mile Drive Monterey- China Rock

8. Seal Rock/Bird Rock

Another appropriately named stop was was Seal Rock and Bird Rock.  This rock it out in the Pacific and covered in birds on the top and seals on the bottom section. It is out a bit, so hard to see too much details of the wildlife without a zoom lens or binoculars.

Seals in Monterey

But with a zoom lens it becomes more clear the magnitude of how many seals are playing in the surf and calling this rock home.

Seal Rock

9. Fanshell Overlook

On to Fanshell Overlook next.  I have heard that April – June you can spot seals closer up on the light sand beach at this overlook.  We did not spot any while we were there, but we were on the early side of the season.

17 Mile Drive

10. Cypress Point Lookout

Continuing on you will come to the Cypress Point Lookout.  From here you can look across and start to see the beautiful Cypress trees ahead, along with more gorgeous views of the coast and rock formations.

Cyprus Point Lookout

Monterey Vacation time

Monterey- driving 17 mile

3 days in Monterey, CA

3 days in Monterey

11. Crocker Grove

Drive along a little more and you will find yourself at Crocker Grove.

Crocker Grove

17 Mile Drive- Crocker Grove

Crocker Grove is home to one of the largest Monterey Cypress trees and was named after Charles Crocker who established 17 mile drive.  The Santa Cruz Cypress tree is fairly rare, so it was a treat to get to see this fantastic grove.

17 Mile Drive Monterey- Crocker Grove

12. The Lone Cypress

Probably the most well know and famous image from 17 mile drive has to be the Lone Cypress. This image has become iconic for the area and can be found in the logo for Pebble Beach Company.  This tree has been photographed by millions and now I have captured my own picture of it too.

The Lone Cypress

In order to get to the viewpoint they built this large winding staircase.  I loved it!  SO beautiful and fun to photograph too!

Stairs in Monterey
Lovely stairs in Monterey

Such a beautiful day on 17 mile drive!

17 Mile Drive Monterey- Lone Cypress

13. Ghost Tree

Back on the road again we next came upon Ghost tree.  These gnarled white skeletons were once live Cypress trees. Time and beetle infestation have not been kind, and now they stand as remnants of the trees that used to be.

Monterey 17 Mile Drive

17 Mile Drive- Ghost Tree

14. Pescadero Point

Ghost tree is also the same location of Pescadero Point. With beautiful views and a mix of dead and alive Cypress trees, this was one of my favorite stops along this scenic drive.

Pescadero Point

15. Pebble Beach Market

We ended our drive in Pebble Beach at the Pebble Beach Market.  The sandwiches, while not cheap, were amazingly delicious.  With a cold drink and a melt-y sandwich in hand, we found a nice seating area outside to enjoy the last few minutes of the coast before hopping back on the road and starting the long drive home.

Pebble Beach

Wow, this may have been my longest post to date! For a brief overview our entire trip to Monterey, click here.  And stay tuned for our experience at the Monterey Bat Aquarium coming soon!