PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. — Pebble Beach’s 17-Mile Drive: It’s arguably one of the most celebrated scenic roads in California. On one side of the road is world class golfing and homes only the rich could afford, on the other are unforgettable coastal views and wildlife.
Admission to drive your car on 17-mile road is $11.25, but if you're on a bicycle or electric bike, admission is free.
If you don’t have an e-bike, you can rent one or take a tour with Florendo Sales from Big Sur Adventures in Pacific Grove.
“An e-bike is the best way to experience 17-Mile Drive in my opinion because you don’t have to deal with traffic or parking,” said Sales.
Before the expensive homes and golf courses, Pebble Beach was a sand mine owned by Pacific Improvement Company, a consortium of railroad barons.
“They came in, put the railroads all the way up, and created a sand plant and took all the sand dunes that were here,” said Sales.
In 1892, 17-Mile Drive was built for two reasons. One was to provide an activity for wealthy guests staying at the Hotel Del Monte in Monterey. The other was to sell land near the newly constructed golf courses in the area.
“17-Mile Drive was built to showcase the land that the Pacific Improvement Company built along the coastline,” said Sales.
As time went on, more money was pumped into development and people from all over the world started taking tours of 17-Mile Drive to experience the amenities and the natural wonders of Pebble Beach. Wonders like the beaches and vibrant blue water, which is unique to the Monterey Coast.
“So the beaches along Pebble Beach are filled with quartz crystal that is that beautiful white sand and when the sunlight reflects off it you get the blues and greens. It’s just gorgeous,” said Sales.
Tourists aren’t the only ones attracted to Pebble Beach. Marine animals like seals, otters, whales and migrating birds call this stretch of ocean home. A great spot to see some those marine animals is at the iconic, white colored, Bird Rock.
“If you came here 100 years ago there would be a lot more white stuff. In the 1930s they harvested all the guano, basically the bird poop, off this rock because it was fertilizer, and what do you have around us? A lot of lawn or the golf course,” said Sales.
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Just a few miles from Bird Rock is another icon at Pebble Beach: The Lone Cypress.
“One of the most photographed trees in the country, possibly in the world. I can’t think of another tree that gets more recognition than this one,” said Sales.
Holding on for dear life at the edge of rocky spire, the Lone Cypress is estimated to be more than 250-years-old and it's among the last of California’s old growth Monterey Cypress.
“This is it, yes. This is the last place on the planet where they have been able to find a way to survive,” said Sales.
These wind-beaten trees can survive gale force storms and pounding waves, but they require a unique foggy climate that only the Monterey coast can provide.
“As the fog runs through these trees, they are able to gather that moisture and precipitation down, and during the summer months basically water themselves,” said Sales.
A Monterey cypress only lives about 300 years and the old-growth Monterey cypress trees at Pebble Beach are nearing the end of their lifespan, but had it not been for the protections put in place by the developers of Pebble Beach, the wildlife and the trees may have been lost.
“It’s one of those things that, it’s here for now but it’s a reminder of the impermanence of life on the coast and how wild the coast is,” said Sales.
MORE CENTRAL COAST FUN ON THE BACKROADS: Take a tour of William Randolph Hearst's grand mansion by the beach.