Thursday, September 29, 2011

17 Mile Drive in Carmel, California

The Lone Cypress on 17-Mile Drive in Carmel, California
photos by Martin Smith

The 17 Mile Drive along the California coast in Monterey is so beautiful it seems straight out of a fairy tale. Pebble Beach Company owns and preserves the area, and charges each car a $9.50 toll just to experience the road. Visitors are strictly prohibited from disturbing, injuring or removing any animal or plant life, and picnicking is only allowed in designated areas. Motorcycles and camping are also verboten. The rules initially give one a feeling of inhospitality, but after touring the area, most would agree the pristine and unspoiled habitat is worth all the effort to protect for future generations to enjoy.

17 Mile Drive at Pebble Beach

Seals and Sea Lions Along the 17-Mile Drive
Five gates allow entry to the road, and its full circle includes seven golf courses, forests, and sublime ocean and mountain views. Famous landmarks are Point Joe, a rocky outcropping where numerous shipwrecks occurred, China Rock, Bird Rock with its attendant sea lions and seals, scenic Cypress Point, a Monterey Cypress bleached white from salt sea spray and wind called the Ghost Tree, Pescadero Point and an Equestrian Center. Near Crocker Grove stands the Lone Cypress, a tree precariously overlooking the Pacific from its rocky perch for over 250 years that has become the trademark symbol for Pebble Beach Company.

Unspoiled Coastline
A great way to travel the road is to either start or end at the Carmel Gate, to browse the unique stores and art galleries and dine at one of the eateries in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Ocean Avenue is the main street of this charming village, leading back to Highway One, but the emporiums on the side streets are not to be missed. Those interested in architecture would probably find joyriding the residential streets intriguing, with its quaint cottages and stunning landscaping at every turn.

Carmel's beauty is a natural attraction for plein air painters, and artists began migrating there during the 1870's. Teachers and students of San Francisco's School of Design could live cheaply in the rural coastland, then spend their days painting landscapes and another favorite subject, scenes from the daily lives of the working class, like Monterey's Portuguese and Chinese fishermen. However, the earthquake of 1906 was the real catalyst for Carmel's status as an art colony, as artists fled from San Francisco to rebuild their lives there, brushes and easels in hand.

BookCloseoutsIn 1907, the Del Monte Hotel opened a gallery to showcase their artworks, while also providing the tourist clientele who would purchase the pieces and then share their treasures when they returned home. The reputation of the budding art community spread, sealing Carmel's fate as an art destination.

The 17-Mile Drive lasts about three hours, but one could easily spend a full day leisurely soaking up all the sights.There is much to see and do in Monterey, but visitors won't be disappointed if they find the time to make the trek from Pacific Grove to Carmel. The route is considered one of the most scenic drives not only in California, but the entire world.


Nancy Dustin Wall Moure, California Art: 450 Years of painting and Other Media (Los Angeles, California: Dustin Publications, 1998).

Bougainvillea Graces
 a Carmel Home
Monterey Flora

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