All day long-spring, summer, winter & fall-tour buses pull into the exclusive, gated Pebble Beach to see the famous 17 Mile Drive that hugs the coast between Carmel and Pacific Grove. Two gates provide points of entry where the private Pebble Beach Company guards charge cars around $9.50 admission. Though you can use your receipt for credit on food purchases, often it is difficult to find parking near the deli where the food is sold. If you find yourself driving around the parking lot, and finally giving up on buying your picnic items inside Pebble Beach, you are not alone.
Popular with tourists for over 100 years, Pebble Beach's 17 Mile Drive contains miles of sandy beaches with waves crashing on rocks, pristine golf courses and Monterey pine and Cypress trees that include the trademark Lone Cypress. The tree has stood on a rock in the ocean, nurtured by the moisture in the air that has helped maintain it for over 250 years. The tree has been listed as one of the top 10 trees in the world, and it also is on a list of vulnerable trees that could disappear from the landscape. In recent years a beetle has been one of the culprits to fell some of the trees that are a highlight tourists want to see when visiting the California coast between Big Sur and Pacific Grove.
Ask hundreds of thousands of tourists that pour into the Pebble Beach gates if seeing the tree and 17 Mile Drive is worth nearly $10, and most will say, "yes." Not everyone agrees, however.
Native Californians such as Constance Young says that she's disappointed by the drive and fee. "I think the scenery outside 17 Mile Drive gates is just as nice, if not better," she said. "Maybe I'm jaded because I grew up in California...I was expecting more."
While the 17 Mile Drive isn't the big "wow" for all who visit, there's no slowing down the tourists who pour into Pebble Beach to see what it's about. It's a Disneyland ride for some, an inspiring & moving experience for others, and overpriced, according to some weary travelers.
If you feel that you can't justify spending $10, you will discover incredible beaches and scenes outside the gated Pebble Beach in Pacific Grove's Asilomar State Beach and at Carmel beach. pebblebeach.com