Pacific Grove and 17-mile Drive through Pebble Beach
Pacific Grove stretches from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to the 17 Mile Drive gate. In between are Asilomar State Beach, Point Pinos Lighthouse, Victorian mansions and a butterfly sanctuary—one of the locations where monarch butterflies overwinter in California from October to March.
What started as a Methodist summer retreat tent encampment near Lovers Point in 1875 was eventually incorporated as Pacific Grove in 1889. By then the tents had ben replaced with grand Victorians.
Today it’s possible to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner on Lighthouse Avenue—Pacific Grove’s main thoroughfare. The last dry town in California, Pacific Grove dropped its ban on liquor in 1969. (Prohibitions on dancing, billiards and immodest bathing attire were relaxed long ago.)
Twenty-two acre George Washington Park—the largest park in Pacific Grove— and a nearby sanctuary are home to thousands of migrating Monarch butterflies from October to February every year.
A very scenic section of the 18-mile Monterey Bay Costal Trail follows the rocky coastline through several parks in Pacific Grove. A particularly enjoyable 6 mile section of the trail connects the Monterey Bay Aquarium with Lovers Point. Lovers Point is a popular location to snorkel, scuba dive kayak and play volley ball or picnic on the beach. The paved costal trail continues on to round Point Pinos before arriving at Asilomar State Beach.
Point Pinos Lighthouse
Point Pinos Lighthouse is the oldest, continuously operating lighthouse on the West Coast. Its third-order Fresnel lens, originally intended for the Fort Point Lighthouse, is still in use. Damaged in the 1906 earthquake that nearly destroyed San Francisco, the Point Pinos Lighthouse’s brick tower was replaced with reinforce concrete. The lighthouse was automated in 1975. The Coast Guard maintains responsibility for the beacon itself but the lighthouse and nearly 70 acres of land were transfered to the city of Pacific Grove in 2006.
Located on the northernmost tip of the Monterey Peninsula it was first lit on February 1, 1885 and is open to the public Thursday through Monday from 1:00–4:00 p.m.
Some large and even famous Victorians (including the Green Gables Inn—half-timbered, 1888 Queen Anne Victorian-stye mansion and Seven Gables Inn—1886 Victorian mansion) face the ocean between Lovers Point and Point Pinos. Several now serve visitors as bed-and-breakfast inns. This is also one of the best areas in Pacific Grove for tide pooling and otter spotting. Another good tide pool area is Asilomar State Beach.
Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds
Asilomar State Beach covers 107-acres along a one-mile section of beach and rocky shore—part of the Fish Garden Refuge and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
The Asilomar Conference Grounds are a national historic landmark—”asilo mar” translates to “refuge by the sea” in Spanish.
Founded in 1913, Asilomar has been the site of a number of famous conferences including the 1975 Conference on safety and regulation of recombinant DNA.
Asilomar was designed in the Arts & Crafts Style by Julia Morgan to harmonize with its natural surroundings including ocean, beach, rocks and wind-sculpted Monterey pine and cypress. Julia Morgan also designed Hearst Castle further down Highway 1 at the other end of Big Sur.
Monarch Butterfly winter home
Monarch Butterflies over wintering in favorite trees in Pacific Grove have given the area the name “Butterfly Town, U.S.A.” These amazing insects migrate as far as 2,000 miles. Unique in that several generations of butterfly live and die between annual migrations, Monarch Butterflies must travel south to avoid freezing.
If you came to California’s central coast to play golf the Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course is considerably less expensive than the more famous courses in Pebble Beach along the 17-mile drive.
Pebble Beach and The 17-mile Drive
Rugged, rocky coastlines, sandy beaches, sunsets over the Pacific Ocean and famous golf courses draw visitors from around the world to this exclusive community which charges a fee to traverse its famous drive.
The complete 17-mile drive loop will take you through or past several golf courses with commanding ocean views. They are the Links at Spanish Bay (Spanish Bay is where Juan Portola and his crew camped in 1769 while trying to find Monterey Bay) the Spyglass Hill Golf Course, Cypress Point Club and Pebble Beach Golf Links.
The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am—formerly known as the Crosby—is played on Pebble Beach Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills courses.
There are many spectacular view points along the route; Bird Rock seems to always be covered with pelicans and other birds, seals and sea lions. Seal Rock Picnic Area is a beach area with a view of Bird Rock.
Fanshell Overlook attracts harbor seals and is closed during harbor seal pupping season April 1 to June 1.
Cypress Point Lookout provides a great view of the dramatic Pacific coastline along with an idea of the view enjoyed by some of the gated mansions along the route.
Probably the most famous tree in the United States, The Lone Cypress has clung to its rocky perch for over 250 years and serves as the symbol of Pebble Beach Company—the developer of the 17-mile drive through Pebble Beach and the Del Monte Forest.
There are three main gates for entering and exiting the 17-mile drive—the Pacific Grove Gate to the North, the Highway 1 Gate on the Southwest and the Carmel Gate to the South which gives you direct access to Carmel-by-the-Sea.