As the road skirts the peninsula’s western edge, you’ll pass such frequently photographed landmarks as Seal Rock and Bird Rock, Fanshell Beach, Point Joe, the Ghost Tree, and the Lone Cypress. Further inland are several renowned golf courses and Del Monte Forest. The 17-Mile Drive lives up to its scenic reputation, and you may even spot sea otters or harbor seals.
Accessible Points of Interest
1. Inn at Spanish Bay Trail Overlook + Picnic Area: Inn at Spanish Bay is the first golf course and resort on the 17-Mile Drive from the Pacific Grove Gate. A couple of designated accessible parking spots are at the very end of the paved parking lot, and the trailhead starts here.
From here, the boardwalk trail heads north along the beach for a quarter of a mile and ends at an overlook. The continuous climb up and down the dunes is a workout without power assistance. A few picnic tables are also at this point of interest, right on the beach. Two tables, with extended ends, have been placed on a wooden deck on top of the sand, and a ramp connects the deck to the parking lot.
2. Connecting Trail to Bird Rock: From the trailhead at the Inn at Spanish Bay to the site called Restless Sea, the trail is a little more boardwalk then turns into a packed dirt trail for a few hundred yards before the observation area. One of the longest, barrier-free stretches is between the Spanish Bay and Bird Rock. For the most part, the trail is made up of packed rock and dirt, but weather along with the ocean sand may create some soft spots. Bike lanes may be used quite safely by wheelchair riders in this area when traffic is slow.
3. Bird Rock is likely the best place to stop and get out of your car, as most pullouts don’t offer accessible parking. Bird Rock and its neighbor Seal Rock are home to harbor seals and California sea lions. On the nearshore rocks, Brandt’s cormorants nest in the spring, and brown pelicans roost in summer. None of the telescopes (binoculars) by the parking area are at wheelchair height. Harbor seal pupping season is April 1 to June 1, but you may not be able to see the pups because screens are erected along the road south from Seal Rock to protect them.
4. Coastal Trail beyond Bird Rock: Heading north from Bird Rock, along the ocean’s edge, with close-up views of surf on rocks and sand, the trail is accessible for .2 miles. Some wheelchair riders may be able to navigate an additional .2 miles with assistance, but eventually deep sand prevents further travel. To continue north, motorized wheelchair users can switch to a bike trail that runs between 17-Mile Drive and the ocean (from the southern Carmel entrance north to Pacific Grove).
The grade is steep on the first mile from the gate to Spanish Bay and not recommended for manual wheelchair users. During our mid-week visit, traffic was light and slow, and the road along the low bluffs is wide and straight, so it was quite pleasant. Traffic is likely to be much heavier on weekends. Handcrafted benches made of lumber and set between embedded chunks of rock are provided at frequent intervals.
5. Cypress Point Lookout: South of Bird Rock and Seal Rock, but before the Lone Cypress is the Cypress Point Lookout. A couple of designated parking spots have been made with a cutout to the fenced, viewing area. A set of telescopes (binoculars) are setup, but are not accessible by wheelchair. The viewing area is mostly firm but does have some soft spots. Some may be able to get to multiple viewing areas. On my visit, I was fortunate to catch a group of otters off the shore feasting in the seaweed.
- Fee/Cost: Visitors must pay a fee at one of five entry points, unless a restaurant reservation has been made the day before (names are given to the gate the night before). Maps showing the points of interests are available at all five entrances. Entry is free to pedestrians and bicyclists, but bicycles are not allowed on weekends.
- Accessible Parking: Most are open dirt lots or off the side of the road, but a couple of the big points of interest on the drive have designated accessible parking. No van accessible parking was found, but parking with a van is still possible.
- Accessible Restroom: Yes, but only one accessible public restrooms is available at Bird Rock. Otherwise, you have to dine or be a guest at one of the golf clubs or resorts.
- Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
- Map: See here.
- Fees: Entrance
- Dogs: On a leash