Highway One is the best-known scenic drive in Monterey County, and one of the top scenic drives in the world. It's a National Scenic Byways Program All-American Road and a State Scenic Highway. It's been named one of the best scenic drives in the U.S. by (among others) Forbes, ShermansTravel, Falcon Guides, SmarterTravel, GORP, and Lonely Planet, one of the world's best drives by London's Sunday Times, and a "Drive of a Lifetime" by National Geographic Traveler.
Even before the first commercial automobiles were made, 17-Mile Drive was one of Monterey County's top scenic drives. It began as a carriage road for guests at Monterey's Hotel del Monte in the early 1880s, and since then has been lauded for its magnificent scenery. You'll see beautiful beaches, wildlife such as seals and sea lions, the famed Lone Cypress, astounding mansions, several championship golf courses and of course the legendary Lodge at Pebble Beach.
This drive gives a full tour of the scenery of Carmel-by-the-Sea, which has an astounding number of vistas packed into its one square mile. From Highway One, turn down Ocean Avenue. You'll soon see, an ocean view, Carmel's much-photographed fairytale cottages and its much-lauded shopping district. At the end of Ocean Avenue, turn left onto Scenic Road, which will take you first past Carmel Beach and then past the Walker Residence, built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1948.
Though Monterey County's coastal views may be its most famous, its inland vistas are also stunning. This windy excursion, with many twists and turns, will take you through the up-and-coming Carmel Valley wine region and past cattle ranches. You'll get breathtaking views of valleys and the Santa Lucia Mountains.
The River Road Wine Trail has become a bona-fide wine lovers' destination as well as a great scenic drive.
Before Highway One, the Old Coast Road was the only land route into Big Sur. This ten-mile single-lane dirt road is like taking a time machine into Big Sur's past, with a mix of coastal views and redwood-lined paths. Four-wheel drive vehicles are strongly recommended; keep an eye out for hikers and mountain bikers.