Insider's Guide: A Weekend in Carmel-by-the-Sea
Arts & Culture
Food & Wine
Carmel-by-the-Sea beckons travelers with its timeless allure, inviting them into a world of enchantment and coastal charm. Nestled along the rugged shores of California, this idyllic town captivates the soul with its storybook architecture, cypress-lined streets, and the soothing melody of ocean waves. Renowned for its artistic spirit, Carmel hosts a plethora of galleries, each an expression of the town's creative soul. The breathtaking beauty of Carmel Beach, with its pristine sands and panoramic vistas, invites leisurely strolls and moments of serene contemplation. Culinary delights await in the form of intimate eateries and world-class restaurants; each dish a masterpiece showcasing the region's freshest ingredients. Whether you're exploring the historic Carmel Mission, meandering through the picturesque streets, or embarking on scenic drives along the iconic 17-Mile Drive, Carmel-by-the-Sea promises a haven where time slows, and every moment becomes a cherished memory. Visit Carmel and surrender to the magic that has made this coastal gem an enduring sanctuary for those seeking beauty, culture, and an escape into tranquility.
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Where to stay in Carmel-by-the-Sea
Le Petit Pali at 8th Ave
A charming taste of France in the heart of the city.
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Le Petit Pali – Ocean Ave
Le Petit Pali on Ocean Ave: A coastal retreat offering French-inspired charm and cuisine in a picturesque setting.
Upgrade & late check-out whenever possible.
10% off BAR
Extended check-in/out upon availability
A romantic, French chateau–inspired inn with an award-winning restaurant located just a stroll away from Carmel's notable shops and art galleries.
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Things to do in Carmel-by-the-Sea
Discover Carmel Beach:
Spend a relaxing day at the picturesque Carmel Beach, known for its pristine white sands, tranquil atmosphere, and mesmerizing sunsets. Ideal for leisurely walks or picnics, the beach offers a serene escape by the Pacific Ocean.
Insider's Tip: Head for a stroll along the beach as the sunsets for a truly picture-perfect end to the day.
Stroll through the Carmel Mission:
Immerse yourself in history by taking a leisurely stroll through the Carmel Mission. Founded in 1771, this historic Spanish mission boasts beautiful architecture and serene gardens, providing a tranquil retreat in the heart of Carmel.
Bike Ride along the 17-Mile Drive:
Experience the scenic beauty of Carmel by renting bikes and embarking on a leisurely ride along the iconic 17-Mile Drive. This picturesque route unveils stunning coastal vistas and iconic landmarks, making it a memorable exploration of the area.
Explore Point Lobos State Natural Reserve:
Discover the wonders of nature at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Hike along picturesque trails, admire breathtaking coastal views, and encounter diverse wildlife in this pristine natural sanctuary.
Whale Watching in Monterey:
Embark on an exhilarating adventure by joining a whale-watching tour in Monterey. Witness majestic marine creatures in their natural habitat as they breach and play in the expansive waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Stroll and Shop the European-Style Courtyards on Ocean Avenue:
Shopping in Carmel is not just about the products but also the experience. Many shops are tucked away in charming European-style courtyards, enhancing the overall ambiance and making the shopping excursion a delightful journey through hidden gems.
World-Class Golf Courses:
Carmel by the Sea, with its proximity to Pebble Beach, offers golf enthusiasts access to renowned courses like Pebble Beach Golf Links. Play a round at these iconic seaside courses, where the lush greens meet the rugged Pacific coastline, providing an unforgettable golfing experience.
Whimsical Real Estate and Fairytale Charm:
Carmel-by-the-Sea is renowned for its fairytale-like houses, with whimsical architecture characterized by sloping roofs, storybook details, and enchanting gardens. Strolling through the town feels like wandering into a magical realm, where each house tells its own charming tale, creating a picturesque and dreamlike atmosphere.
Embark on a scenic day trip to Big Sur, just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Marvel at breathtaking coastal views along Highway 1, explore hiking trails in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, and visit iconic landmarks like Bixby Creek Bridge and McWay Falls.
Venture into the serene Carmel Valley and immerse yourself in picturesque vineyards and charming wineries. Enjoy wine tastings, take a leisurely stroll through the vineyards, and savor the tranquility of this idyllic wine-country setting.
Take a trip to the neighboring city of Monterey and enjoy its rich history and vibrant marine life. Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, stroll along Cannery Row, explore the historic Fisherman's Wharf, and indulge in fresh seafood at local restaurants.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve:
Spend a day exploring the stunning Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, a short drive from Carmel. Discover picturesque coastal landscapes, hike along scenic trails, and spot wildlife such as seals, sea lions, and various bird species.
Embark on a day trip to the lively beach town of Santa Cruz. Enjoy thrilling rides at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, explore the Santa Cruz Wharf, and soak up the sun on the beautiful beaches, experiencing the vibrant atmosphere of this coastal gem.
Places to eat & drink in Carmel-by-the-Sea
An epitome of culinary excellence, Aubergine is a Michelin-starred restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea, celebrated for its innovative and seasonal tasting menus crafted by Chef Justin Cogley. This intimate dining experience showcases a commitment to local, organic ingredients, offering a gastronomic journey that reflects both precision and creativity. The elegant ambiance, coupled with impeccable service, makes Aubergine a must-visit destination for those seeking a refined and unforgettable dining experience in Carmel.
A charming French-inspired eatery in Carmel, La Bicyclette captures hearts with its cozy ambiance and artisanal approach to cuisine. Renowned for its wood-fired pizzas, the restaurant also offers a delightful menu featuring seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. With a focus on rustic flavors and a carefully curated wine list, La Bicyclette creates a warm and inviting atmosphere that beckons visitors to indulge in a culinary journey inspired by the French countryside.
A beloved establishment in Carmel, Brophy's Tavern offers a welcoming pub atmosphere with a diverse menu. Known for its friendly service and casual vibe, patrons can enjoy classic American fare, including burgers, sandwiches, and hearty pub-style dishes. The tavern's laid-back ambiance makes it a popular spot for locals and visitors alike, providing a comfortable setting to relax and savor good food in the heart of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Grasing's Coastal Cuisine:
Nestled in the heart of Carmel, Grasing's Coastal Cuisine is celebrated for its commitment to using fresh, local ingredients in crafting coastal-inspired dishes. With a menu reflecting the flavors of California, the restaurant offers a diverse selection, from seafood to expertly prepared meats. The warm and inviting atmosphere, combined with attentive service, makes Grasing's a favorite dining destination, providing a memorable culinary experience in the charming surroundings of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
The Tuck Box:
A historic tea house in Carmel, The Tuck Box exudes quaint charm with its English-style fare and picturesque garden setting. Known for its timeless elegance, this establishment offers a delightful menu featuring traditional teas, scones, and a variety of classic dishes. The Tuck Box provides a unique and enchanting dining experience, inviting patrons to savor a taste of the past while surrounded by the historic ambiance of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Mission Ranch in Carmel:
Nestled amidst picturesque landscapes, Mission Ranch is a historic inn and restaurant with a rich history. Formerly owned by Clint Eastwood, it offers a rustic yet elegant ambiance, complete with grazing sheep in the meadows. The on-site restaurant provides a farm-to-table dining experience, and guests can enjoy breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean from this idyllic coastal retreat.
The Bench Restaurant in Pebble Beach:
Located at The Lodge at Pebble Beach, The Bench offers a casual yet sophisticated dining experience with panoramic views of the 18th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links and the Pacific coastline. Known for its relaxed ambiance, the restaurant features an outdoor terrace, fire pits, and a menu that highlights fresh, locally sourced ingredients, including seafood and grilled specialties. Ideal for both golf enthusiasts and those seeking a scenic coastal dining experience, The Bench provides a laid-back atmosphere with exceptional food, making it a popular choice in the Pebble Beach area.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Grace Hilty's guide, A Weekend in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to California.