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Carmel (California)

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Carmel-by-the-Sea, often called just Carmel, [10] [11] is five miles south of Monterey city in the Monterey Bay region of California.


"Go ahead, make my day."
Clint Eastwood served one term as mayor of Carmel, from 1986 to 1988.

Carmel is a beautiful oceanside town on California's Highway 1, complete with dramatic views, white-sand beaches, friendly locals and great food. A mostly upper-class destination for adults, the town itself is small - you can walk across it in five minutes - but filled with art galleries, cafes, restaurants and inns. Every evening, visitors gather on the pristine beach to watch colorful sunsets.

Temperatures in September are perfect: 70-80°F (21-27°C) during the day and 50-60°F (10-16°C) at night. Bring sweaters and dress in layers for all-day activities.

Ocean Avenue is downtown's main street, sloping from the highway down to the beach, with many shops, coffee houses, and galleries.

Scenic Drive meanders along the curve of the beach. A packed dirt path along the roadside is a favorite with local joggers and dog-walkers. The town is especially dog-friendly with many lodging and dining accommodations welcoming the canine guests.

Carmel Valley is formed by the Carmel River, flowing some 20 miles from the Santa Lucia mountains to the Pacific Ocean and stretches 15 miles from Cahoon Ranch to Carmel Bay while the Carmel Valley Village is located 12 miles inland from Highway 1, on Carmel Valley Road. Quite often when Carmel-by-the-Sea is fogged in, Carmel Valley is sunny and warm.

Get in[edit]

By car[edit]

By Highway 1 south from Monterey or northwards via Big Sur.

By bus[edit]

Take Monterey-Salinas Transit[12] buses from Monterey.

By train[edit]

Amtrak's Coast Starlight stops in nearby Salinas. Amtrak runs a bus service from the station to Carmel with stops in Monterey in between. The train can be slow and is often delayed. The food is okay, but sometimes limited so you might want to bring your own food or snacks.

By air[edit]

Nearby Monterey Airport (IATA: MRY) [13] offers connecting service through a number of different airlines. The airport also handles a large volume of private air traffic.

Get around[edit]

The town and nearby beach can be seen on foot, but a car is needed to explore the coastline. Street parking is generally free for a couple of hours at a time. There is also a garage at Carmel Plaza (Ocean and Junipero). Many hotels offer parking spots to guests, but be prepared for a tight squeeze. Scenic Drive sometimes yields surprisingly convenient (and free) parking spaces.

Bicycling is an option but should be undertaken with care, as many of Carmel's streets can be hilly or windy, or leave little room to pass.

There are a few local buses[14], but routes run primarily between Carmel and Monterey, rather than around Carmel.

See[edit][add listing]

San Carlos Borroméo Carmelo Mission (1771)
  • Carmel Mission, 3080 Rio Road, +1 831 624-1271 (fax: +1 831 624-8050), [1]. M-Sa 9:30AM-5PM, Su 10:30AM-5PM. One of the 21 missions established by Father Junipero Serra along the coast of California at the mouth of Carmel Valley. Established in 1771, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful of the missions. Father Serra, the leader behind the greater Spanish mission to California, is buried along with his most faithful lieutenant at the front of the church. Self-guided tours take you through the remaining original buildings which now hold exhibits, a small museum, and a gift shop. Catholic Masses occur regularly. Keep in mind that the mission is a working Catholic church, so dress and act respectfully. Adults: $6.50; Seniors: $4; Children under 17: $2. (latitude,) edit
  • Tor House, 26304 Ocean View Ave, Carmel Point, just to the south of Carmel Village, [15]. F-Sa, tours start 10am-3pm. The famous stone home of poet Robinson Jeffers. $10.
  • Point Lobos. A California State Park located just south of Carmel on Highway 1, the park is an exceptionally beautiful rocky outcrop into the Pacific that has some great kelp forests, nice and accessible trails that promise spectacular views, and small coves excellent for swimming and gawking at sea lions.
  • Gravity Garden, intersection of Highway 1 and Fern Canyon Road, Carmel Highlands; no phone number, [16]. Open daily. Artist Jim Needham has created a sculpture garden of rocks that have been stacked without the use of any adhesives, bolts or supporting structures. Some of the sculptures are as tall as nine feet. Free.
  • If you visit in September check the local paper for dates of the annual Sand Castle Contest at the beach at the bottom of Ocean Avenue. Creations range from sand mermaids to sand palaces.
  • Carmel Beach is a dog-friendly (leash-free) beach at the bottom of Ocean Avenue. 1.5 miles of white sand await your footprints, and the walk from one end (with views of Point Lobos) to the other end (staring up at the Pebble Beach Golf Links) is breathtaking and memorable.

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Stroll through the town and admire the incredibly diverse architecture. The quintessential "Carmel cottage" abounds but contrasts, sometimes wildly, with the assortment of surrounding homes. (Local tidbit: can you find any houses with street numbers?)
  • The historic outdoor Forest Theater [17] presents community theater performances in a sort of natural amphitheater nestled in a pine forest. There are also film screenings throughout the summer as part of "Films in the Forest." Be sure to bring blankets and something warm to drink.
  • Bring a dog, a Frisbee, or a camera for a stroll down the beach. Dip your toes, or a bit more if you can brave the chill. Be prepared for a crisp ocean breeze.
  • Build a twilight beach bonfire on the stretch of sand at the bottom of 13th (fires must be out by 10pm). Bring lots of blankets, hot drinks, and smore ingredients!
  • For very experienced surfers only (vicious riptides scour the coastline), take off from the beach at the bottom of 8th.
  • The quieter Carmel River State Beach adjoins an estuary that provides perfect bird-watching opportunities. On the hill across from the lagoon is a wooden cross marking the centuries-old "port" for supply ships to the mission. Wading in the river here is possible, but the steep slope of the beach makes for a violent current, and swimming in the ocean here is NOT a good idea.
  • If you're feeling brave enough to ford the river, behind the cross winds a network of paths that eventually lead to Monastery Beach, a great favorite among scuba divers. Watch as you walk for ubiquitous ice plant, and maybe a golden poppy or two (the state flower).
  • Enjoy a spa.
  • 17-Mile Drive. A famous scenic drive through one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in Northern California. Unless you are a resident you have to pay $9.50 to get your vehicle through the gate.
  • Play golf at Pebble Beach.

Buy[edit][add listing]

The village of Carmel is locally famous for art galleries boasting a variety of art. Openings are held frequently and often open to the public.

Unique clothing and jewelry also represent a large portion of shopping in Carmel. Don't miss the following:

  • Girl Boy Girl (100 Dolores St.): Locally owned and operated, this little shop is packed full of unique, high-quality designer clothing. Nearby you'll also find sister shop Paloosh.
  • Carmel Plaza [18] shopping center is a collection of upscale shops in the heart of town. Be sure to look on the lower courtyard level for The Cheese Shop.

Eat[edit][add listing]

For chinese food try Tommy's Wok. It has a humble off-street location but is the best chinese food around by far.

For baked goods try Carmel Bakery or its sister store Napoli Napoli, both on Ocean Avenue.

  • Em Le's Old Carmel Restaurant (Em Le's), Dolores between 5th & 6th (Ocean Ave to Dolores St), 831-625-6780, [2]. 7AM-8PM. Em Le's serves the Best Breakfast in Monterey County. Located in the center of downtown Carmel, Em Le’s is a village landmark. Em Le's features an extensive breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu, and serves only the freshest local ingredients. Offering a large selection of Central Coast and Northern California wines, rounded out with selections from Italy, France, and Australia. $10-15.  edit

Mission Ranch [19] serves exceptional food with a stunning ocean panorama. The large patio area is perfect for warm days, while the intimate interior is perfect for anytime. A piano bar graces the place on weekends. Mission Ranch is especially strong for its very popular Sunday brunch.

The Hog's Breath Inn [20] has been around for ages. While it struggled briefly under new management, it's now back to serving quality food in a genuinely fascinating atmosphere.

The Forge in the Forest has attracted visitors and locals alike for decades, sometimes a destination in its own right for the signature chocolate chip cookie dessert.

Bruno's Market & Deli [21] has a wide selection of basics as well as imported groceries. The gourmet deli is a must-visit. Especially worthwhile are the tri-tip sandwich and authentic tamales. Perfect to go for a picnic on the beach.

Allegro Gourmet Pizzeria [22] offers THE best pizza around, complemented by a wide selection of classic Italian entrees. The crust is the perfect cross between thick and thin, crispy and chewy...

Rio Grill [23] is another long-standing local institution, serving up the best traditions of creative American cuisine. The daily quesadilla and warm sourdough bread will rev up even the most sluggish of appetites.

Cafe Stravaganza (241 Crossroads Blvd) has been offering Mediterranean-inspired dishes to its diners for years. The herb blend served with warm Italian bread sets the atmosphere. The colorful interior and passionate owner make dining in a sheer pleasure.

R.G. Burgers boasts the best burgers, shakes, and sandwiches around. The simple, cheery decor and quick service make it a favorite among families.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Most Carmel drinking revolves around local wines; be sure to indulge in a bottle, available at almost any food shop and every restaurant.

Several restaurants also offer bar areas; but an honest-to-goodness "pub crawl" would be hard to come by in this town.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Carmel Country Inn, Dolores Street at Third Avenue, (831) 625-3263, [3]. checkin: 3 PM; checkout: 12 PM. Pet friendly Bed and Breakfast style inn featuring Romantic Studios and Spacious Suites, all with Luxury Baths. Bountiful Breakfast Buffet daily and afternoon snacks included. $195 - $425.  edit
  • Carmel Lodge, San Carlos Street & 5th Avenue, (831) 624-1255, [4].  edit
  • Coachmans Inn, San Carlos Street & 7th Avenue, +1-831-624-6421 (toll free: +1-800-366-6421, ), [5]. All of the services of a hotel with the ambiance of an inn located in downtown Carmel.  edit
  • Hotel Carmel, 4th & San Carlos, 855-622-7635, [24]. Family-friendly, with several suites and half-suites available.
  • Green Lantern Inn, Casanova and 8th, 831-624-4392, [25]. Collection of cottages and duplex amongst pine and oak trees. Quiet, quaint, rustic yet romantic and comfortable.
  • Lamp Lighter Inn, Ocean Ave & Camino Real, 888.375.0770, [6]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 12PM. Cottages and suites in downtown Carmel, and the closest Inn to the beach. Rooms have fireplaces and king beds. Free parking, free light breakfast, beach chairs to borrow as well as beach towels. Pet friendly. $155.  edit
  • La Playa Carmel, 8th & Camino Real, 831-624-6476, [26]. The Grande Dame of Carmel, La Playa Carmel hotel is a historic, beautifully renovated luxury hotel in Carmel By The Sea, near Monterey CA. The vacation choice of movie stars and tech entrepreneurs.
  • Pine Inn, Ocean and Monte Verde, 831-624-3851, [27]. Historic, full-service boutique style hotel right in downtown and walking to the ocean. Elegant rooms with charm and character.
  • Svendsgaard's Inn, 4th & San Carlos, 831-624-1511, [28]. Freshly baked cookies and coffee offered daily give this inn with its lovely courtyard a sense of home.
  • Tradewinds Carmel, Mission Street at Third Avenue, 831-624-2776, [7]. Asian-themed boutique hotel.  edit
  • Wayside Inn [29], 7th & Mission, 831-624-5336.
  • Forest Lodge (Carmel Boutique Inns), Ocean Ave and Junipero St (Hwy 1, West- Ocean Ave), 888.375.0770, [8]. checkin: noon; checkout: 3:00. Cottages in Downtown next to shops and restaurants. Large suites with fireplaces and parking. Historical building with all new furniture. 155.00.  edit
  • The Colonial Terrace, 13th & San Antonio Avenue Carmel, CA 93921, 1-800-345-8220, [9]. The Colonial Terrace offers a unique collection of 26 guest rooms and suites in the charming Carmel-by-the-Sea area of California. Guests of the Carmel hotel find themselves just steps from the beaches of Carmel Bay and popular attractions. 175.  edit

Stay safe[edit]

Get out[edit]

  • Go inland to Carmel Valley on the hourly Grapevine Express bus (route 24), stopping at about ten local wineries and vineyards. A unlimited use day pass for this all-day, every-day route costs $4.50 per adult (half price for seniors, disabled people, and children).
  • Drive north to Monterey's Fisherman's Wharf for clam chowder and an ocean tour.
  • Travel south along Highway 1 for breathtaking views of the coastline - you'll feel as though you are at the end of the world.
  • Point Lobos State Reserve and the State Parks comprising Big Sur make for an amazing afternoon drive and hiking session.
  • Drive along scenic Highway 68 to the town of Pacific Grove for coastal beauty (tide pools) along Ocean View Blvd and an old fashioned downtow.

Routes through Carmel
Santa CruzMonterey  N noframe S  Big SurSan Luis Obispo

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