I’m currently crushing on the beach town of Carmel, which is a 2+ hour drive from San Francisco and 15 minutes away from Monterey. We headed down for the long weekend after the 4th of July. There are a lot of boutique hotels, cute restaurants and wine tasting rooms, but I believe tourists and return visitors are probably most stunned by its natural beauty, anchored by a white sand beach at the end of the downtown thoroughfare. I’ve always loved Carmel, but fell in love with it more during this vacation. I’m planning a return trip before the end of the summer.
Something I really like about Carmel is that the weather is always cooler than neighboring areas. Given global warming, I am now chasing 60 degree weather vs 70 or 80 degrees. I can’t take the heat! Other unique things about Carmel is that there are no addresses (you find your way by following cross-streets) and actor Clint Eastwood was the mayor from 1986-1988.
WHAT TO DO
Carmel River State Beach
End of Ocean Avenue
We went to the beach on Friday and Saturday. The picture of Franco below was taken on Friday when the beach was serene and quiet. The picture above at the top of the post is from Saturday when the beach was mobbed and there was no parking to be found! On Saturday, everyone was thrilled to watch dolphins playing in the ocean. As word spread, people sprang to the shore and whipped out their phones to capture the action. You’ll have to take my word. I was too enraptured by the experience to snap a shot.
Point Lobos State Reserve
62 California 1
Point Lobos is like a little piece of the Galapagos in Monterey County. It’s gorgeous. Who doesn’t love animals? We saw lots of different types of birds (sorry I’m not an ornithologist, that’s the best I can do) and harbor seals.
3080 Rio Road
Mission Carmel is a historic place to visit and nice to wander around, even if you’re not Catholic. We attended the 11am Sunday mass, then Franco ran around the grounds afterwards.
San Carlos and 7th Ave.
This is a great toy store. I think the owner said they were open every single day of the year, even holidays. He said there would be a revolt if they were closed. We picked up a lot of goodies for our already spoiled, only child.
WHERE TO STAY
Carmel Forest Lodge
Ocean Ave and Torres
We stayed in the largest room of the Carmel Forest Lodge which was the Dali Suite. All the rooms are different and have their own reserved parking spots. There are gardens and patio areas, and you can either have your breakfast brought to you (which was lovely) or you could go down to their sister property the Lamplighter Inn which is located several blocks away on Ocean Ave. I’m not sure if the rooms are worth the price. That said, Franco and I had a good time lounging in the large bath tub.
La Playa Carmel
Camino Real and 8th Avenue
I’m eyeing this property which looks to be the most luxurious hotel on the Monterey Peninsula.
Ocean Ave and Junipero
This hotel is the newest addition to the PlumpJack Group founded by former SF mayor Gavin Newsom. The Getaway is across the street from the Forest Lodge, where we stayed, and I popped in to investigate. It’s completely renovated and has only been open for a few months. The reception wall has a list of all the PlumpJack properties and I was intrigued to see that PlumpJack recently acquired Melvyn’s and the Ingleside Inn in Palm Springs. We are big fans of Melvyn’s piano bar which I alluded to in my most recent Palm Springs post.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Sur at the Barnyard
3601 The Barnyard
We discovered this restaurant and fell in love. I was disappointed we couldn’t sit outside, then we saw the light-filled interior! I think we sat, ate and soaked up the sun for almost two hours. Our lunch was so satisfying and we topped it off with their signature arctic bonbons (french vanilla ice-cream dipped in Ghiradelli chocolate served over dry ice).
San Carlos between 7th and 8th
This was another restaurant where we were disappointed we couldn’t sit outside, but the food was decent and the wine list looked good too.
Dolores between Ocean and 6th
We did tastings at Albatross Ridge and the wines were good. The wine stewards were super friendly too. Poor Franco schlepping along with his toys as his parents drink.
Bruno’s Market & Deli
Dolores between Ocean and 6th
This is a great market! They were selling plates of Mexican food the day I went and it was so yummy. You can also order sandwiches or stock up on whatever you need. Highly recommend making a stop here, ordering food to go, and heading to the beach.
Have you been? Carmel is such a delight. Also trying to think of where to go for Labor Day. Recommendations requested.