The following content is created in consultation with Carmel-by-the-Sea. It does not reflect the work or opinions of NBC BAY AREA's editorial staff. To learn more about Carmel-by-the-Sea, visit CarmelCalifornia.com.
Scenic beauty, storybook cottages, hidden passageways, inspiring artists, a craggy coastline flecked with cypress trees. You might think we’re describing some idyllic European getaway, or maybe even a place that doesn’t exist, the Cotswolds meets the South of France, with a little bit of New Zealand thrown in for good measure.
But what if we said you could experience all this without flying abroad?
Located on the Monterey Peninsula, Carmel-by-the-Sea, or simply Carmel to the locals, is a restful, picturesque and culturally engaging vacation right in the Bay Area’s backyard.
With its artistic roots (this was the site of a famous early 20th century artist colony, attracting everyone from painters like Anne Bremer to writers like Upton Sinclair) Carmel remains an unspoiled getaway known for its charming, whimsical village and famous white-sand beach. But don’t let its small size fool you (only one-square mile to be exact). Packed with art galleries, fantastic restaurants, and world-class wineries, not to mention flanked by pristine acres of coastline, this is the perfect destination to get away from it all without sacrificing culture or adventure.
To help you get started planning your vacation, we’ve put together a few of our favorite things to see and do in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
The Breathtaking Romance of Carmel Beach
What’s more romantic than a picnic on the beach while watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean? The blue gradient of the Pacific, the white, powdery sand, and of course, the breathtaking sunsets, all make Carmel Beach a must for first-time visitors and regulars alike.
Indulge in Diverse Dining
Carmel-by-the-Sea doesn’t have a single chain restaurant, which means no matter where you end up eating during your stay, you’re guaranteed a unique dining experience. The town’s pitch-perfect eateries feature a full range of international and local cuisines. For lunch, visit A. W. Shucks seafood and oyster bar that’s ideal for fresh catches, fish tacos, and classic cocktails. After a long day at the beach, head over to La Bicyclette for some hearty European cuisine made with local ingredients (order the short ribs with red wine-fontina risotto, or split a wood-fired pizza). Pescadero Mexican Restaurant is also a great locals favorite, serving inventive cocktails and tasty, unpretentious Mexican food in the heart of town.
Oenophiles and wine neophytes alike rejoice – Carmel-by-the-Sea is packed with wine-tasting opportunities including tasting rooms, bars, and bottle shops. With nearly 20 tasting rooms within a short stroll of each other, Carmel-by-the-Sea is the most walkable wine tasting destination right from all the charming hotels or inns.
Immerse Yourself in Art
The City of Carmel-by-the-Sea was founded by artists and writers more than 100 years ago. Today, its artistic roots remain with over 70 fine art galleries. From groundbreaking contemporary pieces found at Art WeMe, to the fine art photography of Gallery Sur, to a gallery displaying the works of Dr. Seuss, there’s something for everyone in Carmel, all within a single square mile. To get the most out of your trip, choose from one of two guided walking tours that Carmel Art Tours offers. If you happen to visit on the second Saturday of the month, join a Carmel Art Walk, which allows you to visit artist-owned galleries and meet the artists themselves.
For those who love history, a stay in Carmel-by-the-Sea would be incomplete without a visit to the Carmel Mission Basilica at the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission. Founded in 1770, it was the second of the 21 California missions. Spend your afternoon admiring its gorgeous architecture and beautiful gardens. For a night of music, head to Sunset Center for the Performing Arts, which features regular classical, jazz, and world music concerts in its soaring, Gothic style auditorium.
Explore Parks and Courtyards
Scenic outdoor spaces are an essential part of life in Carmel. Visitors will come across numerous beautiful courtyards as they walk down Ocean Avenue and parks scattered throughout the city during their stay. With its sprawling lawn, stone pathways, shady trees and benches, Devendorf Park is Carmel’s central gathering place. At the corner of Camino del Monte and Junipero, Forest Hills Park is a favorite amongst local families thanks to its playground, basketball court, sand volleyball court, tennis courts, horseshoe pits, barbeques, and plenty of benches.
Explore Scenic Runs, Hikes & Walks
Carmel is the perfect destination for couples or families who love to stay active on vacation which is why Carmel hotels provide guests with an exclusive Locals’ Guide to Scenic Runs, Hikes & Walks. The Scenic Bluff Path is a 3.5-mile run or walk on a well-maintained gravel pathway that takes you along a jagged coastline with endless scenic views. For more scenic beach trails, head to Carmel River State Beach, which offers three trails of varying difficulty, all paired with spectacular views and unspoiled nature. Or head to the Mission Trail Nature Preserve just east of downtown Carmel, where you’ll discover paths that take you through pine and oak groves and wetlands.
Discover Mindfulness By The Sea
Unplug from the world’s over stimulation and discover mindfulness in relaxing Carmel-by-the-Sea through a unique Mindful-by-the-Sea Beginner's Guide — created in conjunction with their friends at Mindful magazine — to inspire a more fulfilling getaway through a range of mindfulness practices to help visitors enjoy a deeper sense of relaxation, well-being and happiness in the moment. The guide is available at Carmel hotels and inns only.
To plan and book your Carmel-by-the-Sea getaway, visit the official travel website at CarmelCalifornia.com.