Carmel-by-the-Sea & Big Sur, California, USA

Carmel-by-the-Sea & Big Sur, California, USA (6/8-11/2021)


Beautiful Charming Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea is one of the loveliest seaside towns in America with its storybook cottage-style homes, quaint Bed and Breakfasts, unique boutique stores and good restaurants with warm decor, Victorian buildings and tree-shaded streets, and stunning gardens everywhere. Joy for the soul!

Charming Fairytale Architecture

Located about 150 miles south of San Francisco along California’s Central Coast, picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea radiates charm and sophistication with causal elegance. Beautiful architecture with flowers and gardens everywhere makes Carmel one of the most romantic towns we have visited (see photos). One thing Carmel is not is a party town – come here to relax in causal romantic elegance.

42 Beautiful Courtyards - Camel-by-the-Sea

Downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Beach are all very walkable. Ocean Avenue is Carmel’s main street and any visit should also include wandering around the streets that radiate out from it – from East to West the streets are: Junipero, Mission, San Carlos, Dolores, Lincoln, Monte Verde, Casanova, and then down to Carmel Beach. Along the way, do not miss the joyful experience of exploring Carmel’s 42 courtyards – one more beautiful after another (see photo). Causal attire is appropriate everywhere in Carmel. Parking in Carmel-by-the-Sea can become difficult during peak times so check out the nearby public parking at San Carlos and 8th Avenue.

Stunning Carmel Beach
For beach lovers, a visit to Carmel Beach is delightful - a long stretch of beautiful soft sandy beach in a 1-mile crescent bay (see photo). Ocean water temperature at Carmel Beach is chilly year round although surfers in wet suits enjoy the waves. Modest parking is available at the end of Ocean Avenue and along Scenic Road that parallels Carmel Beach. Just above Carmel Beach, the Scenic Bluff Path is a well-maintained gravel pathway that parallels Scenic Road – a wonderful walk. A drive along Scenic Road south of Ocean Avenue is a must when visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea – so beautiful!

Highly Recommended Casanova Restaurant
Carmel-by-the-Sea has outstanding restaurants – reservations should be made at popular ones. Some we enjoy include Dametra Cafe (Ocean & Lincoln) for the good healthy Mediterranean food and the staff gets up and plays lively music providing a special dining experience. Casanova (Mission - see photo) is highly recommended by locals with good reason - wonderful menu with fantastic wine list – sit in the lovely back courtyard. Hog’s Breath (San Carlos) is former Carmel Mayor Clint Eastwood’s bar/restaurant with a nice relaxed setting. Bruno’s Market & Deli (Junipero) is a great place to pick up good sandwiches and other items for picnics or affordable lunch. 

Tuck Box

Do check out the unique Tuck Box (Dolores) and maybe try breakfast or lunch (see photo). Don’t miss Anton and Michel in the Court of the Fountains (Mission) for the great food in a beautiful setting – nice for lunch.




Delightful Garden Homes

Fairytale houses and home gardens also make Carmel-by-the-Sea a uniquely delightful city. To view some beautiful examples you can drive south on Lincoln from Ocean Avenue (see photo). Plenty more are located on other streets for those who want to see more. Carmel-by-the-Sea has 18 wine tasting rooms open for indoor and outside wine tastings as well as for retail purchases. For wine lovers, experiencing different wines of the region can be highlight of your time in Carmel!


Beautiful Carmel Beach

To be able to appreciate Carmel-by-the-Sea even more, we recommend taking a walking tour. Carmel Walks offers a fun and interesting 2-hour nicely paced walking tour showcasing special charms of Carmel through secret pathways, hidden courtyards, beautiful gardens, and enchanting storybook cottages.

Anton and Michel Courtyard of the Fountains

Some quirky things make Carmel-by-the-Sea unique like there are no addresses. Residents wanted everyone to get to know each other so they required mail to be picked up. Also, women need a permit to wear high heel shoes - the city is worried about liability walking around the irregular streets that give Carmel much of its charm.


Big Sur

Pat at Big Sur River Inn

Located just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur is one of the most dramatically beautiful drives in the United States! Exceptionally beautiful rugged ocean coastline, amazing ancient redwood forests, and interesting attractions make for an unforgettable experience. Along the way, you should pull over at the parking areas and enjoy the incredible views.

Map of Carmel, Big Sur, & Monterey

We highly recommend the approximately hour drive south of Carmel-by-the-Sea along Highway 1 to McWay Falls. Of course, you should plan to spend more time to enjoy the views, hikes, and interesting attractions. First stop driving south in Big Sur for lovers of ocean hikes should be Point Lobos State Natural Reserve along the Pacific Ocean coastline. You can see California sea lions at Sea Lion Point and maybe some sea otters. Continue to drive past the first parking lot to enjoy the beautiful coastline along the South Shore Trail (several parking lots along the way). There is a flat 6.7-mile loop with shorter hikes available.

Famous Bixby Bridge - Big Sur

Famous Bixby Bridge is great stop to enjoy Big Sur’s incredible beauty - park on north side in the parking area to witness this beautiful site (see photo). 


Big Sur Coast Gallery & Café
Big Sur Coast Gallery & Café
We love stopping at the Big Sur River Inn located on a fantastically beautiful river setting where you can sit in the river surrounded by a forest - not to be missed (see photo). Food is served on the patio overlooking the river. 

We enjoyed the Big Sur Coast Gallery & Café (see photo) – an elegant gallery and gift shop with a nice café with a sitting area looking out to the Pacific Ocean – well worth a stop.


McWay Falls
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is a great place to enjoy wonderful hikes through amazing Redwood forests. Also, the short hike to beautiful McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a great way to enjoy your Big Sur experience (see photo).





Monterey is a fun jewel just 15 minutes north of Carmel-by-the-Sea.


17-Mile Drive
Better yet take scenic route through the incredible 17-Mile Drive from Carmel-by-the-Sea to Monterey. This famous drive includes Pebble Beach Golf Course and incredible beauty so you will want to take your time driving through this gorgeous area. It should take about three hours depending if you stop for lunch. At the entrance, after you pay a nominal fee, you will get a map with the 17 notable stops mapped out. Definitely stop at the famous Lone Cypress, Ghost Tree, and Bird Rock.

Monterey Bay Aquarium
Sitting at the end of Cannery Row, the fascinating family-friendly Monterey Bay Aquarium is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy exhibits including recreations of the Californian ocean kelp forests, stingray touch pools, tanks with black tip reef sharks, and inlets filled with rare sea otters. Just outside you can marvel at the rowdy barking California sea lions. Cannery Row is filled with funky restaurants and hotels.

Old Fisherman's Wharf

Monterey’s Old Fisherman’s Wharf is a fun medley of cafes and crab shacks (see photo). Try the clam chowder best served in a sourdough bread bowl. Nearby Lovers Point State Marine Reserve is a small charming cove to explore.

Click on these links to see our other 12 posts on beautiful California:

Laguna Beach, California

Mammoth Lakes, California


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