By Jackie Olsen
Along the scenic coastal highway one, on California’s central coast is the turnoff for Ocean Avenue which runs through the renowned seaside town, Carmel-by-the-Sea. Known for art galleries, a beautiful dog-friendly beach, and a celebrity mayor in the 80’s Clint Eastwood, Carmel-by-the-Sea is anything but ordinary. Cobblestone sidewalks, secret pathways in between buildings that lead to hidden shops, and storybook cottages all add to the charm and whimsical nature of this town. Perfectly nestled into one square mile, Carmel-by-the-Sea is an exceptional location for a weekend getaway by the ocean.
The famous oceanside town has a quintessential feeling and welcoming essence that evokes the soul from the moment you arrive. Walking the sidewalks through the city, you will find a mix of locals and tourist exploring the hilly streets and winding pathways that lead from one street to the next. "What makes Carmel-by-the-Sea special is having the feeling you are in a quaint European village. You walk everywhere, and the locals all know one another. The eclectic architecture and historical homes make it extra special," said Dave Potter, Carmel resident and Mayor. There are no physical addresses therefore locating a shop, restaurant, or gallery can offer its challenges, but you always seem to end up finding where you want to go. Parking your car in an unmetered spot off the main roads and taking the town by foot is your best option for soaking in all Carmel-by-the-Sea has to offer.
Where to Explore
Carmel-by-the-Sea is an art destination and an extraordinary place for culture, entertainment, more. “The town is extremely walkable, and there are little secret walkways everywhere and tucked away are galleries where you can find and meet local artists at work,” said Steven Whyte, Owner, Steven Whyte Sculpture Gallery. When Steven Whyte was searching for a location to call home for his gallery and working studio, he was enchanted by the casual nature of Carmel and the long history of art in the destination. “I was drawn to Carmel’s connection to art, history, and California impressionism, there are added benefits with the inspirational seascape and historical homes throughout Carmel,” said Steven Whyte.
Visitors may purchase historical pieces selling for a heavy price tag or find modern artists working in their galleries selling paintings and sculptures made on-site. Exploring all the lovely galleries and hidden walkways is worth your time when in Carmel.
Steven Whyte’s Sculpture Gallery located on Dolores Avenue between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue is working gallery with finished pieces for your home and large commission works in progress for college campus’ and cities throughout the United States. Explore his gallery for an opportunity to speak with him directly about his work and the importance of art to the Carmel-by-the-Sea community.
Where to Eat
There is no shortage of specialty restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea from Mediterranean and Italian eateries to Chinese and French style cuisine. Price, ambiance, and appropriate attire will vary throughout this quaint oceanside town, but there are options for every budget and personal preference. Beware if you or someone in your group enjoys dressing up with high heels as they are banned in this town due to the uneven walkways and it is not uncommon to hear that a tourist was a given a ticket for wearing high heels. Speaking with former resident, Tamara Berg she can attest to Carmel-by-the-Sea’s policy on high heels.
“One of my first nights hanging out in Carmel by the sea, I remember wearing heels. One of my friends (a local) said hey you can’t wear heels in Carmel. I said, why? She then explained that the city banned them due to the uneven pavement in some spots and cobblestone drives. She also said the heels can tend to destroy the lovely roads across town. I had a good laugh but didn’t change my heels! However, I can see where areas of town are uneven and in the dark it’s very hard to see. Still, I can’t believe the city has this law,” said Tamara Berg.
Embrace the early morning and start your day with a traditional breakfast including scrambled eggs, Belgian waffles or pancakes at a local breakfast spot like Katy’s Place on Mission Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue or sip a cup of coffee and enjoy a pastry at one of the many coffee shops or bakeries. "Stationaery is a great coffee house to check out," according to Carmel resident, Janine Chicourrat. Catering to the locals for business throughout the year, Stationaery offers breakfast, lunch, and specialty coffees seven days a week.
Carmel-by-the-Sea has an array of restaurants to choose from for lunch or dinner. A favorite for my entire family is Il Tegamino. Serving Italian comfort food in a quaint restaurant tucked away in the Court of the Golden Bough behind the Cottage of Sweets, Il Tegamino’s authentic menu and warm staff will make you feel like part of the family. “I think what's special about dining in Carmel is the fact that virtually all the restaurants are owner operated making for a truly personal experience,” said Colleen Chen Panzuto, Owner, Il Tegamino. Serving recipes from Chef Giuseppe Panzuto’s family in Italy combined with award-winning Monterey County wines makes Il Tegamino a local favorite and a must for visitors. “Carmel doesn't allow chains, so each experience is one of a kind. The only exception is Il Fornaio, and that was due to a city error back in the day,” said Colleen Chen Panzuto.
For a casual dining experience and the most spectacular ocean views opt for a sandwich or salad from Bruno’s market or a local deli. Pack a bottle of wine (with a twist off cap of course) and your favorite snacks to create a picnic to take to Carmel Beach. Watch local surfers and paddle boarders ride the slow rolling waves while dogs and their owners walk and run along the ocean shore.
Where to Shop
Carmel-by-the-Sea is perfect for a little retail therapy, and unlike the restaurants in Carmel, you will find high-end chain retailers like Coach or Tiffany’s and local boutique shops unique to the region. The best places to shop and visit over the weekend are the wine tasting rooms, olive oil shop, and cheese shop where you can sample the selections and learn about the products. There are almost 20 wine tasting rooms in Carmel, therefore, visiting each location is a challenge for a weekend getaway. In Carmel Plaza visitors will find an assortment of offerings with two tasting rooms, a cheese shop, coffee shop, dining, brewery, and plenty of retail shops including a doggie specialty store.
A highly recommended tasting lounge in Carmel Plaza is Hahn Family Wines. A local winery, Hahn’s estate, and tasting room is nearly an hour from the coast making the Carmel-by-the-Sea location a wonderful addition and much more accessible to visitors. “Hahn wines are among some of my favorite wines in the area. I was thrilled when they opened the Carmel location,” said Liz Pelley, Monterey resident, and Hahn wine member. When visiting with friends, we stop by the cheese shop first to sample cheese, purchase our favorite samples with rustic crackers before heading over to Hahn to taste wine or enjoy a glass with our cheese.
Where to Stay
Staying overnight in Carmel-by-the-Sea, there are several accommodation options to choose from including bed and breakfast, boutique hotels, and pet-friendly inns. Whether you select a hotel closer to the beach or near the center of the town each style of lodging provides easy access to dining, shops, galleries, the beach, and more. Much like Carmel-by-the-Sea's stance on restaurant's, there are no national chains in the town. While all accommodations are charming in their own way, the Cypress Inn is particularly special if you are planning a weekend getaway.
A historic landmark since 1929, the Cypress Inn is known for being Doris Day's hotel and the most popular pet-friendly property in the area. The inn offers beautiful guestrooms and suites with courtyard and ocean views, and if you are lucky a suite with a fireplace to cozy up by with a glass of wine from a nearby tasting room. General Manager, Peter Radler calls the Cypress Inn, "your romantic getaway by the sea." This 1920's style property’s posh style and unique charm offer a quintessential Carmel experience. The Cypress Inn is located in the center of downtown Carmel on Lincoln Street between Ocean Avenue and 7th Avenue.
Carmel-by-the Sea Awaits
Pack your weekend bag with your walking shoes and plenty of layers for the changing coastal climate. “The old-world charm reminds me a little bit of parts of Texas, but the weather and the shopping and the restaurants are like a different world. The people there are sophisticated, and interesting and diverse, too, so it’s always fun to strike up a conversation with another fellow traveler or shop owner,” said Wyatt Anderson from San Antonio Texas.
The ideal season to visit Carmel-by-the-Sea is in the fall after the summer rush, car week, and golf tournaments that draw tourist and sports enthusiast from all over the world. “Visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea is a welcome reprieve from the hot Texas weather in the summer. I even love the chill of the morning fog because it makes our cup of coffee taste that much sweeter” said Wyatt Anderson. The mornings are quiet and serene, and the evenings are buzzing with people and brisk coastal breezes. Beautiful sunsets will hold a special place in your heart and soul after experiencing Carmel. Ask resident Janine Chicourrat about visiting her town, and she will tell you, "there’s something for everybody in the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, whether it’s shopping, dining or exploring the dog-friendly beach." If your wanderlust is getting the best of you, then consider a weekend getaway to charming Carmel-by-the-Sea on California’s central coast.