9 Things To Do in Carmel,California

Carmel bay
Carmel bay

Even though this isn’t Travel Photo Thursday yet, I’m going to share a little info and some pictures of our visit to Carmel and Monterey. Carmel is on the Monterey peninsula south of San Francisco and the Silicon Valley and at the north end of the scenic Big Sur drive along California’s gorgeous coast on Route One.  The famous Pebble Beach golf course lies just across the Carmel Bay.

Carmel was founded (or found by) artists and writers in the twenties and maintains its free-wheeling, artistic and stylish attitude. Let’s call a spade a spade. Carmel is twee. And expensive. I may call it Carmel, but the proper name is Carmel-by-the-Sea. That kind of tells you something about the built-in attitude of superiority, doesn’t it? On the other hand, it is a friendly place and we always seem to strike up a conversation with some eccentric resident when we are in a restaurant or shop. Movies stars seem to be attracted to Carmel, too.

You may know that film star Clint Eastwood was once Mayor of Carmel. He ran because he couldn’t get the zoning and permits he wanted to build a small building. Rules are still strict in Carmel, but Eastwood supposedly made things more business and tourist friendly. I have read that he is responsible for the beach walk, which alone qualifies him for a golden crown as a smart elected official. The Hog’s Breath Inn is no longer owned by Eastwood, but still operates out of the Eastwood Building in the middle of town. He does still own the Mission Ranch, an upscale resort with a restaurant looking out over sheep pastures and wetlands.

Narrow streets bend around trees, because no one would think of cutting down a tree for a mere human. Nearly all hotels and inns welcome pets, because pets–particularly dogs, although we did see a woman walking a pig–are very popular in Carmel.

There are SO many things to keep one busy in those communities in the summer, so our less-than-a-week was packed with activities, like a dog show, horse show, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a drive down Big Sur, a lecture on Bach as part of the Bach Festival, and a play that is part of California’s Summer Art Festival, plus these more mundane activities in Carmel. First, of course, you need to stroll around Carmel and see the scrumptious flower gardens.

Drowning in flowers
A Carmel streetscape, Drowning in flowers

And the unique architecture of Carmel, where the houses have names instead of numbers. You will see very little that reminds you of the tract housing back home.

Crazy angles house called Lilacs and Laughter
Crazy angles house called Lilacs and Laughter

And of course you have to go to the seaside.

Carmel Beach
Carmel Beach

See some famous houses.

Frank Lloyd Wright House used for Sandra Dee movie, Summer Place
Frank Lloyd Wright House used for Sandra Dee movie, Summer Place

Or perhaps glimpse a celebrity.

Doris Day is part owner of this hotel which welcomes dogs
Doris Day is part owner of this hotel which welcomes dogs

Go Shopping.

A side street in Carmel
A side street in Carmel

Read a local author (well actually Steinbeck was mostly nearby in Monterey, Pacific Grove and Salinas. But that IS nearby). You knew I’d visit a bookstore, didn’t you?

John Steinbeck display at The Pilgrim's Way Books
John Steinbeck display at The Pilgrim’s Way Books

Eat well. Not a problem in a town full of restaurants called cafés and patisseries instead of coffee shops and bakeries.

Artichoke salad, Patisserie Boisserie, Carmel
Artichoke salad, Patisserie Boisserie


Demetra's baklava, Carmel
Baklava at Demetra’s Restaurant

And don’t miss the historic sites.

Carmel Mission
Carmel Mission

Tomorrow’s photo essay will show more of the trip, but you can see more pictures on my Facebook page or my Google Plus page. And here’s a soothing video of our Monterey Bay Aquarium visit on YouTube. All of the pictures are my property. That means DO NO copy without permission. Thank you. Enormous thanks to my brother and his wife and son for sharing their vacation idyll with us for a few days.

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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

7 thoughts on “9 Things To Do in Carmel,California

  1. I am shocked that you would find any of us residents of C-by-the-Sea eccentric. My dog says she’s also shocked. We are convinced you must have been talking to eccentric tourists posing as locals. Nevertheless, your photos and other comments on your visit are excellent.

    1. Dear Bro:
      I believe that explaining eccentricity to the eccentric is a corollary to explaining mediocrity to the mediocre. While you are NOT mediocre, I could never explain eccentricity to you. Your dog, on the other hand, would no doubt understand completely.

  2. It seems like Carmel has such a unique character! I’m going to San Fran in September and will definitely try to make a stop there. Love the Lilacs and Laughter house!

    1. You’re right. I love finding towns and cities in the U.S. where you immediately know where you are. No chain stores or restaurants are permitted in Carmel, which adds to that unique atmosphere.

  3. I was often in Carmel when I was a student. Lovely place. Back then, Clint Eastwood was definitely a main player in town. Is he still?

    1. Yes, Sophie, Clint Eastwood refurbished an historical ranch into a resort, so he still has business interests. Of course he’s not as visible as when he was Mayor.

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