These incredible things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea bring Californians and visitors from all over the world onto the Monterey Peninsula to enjoy the breathtaking natural beauty, fairytale cottages, and award-winning wines, beers, and cuisine.
If you are wondering how to spend a day in Carmel, you have a lot of sites to activities to choose from. The idyllic blue water, historic buildings, and overall vibe here in Carmel-By-The-Sea are something that visitors to the peninsula shouldn’t miss.
Whether you are looking for a relaxing beach town excursion, an art-focused exploration, a foodie vacation, or an outdoor adventure, Carmel has you covered with everything you could want from a California beach getaway.
The vibe in Carmel is a lovely mix of a laid-back beach lifestyle, a modern city, and a calm historic small town. The locals care about preserving the history of the town and it shows as you walk around town and enjoy the beautiful architecture and offerings of the city.
The attractions in Carmel are some of the best places to see and things to do in Central Coast California. Carmel-By-The-Sea is a hub for travelers taking a Pacific Coast Highway road trip so the town is rarely dead.
With all of the incredible things to do here, it can be hard to know where to get started. So, we’re here to help! Keep reading and we will discover all of the best streets, museums, galleries, and more for you to check out while you are in town.
Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting Carmel-By-The-Sea
Where is Carmel-By-The-Sea?
Carmel is on the south end of the Monterey Peninsula. It is located on the beautiful Carmel Bay and is just north of the famous Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Inland from Carmel, you will find Jack’s Peak Park which gives visitors impeccable views of The Monterey Bay.
How many days do you need in Carmel-By-The-Sea?
If you really wanted to, you could enjoy the top sights in Carmel in just two days. However, you can easily spend more time as well as there are so many restaurants, art galleries, shops, and outdoor sights to see that you could easily spend longer as well.
But, if all you have is a weekend to spend in Carmel-By-The-Sea, fret not! You will have plenty of time to see the most popular places in town.
When is the best time to visit Carmel-By-The-Sea?
The central coast is famous for its mild climate year around. This part of the California coast can also be quite gloomy so if you want to up your chances of having sunny weather during your visit, you should visit during the fall months.
How far is Monterey from Carmel?
Monterey to Carmel is roughly a 10-20 minute drive depending on you are coming from and where you are heading in these two towns. If you want to make a little excursion from Cannery Row in Monterey to Carmel Beach, the drive is about twenty minutes.
Is it worth taking a day trip to Carmel from Monterey?
100%! Monterey is an absolute dream, if you are going to be spending some time in the area checking out some of the best things to do in Monterey, taking a day trip to Carmel is a wonderful idea.
Carmel-By-The-Sea is beautiful and is home to even more blue water, white sandy beaches, envy-inducing restaurants, and historical architecture for you to enjoy.
While Monterey has several walkable areas in town like the area around the Old Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row, Carmel has areas that are more walkable with more attractions all close together making it easier for you to explore the town on foot.
Interesting Facts About Carmel-By-The-Sea, California
- Ice cream used to be illegal here! It is an urban legend that all ice cream was banned. But take-and-go ice cream that visitors would be eating on the street was banned in Carmel to keep the streets clean and tourists at bay. Clint Eastwood put an end to this rule when he became mayor in the 80s.
- Buildings here don’t have addresses! The town’s founders preferred the idea of a central post office as opposed to house mail delivery. They hoped this would keep the small-town vibes in Carmel and avoid it being citified.
- High heels are banned in Carmel. The trees that line the sidewalks in town have roots growing over the sidewalks and around the streets. The local government thought of this as a hazard to people’s safety so they banned heels. You can go to City Hall and get a permit to wear a heel over two inches for free. This makes for a cool souvenir from your time spent in Carmel-By-The-Sea.
- Many celebrities have called Carmel home over the years. From Betty White and Doris Day to Clint Eastwood and Ian Bohen, Carmel is no stranger to famous inhabitants.
Things To Do In Carmel-By-The-Sea Map
35 Enchanting Things To Do In Carmel-By-The-Sea
Carmel Mission Basilica
One of the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea is to visit the Carmel Mission Basilica. This stunning historic site is a good place to visit for photography and historical information, and it’s an important location for some as they travel here for religious reasons.
The grounds are beautifully cared for and create a gorgeous area for visitors to enjoy while they are there. Cactus, succulents, vining plants, and flowers surround the building making it a lovely place to sit and rest or take travel photos.
You are welcome to take a self-guided tour through the Basilica, museums, and the grounds or you can take a guided tour by appointment only. Keep in mind that this is an active church and as such there are often events being held that visitors have to work around.
Padre Junipero Serra arrived in Monterey by ship in 1770 and founded Mission San Carlos Borromeo the next year. When he decided to leave Monterey, he established another mission in Carmel.
A bit more on the history of the mission and of Junipero Serra; in 1985, Junipero Serra was declared venerable by Pope John Paul II and in 1988, he was recognized for his heroic virtues. Then, in 2015 Saint Junipero Serra was canonized at the National Shrine in D.C.
Today, the Carmel Mission Basilica is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the United States for religious travelers from all over the world.
Carmel Beach California
If bold briny blue waters and wide sandy beaches are something that appeals to you, you need to make your way to Carmel Beach. One of the best beaches in Monterey area, Carmel Beach can be seen from down on the sand or from Scenic Road.
If you head on down to the beach where you can sunbathe, do some wildlife viewing, walk your dog, or simply enjoy the remarkable beauty of the area, you will see why visiting this Carmel Beach is one of the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.
If you are looking for dog-friendly beaches in Carmel, it doesn’t get much better than Carmel Beach. Your dogs can be walked on a leash or if they are under voice control, you can let them off the leash. This makes this beach one of the best things to do in Carmel.
Parking can be found at the end of Ocean Avenue. Additional parking can be found along the street on Scenic Road. One visit here, it is easy to see why this is widely considered to be one of the best beaches on the Monterey Peninsula.
Walk or Drive Scenic Road
Among the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea is to walk or drive along Scenic Road. This road runs along the coast of Carmel, following Carmel Beach.
Depending on what time of the year and day you are visiting, it can be difficult to find parking at Carmel Beach. If you aren’t able to find parking at the beach, there is more parking on Scenic Road and San Antonio Avenue. You can also try the parking lot at Mara Beach Carmel where there are 25+ parking places at the end of Scenic Road.
The drive along this road is beautiful and gives you views of the coastline that you can’t get elsewhere in Carmel. You will also get views of famous houses that are perched on the rocky coastline of Carmel and the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Visitors and locals walk along Scenic Road every day enjoying the weather, views, and salty air. If you are only in Carmel for a short amount of time, be sure to check out Scenic Drive along Carmel Beach.
Little Napoli is one of the best restaurants in Carmel. At this Italian restaurant, guests are served generous portions in a cozy dining room. You will find this restaurant six blocks from Carmel Beach on Dolores Street.
When you visit Little Napoli, you are within walking distance of Picadilly Park, coffee shops, art galleries, and boutiques. This is perfect if you are going to be exploring the area on foot.
On the menu at Little Napoli, you’ll find delicious starters like meatballs, sautéd mussels and clams, fried artichoke crocchette, and calamari. Then, you can have something light like an Amalfi salad or a roasted red pepper soup or something heavier like one of their burgers or paninis.
On their dinner menu, there’s Cioppino Rosso which was made famous by the Italian fisherman of the Monterey Bay and the mouth-watering four-hour braised New Zealand lamb shank served with parmesan mash and gremolata.
No matter what you order at Little Napoli, it is sure to leave a lasting impression! The mind-blowing dishes here are what make a meal here one of the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a must-do in Carmel-By-The-Sea. This is one of the most popular attractions on any Pacific Coast Highway road trip and definitely one of the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea. There is a small entrance fee that is totally worth the cost.
Point Lobos is home to incredible hiking trails, great beaches, beautiful views, bluish-green water, and diverse wildlife. This is an extremely busy part of Carmel, so if you plan on visiting during your time spent in town, be sure to arrive early in the day so that you can get a parking spot.
Even better, visit on a weekday if possible. On good weather days, parking can fill up by 10 am on weed days so do your best to arrive as early as possible. Once parking fills ups, cars start parking in the sandy areas along the Cabrillo Highway. You can see people walking along the highway to get to the entrance of Point Lobos so be careful driving around this part of Carmel.
While in Point Lobos, check out the Whalers Cabin. This cabin was built by Chinese fishermen in the 1850s and today it acts as a cultural history museum for visitors. There are also dreamy beaches in Point Lobos that are worth checking out.
A couple of the best are Gibson’s Beach and China Cove Beach. China Cove is one of the best beaches in Monterey County!
To get to China Cove, you take the Bird Island Trail. This trail takes you down a long wooden and stone staircase to the beach below. This cove has natural rock tunnels and cliffs around the beach, creating a mystical area that photographers and outdoor enthusiasts love.
There are often seals laying on the beach here so be sure to keep your distance if they are present while you are there.
If you have plenty of time to spend at Point Lobos, consider hiking the Point Lobos Loop Trail. This trail is a combination of trails that make a loop of nearly seven miles. This path will allow you to see many of the best parts of the state natural area.
For those who need a shorter, more accessible trail, the Sand Hill Trail is wheelchair and stroller-friendly. This trail is only 0.4 miles long and gains less than twenty miles in elevation making it super easy.
On the Sand Hill Trail, you will get views of Sand Hill Cove and Sea Lion Cove. Binoculars or a monocular would be great to bring along with you on this trail and to all of Point Lobos as you can spot wildlife in the water and on the rock cliffs throughout the area.
Mission Ranch Restaurant
The views from Mission Ranch Restaurant are a must-see in Carmel-By-The-Sea. Sunsets and the food both are spectacular here, making a meal at Mission Ranch one of the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.
The menu is full of elevated dishes like sea scallops with roasted squash and fried leeks, prime rib sandwiches, roasted half Jidori chicken served with exotic mushrooms and fingerling potatoes, and coriander seasoned King Salmon.
You can sit inside or outside at Mission Ranch Restaurant. The dining room has a stone fireplace and large windows overlooking green fields and the water. outside, the wooden furniture overlooks sheep in the field and the water in the distance.
If you have been looking for sunset spots in Carmel, dinner on the outdoor patio at Mission Ranch is one of the best! It should also be on your radar if you are looking for date night spots in Carmel.
Hunt for Murals Around Town
Walking around town and hunting for murals and other artwork is one of the best free things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea. The Carmel Shell is among the fan favorites in town, but there are several others as well.
Murals in Carmel to visit:
- Carmel Shell
- Mural at Hofsas House
- Charlie Chaplin Mural at Cypress Inn
Admire Carmels’ Historic Buildings
If you’ve been wondering what to do in Carmel California for history lovers, you are in luck! There are countless historic buildings in Carmel. The oldest one can be found on San Antonio Street between 5th and 6th streets. This home was built by the Murphy family and was occupied by some of the earliest Carmel city dwellers.
You can also stop by Cottage of Sweets. Not only is visiting this candy store one of the most popular things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, but it is also a chance to see one of the oldest buildings in town. It was built in 1922 and originally acted as a weaving shop before becoming a theater box office before it was a candy store.
Another historical building to check out is the Carmel Art Association Gallery. It was founded in the 1920s and is the second oldest nonprofit art organization in the United States.
17 Mile Drive
Seventeen Mile Drive is among the most popular road trips in California. There is an $11.25 admission fee for driving this scenic stretch of road along the dramatic coastline of the Monterey Peninsula. There are loads of stops along this drive where you can get out and enjoy the natural beauty of central coats California.
This is by far one of the best places to visit in Carmel-By-The-Sea!
One of the must-see places along the 17-Mile Drive is Spanish Bay. Spanish explorers stopped here to camp in 1769 when they were trying to find the Monterey Bay based on a description of the bay from 1602. This is one of the beach beaches in Monterey County! There’s a lovely wooden boardwalk along the beach and benches where you can sit and enjoy the view of the waves coming in.
Something else worth a stop along 17 Mile Drive for is the Pebble Beach 17 Mile Drive Gingerbread House. This cutesy and unique house is a must-see for travelers who like to see the strange and unusual on their adventures.
Other overlooks and information stops can be found along 17 Mile Drive, including Fanshell Beach Overlook where you get views of a beautiful beach and see the pupping habitat for harbor seals. If you want to see wildlife while you are in the area, this is one of the best things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA.
Cafe Dal Mare
Grabbing coffee is one of the most underrated things to do in Carmel. Delicious pastries and coffee are a great way to add to your time spent in town. And at Cafe Dal Mare, you can sink your teeth into sugary pastries and sip on a gourmet coffee before you start your day exploring Carmel.
Coffee in Carmel comes in a lot of different flavors and sizes. You can find all the classics like cappuccino, latte, americano, and cafe au lait on the menu at Cafe dal Mare. There’s also lemonade, hot chocolate, and other beverages as well.
Sweets like cookies and cannoli are served alongside savory options like sandwiches and tapas. If you want tasty treats and coffee or a quick place to grab a light lunch, visiting Cafe Dal Mare is among the best things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.
Frank Lloyd Wright Walker House
This famous house is one of the things to see in Carmel that you shouldn’t miss. Architecturally, the home is stunning and if you add its location into the equation, this house is easily one of the most visually appealing in town.
If seeing impressive architecture is something you like to do on your travel, you will love this California home! The home was completed in 1952 and was sold in 2023 for $22 million. Like most things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, this house on Scenic Road is totally photo-worthy!
All About Chocolate
Sinking your teeth into some melt-in-your-mouth chocolate at All About Chocolate is a must on your list of Carmel-By-The-Sea activities. You can find this chocolate shop on Dolores Street. (Along with many other top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea!)
All About Chocolate has everything you could want from childhood favorites like sour candies and Kinder eggs to homemade chocolate truffles and specialty chocolates. If you want a delectable souvenir to take home to your loved ones from your time spent in Carmel, this is the place to get it!
They also have Marianne’s Ice Cream! Marianne’s is a company that started in 1947 in California. Trying these rich and creamy flavors is tasting a slice of California’s past.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
As one of the best things to do near Carmel, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is an incredible site that you won’t want to miss while you are on the Monterey Peninsula. You can find the aquarium on the rocky coastline of the peninsula where more than two million visitors come to see the marine life.
It is hands-down one of the most popular things to do in Monterey and it exists for the purpose of conservation. The marine life and the creatures well being is the most important here. So much so that the water the animals live in is pulled directly from the bay into the tanks so they have a life as similar to the wild as possible.
As a non-profit, they do perform countless tasks for the betterment of marine life and the ocean’s health every day. They have actually worked to restore sea otter populations, pass bills that support ocean health, transform fisheries all around the world, and more.
There are stunning exhibits at the aquarium including an aviary and an area designed to look like you are underneath the famous Old Fishermans Wharf in Monterey.
When searching for the best things to do in the area, you are sure to hear many people suggesting this aquarium. It’s even a favorite of Betty White who was a fan and donor to the aquarium. She actually requested donations to the aquarium instead of flowers at her funeral.
The aquarium is consistently ranked among the top aquariums in the United States, making the fifteen-minute drive to see it for yourself one of the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.
Are you looking for bakeries in Carmel? A visit to Carmel Bakery is among the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea. Your eyes will light up when you see the overflowing plates of donut holes, cannolis, pretzels, and muffins here at Carmel Bakery.
You will know you’ve arrived when you see the large windows showcasing pastries and a sign shaped like a pretzel outside. It’s hard to choose just a treat or two while you are here! Whatever you decide on, you are sure to love these tasty treats served by this historic bakery that has been around since 1906.
Walking around on Ocean Avenue is one of the best things to do in Carmel By The Sea. And the Sockshop Carmel is a popular shop on this stretch of road in Carmel for visitors.
To get to the Sockshop you can follow an alleyway from the avenue into a covered shopping lane. Here there are a number of shops, including the Sockshop. You can find everything from baby socks to funny patterned socks that make great gifts.
You can find socks that look like pop cans, socks with famous TV show characters, and socks with otters on them to commemorate your time spent in central coast California.
Carmel-By-The-Sea Things To Do Continued
Secret Garden at Pilgrims Way Books
Among the unusual things to do in Carmel is a secret garden behind a bookstore on Dolores Street. Pilgrim’s Way is one of the most popular shops to go into in Carmel.
The popularity of this shop comes from the secret garden behind it. A door in the back of the shop will take you to narrow walkways where you can explore bamboo gardens and succulent-lined walls, browse crystals and plants that are for sale, and see where the garden pathways take you.
This is a popular spot amongst those looking to get an Insta-worthy travel photo and for those who love to explore unique locations on their travels. While in the bookstore, there’s something for everyone. There is even a young adult and a children’s section.
Don’t miss out on this bookstore and garden as it is one of the most unique things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.
The Tuck Box is one of the most highly-visited Carmel restaurants. There are loads of places to eat in Carmel, in fact, there are more places to eat per capita than any other small city in America.
This restaurant looks like something out of a fairytale with its architecture, small dining room, and a quaint outdoor space for eating. They serve American and European dishes. Their freshly squeezed juices and country potatoes here are delicious!
If you are hesitant to add a trip to the Tuck Box to your list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, keep in mind that Tuck House and Mission Ranch are the two most highly talked about restaurants in Carmel by travelers.
Monastery Beach is consistently considered one of the best Carmel attractions, it is one of the best beaches in Monterey County actually! Also sometimes called San Jose Creek Beach, it is a third of a mile long and is mega popular with scuba divers.
Parking is kind of limited here but you can find extra parking along Highway 1 as well. There’s a restroom on the south end of the beach and there’s also a lifeguard tower that is staffed during the summer months. While this is a really pretty beach that is well worth the visit, it isn’t the best for swimming due to a steep slope and rough waves.
The beach is actually a small section of the Carmel State Beach, north of Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. It gets its name from the monastery across from it on Highway 1. If you decide to visit during your trip to Monterey, this is a lovely option for those wanting to stay out late as it is open until 10 pm every day.
One of the things that make this one of the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea is the nearby Carmel Meadows Trail. Surrounded by wildflowers and the sounds of waves crashing make for a fantastic place to stay active while you are exploring the area.
Carmel activities are diverse and you can truly find something for everyone while you are in town. It will come as no surprise that there are fantastic places for wine tasting in Carmel. In a city the same size as London, about one square mile, there are loads of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea for wine lovers.
If you want to go tasting room-hopping you can download the Carmel-By-The-Sea Wine Walk guide. The walk will take you to different venues for wine tastings, this includes Dawn’s Dream Winery, De Tierra Vineyards, KORi Wines, and the Hahn Family Wines Tasting Room.
Enjoy the Carmel Art Galleries
Art plays an important role in life in this gorgeous California beach town. The art galleries here are among the top places to visit in Carmel. You will find art that mimics the streets and beach waves you see outside the galleries along with a variety of other subjects.
The James J. Rieser Fine Art on Dolores Street between 5th and 6th Streets features Early California and American paintings alongside Contemporary American Artists while the Robert Knight Gallery showcases photographs by Robert Knight.
Arguably one of the best things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea is to visit the Thomas Kinkade Studio in The Garden on Ocean Avenue between Lincoln and Dolores. California is the first place Thomas Kinkade ever opened a public gallery back in 1992.
Another display of architectural excellence in town is the Butterfly House. Seeing this beautiful home for yourself is among the top things to do in Carmel CA.
It sits next to a castle owned by Brad Pitt and was recently put up for sale for 40 million dollars fully furnished. The home has only been put up on the market four times since it was built in 1951. It looks stunning on the coastline overlooking the blue water, and it’s a lovely backdrop for pictures of the beach and coast.
Search For Fairytale Cottages
Fairytale cottages can be found around this idyllic California beach town. Since there are no addresses it can be a little tricky to find the cottages, but if you are willing to walk around town to find them, it is one of the best
things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.
Most of the fairytale-looking homes can be found between Ocean Avenue and 5th Avenue. This area contains a lot of the top attractions in town anyway so you will likely find yourself in this area during our visit anyhow.
On Santa Rita Street Between Ocean Avenue and Sixth Avenue, there are several homes including the Doll’s House. And on the block between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue on Sante Fe and Torres, you will find many more, including the popular Hansel and Gretal Cottages.
Olivier By The Sea
Olivier By The Sea is one of the coolest places to visit in Carmel. Here, you can taste test olive oils, sauces, vinaigrettes, and other tasty food items. The unique flavors and offerings here make for great souvenirs.
Shopping and tasting local flavors are two of the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea and at Olivier By The Sea, you can do both! There are wooden serving dishes, spoons, and other kitchen items for sale here as well.
Carmel River Bird Sanctuary
Visiting Carmel River Bird Sanctuary is what to do in Carmel for bird watchers! The bird sanctuary is in a state park at the mouth of Carmel Valley. The natural features of this area draw tons of birds in throughout the year.
You will find lush grass and vegetation along the lagoon here at the Carmel River Bird Sanctuary along with a long list of shorebirds, waterfowl, and migratory gulls. While here, you also have a chance to see the resident great egrets, pelicans, night herons, and Great Blue Herons.
For bird watchers, nature lovers, and those looking to cross wildlife viewing off their travel itinerary, a visit here is one of the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.
Day Trip to Big Sur on Highway 1
It’s no secret that the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the best road trips in California and all of the United States. If you get the opportunity to drive along this picturesque highway while you are in California, don’t let the opportunity pass!
A Pacific Coast Highway road trip is among the top things to do in central coast California and definitely one of the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.
The highway was created with the goal of connecting Canada to Mexico. It was a small-scale endeavor at local levels, then when all combined, it became one of the most gorgeous drives in the country.
There are many stops to add to your Pacific Coast Highway itinerary to make your trip a success. However, one of the most iconic is the Bixby Creek Bridge.
This recognizable bridge has stood on the central coast since August of 1931 and has become a symbol of California. You can see photos of this famous bridge in hotels, museums, and other public spaces all across the country.
If you plan on joining the tens of millions of people who drive the PCH each year, you are sure to have a blast as there are excellent camping, hiking trails, viewpoint, wildlife viewing, and photography opportunities along the way.
Whether you take a short trip down the highway for a couple of hours or make a weekend out of it, the Pacific Coast Highway never disappoints. Rain or shine, this highway knows how to deliver on wow factor.
A few other hotspots to consider visiting while you are driving the Pacific Coast Highway include:
- Big Sur Bakery
- Sea Otter Refuge View Point
- Pfeiffer Falls
- Calla Lily Valley
- Andrew Milera State Park
- Lime Kiln State Park
La Bicyclette Restaurant
La Bicyclette Restaurant is one of the best restaurants on the Monterey Peninsula. You will find this European restaurant on Dolores Street and 7th Avenue. This cozy bistro offers a menu of laidback French and Italian cuisine that changes weekly.
The food alone is enough to get La Bicyclette Restaurant on the list of top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea. But, the location, atmosphere, and overall dining experience really seal the deal for this Carmel eatery.
For breakfast, you can find dishes like the mind-blowing wild mushroom scramble, French toasts, and Huevos Rancheros alongside The Village Combo which comes with poached eggs, tomato, arugula, avocado, aged Vermont cheddar, and a toasted baguette.
On the menu here for lunch and dinner, you will find dishes like Steak au Poivre, Parisian Gnocchi, and wood-oven-fired pizzas along with soup and salads. Of course, wine and a cheese-tasting platter are also available at this dreamy Carmel bistro.
For dessert, you can try their delectable chocolate mouse, a brown butter honey Greek cake, an affogato, or perhaps their beignets filled with vanilla ice cream topped with dark chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
Garrapata State Park
This Monterey County state park is one of the free-entry state parks in California that should be on your California bucket list. The park was founded in 1979 and offers photo=worthy views of the dramatic and turbulent central California coast.
One of the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea can be found in Garrapata State Park; the Soberanes Canyon Trail. This trail is roughly three miles out and back and gains nearly 500 feet in elevation.
Ranked as moderate in difficulty, the trail is narrow and takes you alongside a creek, small Redwoods, rows of cacti and wildflowers, over wooden footbridges, and through wooded areas.
The trail usually takes around an hour and a half to complete. While the trail isn’t terribly long, the direct sun can be debilitation. A hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water are crucial when hiking this trail, especially during the hottest months of the year.
Parking in the state park can be tricky during high season so you will need to arrive early in the morning if you want to get a parking spot near the attractions you are wanting to see. Most parking is along the Cabrillo Highway in sandy pull-offs.
Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Co
Another exciting place to get coffee in Carmel is at Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Co. This coffeehouse offers delicious beverages made from locally roasted organic coffee beans.
Drinks like Masala Chai, Coconut Columbo Tea, latte, Americano, cold brew, and white mocha are all on the menu alongside other coffee shop classics.
Light sandwiches, quiches, and pastries like scones, muffins, and croissants are all also available. The variety here is part of what makes a visit one of the best things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.
The Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation is located on Ocean View Avenue. Visiting this unique house for a tour is among the best things to do in Carmel.
The home belonged to Robinson Jeffers and his wife Una. They built Tor House and Hawk Tower as their home and refuge for their family. The tower on the property was built entirely by Mr. Jeffers as a gift for his sons and his wife. Once he had completed the tower he moves on to a dining room addition to the original cottage.
It was here that he wrote poems and placed himself among the greatest California poets. He also hosted many famous guests here including Sinclair Lewis and Charlie Chaplin.
You can take full indoor tours on Saturdays and there are also periodic special Friday musical tours as well. The beauty and history here at Tor House are what make it one of the most popular things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.
If you have been looking for dog-friendly things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, a visit to Brad’s Barkery on San Carlos and 7th Hampton Court may be in order.
You can find this dog bakery across from the Schied Tasting Room and just down from the thrilling Carmel toyshop, Thinker Toys. You and your dogs both will love venturing inside to see all of the toys, baked goods, and specialty items for sale here.
Doggy birthday cakes, unique chew toys, dog-friendly donuts, and cute bandanas are just a few reasons to stop by Brad’s Barkery. The merchandise here makes for wonderful gifts for your furry travel companion or your fur-babies back home.
Garland Ranch Regional Park
You can find Garland Ranch Regional Park on West Carmel Valley Road. Hiking through Garland Ranch is among the top things to do in Carmel Valley. You’ll have plenty of hiking trail options while you are in the park so grab your hiking boots and get ready to see the beauty of the Carmel Valley.
The Garland Ranch Waterfall and Siesta Point can be reached via the Lupine Loop Trail. This trail is ranked as moderate in difficulty and is around two miles long.
You’ll follow sandy paths, cross wooden bridges, see wildflowers, and be blown away by the beauty of the area. If you only have time to hike one trail while you are in the park, this is a smart option!
Other options while you are in the park include the difficult Pinyon Peak trail which is nearly nine miles long and actually a combination of several shorter trails, the difficult Snivley’s Ridge Trail, and the short and easy Ranch and Cooper Trails Loop.
The beauty and diversity in trail length and difficulties make this one of the best things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea for nature lovers and hikers.
Alvarado Street Brewery & Bistro
If you have been looking for things to do in Carmel at night, consider adding the Alvarado Street Brewery & Bistro to your itinerary. This brewpub has a canteen-style dining room, a courtyard, and a lovely international menu for you to order from.
On the menu, you will find oysters, wings, hummus, fried calamari, soups and salads, pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, and other dishes like pan-roasted salmon, and the classic fish and chips.
What really makes a visit to Alvarado Street Brewery one of the best things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea is the variety on both their bistro and their beer menus.
The beer menu is packed with lights, Belgians, sours, hop forward, malt forward, ciders, gluten-free options, cocktails, sparkling wines, and more. You can’t go wrong with a visit to this Carmel brewery!
Explore Carmels’ Alleyways
One of the most underrated things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea is simply exploring the streets and alleyways. Taking off on foot and seeing the beautiful architecture, storefronts, and secret pathways is an exciting thing to do in this old-school California beach town.
Some of the best courtyards and alleyways to check out are:
- The Lobos Lodge & Patio
- Pine Inn Alleyway & Courtyard
- Lincoln Lane Courtyard & Alleyway
- Eastwood Building Courtyard & Alleyway
- May Court
- Jordon Center
- Mission Lane
- European Courtyard of Golden Bough
- Morgan Court
- Der Ling Lane Alleyway
- Tuck Box Courtyard
- Doud Avenue
- El Paseo Courtyard & Alleyway
And so many others! There’s no end to the alleyways and hidden spots in Carmel. Exploring around town and seeing what you can get into is a must during your time spent in town.
Pick up a Carmel Pinecone
You can find free copies of the Carmel Pinecone Newspaper on the street in Carmel. These newspapers are great free souvenirs and they give you tons of information about the city along with local news.
If you don’t want to blow your travel budget on souvenirs while you are in Carmel, picking up a free copy of the Carmel Pinecone is a must on your list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea!
Carmel River State Beach
This Carmel-By-The-Sea beach is one of the best beaches in California! This striking blue water and remarkable views around the bay are quite the sight to behold.
With soft sandy areas and turbulent rocky areas, this beach has beauty and accessibility for visitors. On warm sunny days it can be a little tricky to find parking so arrive early if you want to ensure you get a parking spot.
You can find parking at the Mara Beach Parking Lot where there are bathrooms and trash cans and along Scenic Road as well. Don’t miss this stunning beach while you are in town as it is one of the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.
Where To Stay In Carmel-By-The-Sea
If there is one thing this town is good at, it’s providing diversity and variety in nearly every aspect of visiting Carmel. You will find hotels, campgrounds, and vacation rentals in Carmel in every price range.
Whether you are on a tight budget or looking for a luxury stay, Carmel has you covered.
Let’s go over the best places to stay in Carmel CA!
Campgrounds in Carmel-By-The-Sea
Amongst the popular campgrounds in Carmel is Saddle Mountain Ranch. This campground is just a few miles off of Highway 1 and offers guests a break from city life in the fresh central coast air. Cabins, RV and trailer slots, and tent sites are all available here.
If you are RV camping, another option for you is at Carmel By The River RV Park. All of the sites here come with full utilities, a picnic table, and a charcoal grill. The sites are ranked from standard to Primo with their best sites including loads of space, a fire pit, a game area, a gazebo, and more!
Hotels in Carmel-By-The-Sea
Many people say that the best area to stay in Carmel-By-the-Sea is the Golden Rectangle. This neighborhood in Carmel is home to the most famous of the historic buildings in downtown Carmel. If being close to this part of town is important to you, consider staying in this neighborhood.
One of the most popular hotels in the Golden Rectangle is L’Auberge Carmel. This is one of the Carmel-By-The-Sea luxury hotels and definitely one of the most exciting places to stay in town.
L’Auberge is a pricy four-star hotel that is home to a Forbes Five Star restaurant, luxurious guest rooms, and original antiques from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
Another swanky option is La Playa Carmel. This hotel offers charm and romance amongst the stunning coastline and sounds of the Pacific Ocean. The views from the rooms here and the dining options are spectacular.
If you are more interested in the budget hotels in Carmel-By-The-Sea, you can check out the Carmel Mission Inn. This hotel gives you the best of both worlds. While it isn’t the cheapest option, it gives you decent rooms, a pool, and dining space without the cost of the luxury hotels in town.
A couple of budget-friendly hotels in Carmel to consider are the Vendange Carmel Inn & Suites and the Carmel Wayfarer Inn. Both of these options give guests the opportunity to stay in this snazzy California town for around a hundred bucks a night.
Vacation Rentals in Carmel-By-The-Sea
A lot of people ask if it is better to stay in Monterey or Carmel-By-The-Sea. It really depends on where you are going to be spending the most time and whether you want to stay in a short-term vacation rental.
There are ordinances in Monterey that prevent short-term rentals so if you are a die-hard Air BnB type of traveler, it will have to be a Carmel-By-The-Sea stay for you anyway.
There are loads of unique places to stay in Carmel-By-The-Sea, so you are sure to find a stay that will pique your interest!
The Bonne Amie house in Carmel is a lovely little cottage surrounded by flowers and green plants in the northwest part of the city.
If you want something closer, this lovely garden home is just a four-minute walk from the beach. This home has three bedrooms and two baths, a fantastic garden space, and the added bonus of being close to the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.
Whether you were wondering where to stay in Carmel-By-The-Sea, what to do in Carmel, or maybe you were just wondering if it was worth it to take the drive from Monterey to Carmel-hopefully this guide has helped you see how wonderful Carmel really is!
From the interesting history and natural beauty to the diverse cuisine and abundance of artwork in this idyllic town, Carmel has so much to offer those who make the journey to see the town for themselves.
Now that you have learned about all of the best things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, which of these awesome sights and attractions will you visit first? We would love to hear from you!
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