California Dreaming in Carmel-by-the-Sea

California’s Carmel-by-the-Sea is a charming European-style town filled with extensive dining options for a weekend getaway spent soaking up picture-perfect beaches. Nestled off the Pacific Coast Highway, this destination offers easy accessibility regardless of the starting point with driving and flight-plans for travelers.

By air, Monterey Bay Airport which is a quick 15 minutes away. Flight fares decrease substantially if you opt to fly into San Francisco or San Jose International Airport, which is an hour and a half drive away, but after you have arrived at the picturesque destination you can rely solely on your feet, since the attributes of this attractive one-square mile business district downtown allow for easy navigation.

Whether it is a day on the sandy seashore of local beaches that you crave or a day devoted to gallivanting through art galleries, shops, and wine venues, Carmel can accommodate your desire for a memorable experience.

If you are staying in town, saunter to the base of Ocean Avenue and partake in the events on the snowy white sands of Carmel Beach and the California vibe that is intensified by volleyball matches and surfers that sprinkle the shore. Trade out your flip flops for a pair of walking shoes and trek through the Scenic Bluff Path, which is accessible via one of eight stairways originating from the beach. The path will lead you from Carmel Beach to Carmel River Beach with breathtaking views of Pebble Beach in the distance. Adding to the rarity of the area’s charm, this location not only allows but encourages beach-goers to unleash their dogs, create a bonfire pit at sunset, or share a bottle of wine with a sweetheart.

After your sun-kissed skin has had enough of the beach, head back into town and browse the local boutiques and art galleries while sipping native wine from the tasting rooms that line the delightfully unique downtown. In addition, the famous 17-Mile Drive is one worthy of your time as a scenic excursion that takes you through a forest road lined with views of the enchanting coastline, golf courses, luxury hotels, and the legendary Lone Cypress Tree before leading you to the grand finale, Pebble Beach. This is a toll road so expect to pay a small fee per car, but if you elect to be adventurous, hop on a two-wheeler because bicycles can travel on the road for free.

If you are looking to peruse the local artisanal dining, pencil in a visit to the weekly farmers market where you will find over 60 tents packed with local wineries, restaurants, and farmers. The market takes place every Thursday year-round from 10am to 2pm at the Sunset Center.

The intimate restaurant scene in Carmel provides eaters with both local and worldwide flavor. La Bicyclette is a European-style café that is a worthy destination if you enjoy creative cuisine and a cozy social scene along with fresh ingredients, locally grown produce, and a seasonal menu.

The Tuck Box opened in 1929 and has since become a Carmel tradition. With its humble and endearing cottage appearance that seems to be a transplant from the “Hansel and Gretel” fable, it is also known for its breakfast and lunch delicacies of fresh-squeezed orange juice, a distinctive afternoon tea menu, and homemade marmalade. The restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea from 7:30am to 2:30pm.

The streets of Carmel also have an abundance of tasting rooms for your wine cravings. Vino Napoli is a wine shop, tasting room, and wine bar that delivers a community atmosphere that allows guests to feast together at shared dining tables. To add to the familial energy, wines are specially selected by their closest cronies and used as featured vinos.

If you are looking to taste local wine in the very place where the grapes were harvested, take a short trip to Bernardus Winery where you will find Bordeaux-style wines that are produced in an effort to mimic the reds of the Bordeaux region of France. You can opt for the $12 Tasting Fee or Mr. Pon’s Reserve for $20, and for purchases over $75 your wine tasting fee is waived entirely, proving that California dreaming doesn’t have to happen in your sleep.

Carmel offers a variety of accommodations ranging from luxury resort-style living to charming and affordable Bed and Breakfast options. Located just 10 minutes from Carmel-by-the-Sea, Bernardus Lodge and Spa offers European ambiance while maintaining the California blend of wine and country. If the award-winning spa doesn’t lure you in, the dining and wine just might. Upon your arrival, you are greeted with a glass of their indigenous award-winning vino and ushered to your room, to relax as you sip Bernardus wine on your personal balcony while enjoying the surrounding beauty. Depending on peak season, the size of your room and whether you opt for a package deal, rates fluctuate between $500 and $1,200 per night.

In the core of Carmel-by-the-Sea is the iconic Cypress Inn, which is renowned for its traditional hospitality, impeccable service, and dog-friendly environment. Established in 1929 and co-owned by actress Doris Day, this old fashioned boutique hotel has been grouped into a select category of Carmel’s finest. Recognized for amenities with their indulgent attention-to-detail and treats such as plush bath robes, a complimentary breakfast, pet blankets and bowls, filtered water, and dazzling orchids, you will be amazed by how well you are being catered to. Prices vary between $245 and $495 per night.

Carmel Inn and Suites provides guests with an exquisite stay whether you choose to check in for a lovers’ weekend or a family affair. With a supreme location two blocks from Ocean Avenue, the Inn offers guests a taste of European antique-style furnishing by providing custom bedding and décor in every room, and you even get to keep the elegance and your bundle intact since the average room goes for $130 per night.