It’s finally spring—and what a warm spring it is!—and I’m getting excited for things to come this season. Sandals! Cookouts! Swimming! But to fully enjoy all this warm weather, there’s really only one thing I need: antihistamines vacation!
A while ago, I wrote about the California itinerary of my dreams, and I’m pretty much still obsessed with that, or at least with one town in particular: Carmel. Ah, Carmel... the name alone makes me feel relaxed. It makes me want to wear a floppy hat and a sundress and walk down the street with an iced coffee in one hand and the dog that I don’t have in the other while window shopping (because heck no can I afford to shop inside most of those boutiques).
Carmel's coast. I can almost hear the waves crashing against the rocks!
Carmel, California, is a small town at the southern end of the Monterey Peninsula. It offers a little bit of everything: beaches, hiking, history, shopping, live music and superb dining in a cozy and friendly atmosphere. Basically, it’s the perfect vacation spot.
To make the most of Carmel’s beachfront location, head to Carmel Beach City Park for ample opportunities to surf, people-watch, stroll barefoot or set up a bonfire. If you want to surf but don’t know how, check out Southbay Surfriders or Learn to Surf for some lessons.
Another way to experience Carmel’s beautiful coast is from your car. The famous 17-Mile Drive from Pacific Grove to Carmel drives through Pebble Beach and Del Monte Forest. Make sure to stop to admire the magnificent coastline and to take photos of the seals and the Lone Cypress Tree.
Back in Carmel, spend some time shopping in Carmel Plaza or Carmel-by-the-Sea. When you’re worn out from shopping, stop at Bistro Beaujolais or Dametra Cafe for live music and a glass of wine. You can stay for dinner, or head to the Flying Fish Grill or Little Napoli if you’re in the mood for seafood or authentic Italian.
Carmel is also georgraphically situated for some great day trips. Just south of Carmel is Big Sur, which offers incredible ocean views and the chance for whale-watching in the winter months. Two hours from Carmel is San Simeon, which is where you’ll find the famous Hearst Castle. You can also spend a day in Point Lobos Natural Reserve, which will be especially appealing to those looking for kayaking or scuba diving, as the tides are safer there than in the waters around Carmel.
To maintain the relaxing atmosphere, Carmel enforces strict bans on fast food restaurants, neon signs, traffic lights and high heels. It’s also an incredibly dog-friendly town. Many areas allow dogs to roam off-leash, and lots of restaurants also provide dog menus. (In addition to the town’s approximately 4,000 residents, the Carmel Chamber of Commerce also reports 847 dogs living in Carmel.)
As far as scenic vacation destinations go, Carmel is one of the best. Plus, let's talk about the weather: it's nearly perfect year-round. Carmel's spring temperatures average high 60s-low 70s (and summers don't get much higher than that), while in North Carolina we've already had a few 80-degree days. I'd like to trade, please.
Bonus: Clint Eastwood used to be the mayor.
Check out our recently updated report for even more of our favorite things to do in Carmel.