How We Spent a Relaxing Family Weekend at Carmel-by-the-Sea
Carmel-by-the-Sea on the Monterey Peninsula is one of the most charming seaside villages I've ever come across. This is where surf meets turf, where pristine Northern Californian coastline meets cypress-lined hills. This gem-like beach town has a downtown area full of boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants housed in Mission Revival buildings and fairy-tale cottages. The result is Rodeo Drive meets Riviera in Northern California!
Here's how we spent the weekend. This is by no means an exhaustive guide, but hey, we were there to enjoy a slow-paced, relaxing weekend with family.
AM: Stroll Down Ocean Avenue
As soon as we arrived in Carmel, we headed to Ocean Avenue, the main street in downtown. Ocean Avenue is a tree-lined boulevard with handsome store fronts, dashing boutiques, sparkling art galleries, and lively restaurants. The multitude of flowers along the avenue urge you to drop any stress or problems from back home, you are now on vacation. The air is sweet with Mediterranean plants and essential oils from the spas and home decor stores around, and a light breeze from the Pacific coast makes everything airy and crisp.
As we meandered off the main avenue, there were surprises around every corner. This charming little village has lots of nooks and crannies with hidden gems. Turn a corner, you just might tumble into the cutest wine-tasting room or literally the hidden gem in a small jewelry shop.
If you're a fan of boutique hotels and old-fashioned inns, you're in the right place. Carmel has many lovely hotels, and some of them have celebrity connections! Cypress Inn on Lincoln and 7th Street is co-owned by Doris Day, who has been a long-time resident of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Mission Ranch, the revamped 1800s dairy ranch on the hill, is a destination hotel owned by former Carmel mayor, Clint Eastwood.
In fact, Mr. Eastwood will be attending Carmel-by-the-Sea's centennial celebration on October 29th, 2016, in case you're wondering when's a good time to visit, this sounds like a pretty good occasion, doesn't it? Furthermore, October is when the monarch butterflies fly in to Monterey Peninsula to take their refuge during winter, and that is quite an incredible sight to see!
Noon: Lunch and Snack at Carmel Bakery
One thing we've learned is that many popular restaurants in Carmel are usually booked up well in advance. We wanted to have lunch at La Bicyclette, but there was an one-hour wait when we stopped by.
Finally, with two hungry toddlers, we opted for an improvised picnic in the park. We picked up some sandwiches and sweets from Carmel Bakery, Carmel's oldest running retail business and oldest building still standing after more than 100 years. We then headed to Picadilly Park on Dolores Street, and enjoyed our lunch under the sun.
PM: Hit the Beach
The best thing about a leisure weekend in Carmel is that you don't need a car to go from downtown to the beach. Ocean Avenue extends downhill and reaches the coast at Carmel Beach in an easy 10-minute walk.
We took our time to bask in the sun on this stretch of pristine white sand. The ocean waves crashed onto shore with vigor. The air was filled with the that iodized marine smell with the fresh scent of Monterey cypress trees around the bay.
Since the water was quite cold for bathing, most people just stayed on the beach, except for some brave souls who swam out into the waves in their wet suits. But the best option for kids is something in between... they could spend hours jumping waves!
Just when I thought that everything was perfect, something even better jumped into the frame. As Carmel Beach is part of the Carmel Bay State Marine Reserve, wild life enjoys this beautiful place along with us humans. As we watched the rolling waves, we spotted several dolphins surfing in and out of the waves! (In case you're wondering, a dolphins' dorsal fin has a curved trailing edge, whereas a shark's dorsal fin has a plunging straight line.)
If you seek a quieter beach experience, head over to Carmel River State Beach just a short drive south on Scenic Road. Here in this little cove, the invigorating waves are replaced by tranquil turquoise waters. There is also a little "lake" inside the beach for kayaking.
AM: Brunch and Pool Time
On the second morning, we headed downtown for brunch. We walked into a delightful Mediterranean-styled garden terrace with warm orange terra cotta walls, rattan bistro chairs, and a patio full of poodles.
I had never seen that many poodles in the same setting. It turned out that it was Poodle Day Carmel the day before. I chatted with the dog lovers around us while washing down the hearty Dungeness crab omelette with my morning tea, and acknowledged the fact that these puffy-haired canine friends behaved better at the table than our two toddlers.
After brunch, we returned to the hotel and simply relaxed by the pool. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Monterey on this trip, I'll write another post about our experience there.
PM: Visit Carmel Mission
Under the bright blue Carmel skies where everything seems to be glistening new, a 245-year-old Spanish mission church stands on a hill. San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission, or simply called Mission Carmel, is one of the first missions established in California by the Spanish missionaries. Today, the adobe brick structure and its courtyard is the site of a church, a museum, and a school.
Mission Carmel used to be the administrative center for Alta California (Northern California). Overlooking the Monterey Bay, it watched the turning of tides for over two centuries, and today, it still stands in its meek and unfading beauty.
We left Carmel-by-the-Sea with lighter steps and rosier cheeks. It was just the destination and weekend that we needed.
Have you been to Carmel? What were your favorite places?
Where to Stay
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My Favorite Places to Visit with Kids in Monterey Peninsula
Family Fun at Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa
My Carmel-by-the-Sea map with all the places mentioned in this post:
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