Carmel-by-the-Sea is So Charming
Four miles south of Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea is one of Central Coast California’s favorite destinations. Accurately described by town planners, this is “a village in a forest overlooking a white sand beach.” That perfect cove beach on the western edge of town has fine, powdery sand and lovely views all the way to Monterey. Walk the Scenic Bluff Path under the cypress trees for lovely views of Pebble Beach and Point Lobos. As daylight draws to a close, take a blanket and a bottle of wine to the sand, as having a cozy time beside a small bonfire is a signature Carmel Beach event.
The town’s main thoroughfare, Ocean Avenue, cuts through the center of the pretty village. One square mile of tree-lined streets are chock-a-block with art galleries, sidewalk cafés, restaurants, boutiques and fairytale-like cottages straight out of the pages of a storybook.
It’s a Dog’s World
A steady stream of visitors mix with residents and their beloved dogs for daily strolls and a bit of splashing around as dogs of every shape and size romp on the mile-long Carmel Beach. Dogs may not be too interested in browsing art galleries, but there’s usually a water bowl and a biscuit on hand, as the Mediterranean charm and hospitality of Carmel’s establishments extends to felines as well as their owners. Calling themselves America’s #1 dog-friendly destination, many of Carmel’s hotels extend a warm welcome to four-legged visitors, a tradition credited to resident actress and singer Doris Day.
Despite having fewer than 4,000 residents, Carmel-by-the-Sea clearly has a fan club stretching far and wide. Readers of popular publications have named it as the #2 best small city in America and #7 best restaurants for U.S. cities by Condé Nast Traveler, the #3 best city for romance in the world by Travel + Leisure and one of America’s best beach towns by National Geographic Traveler.
Claim to Fame
A portion of Carmel’s fame comes from the two year period in the 1980s when actor Clint Eastwood rode a wave of electoral support to city hall as the town’s mayor -- at a salary of $200 per month. Unlike California governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan, Eastwood claimed no higher political ambitions; indeed, there were projects such as beach walkways and a library annex that he wanted to get done. Stop in at Hog’s Breath Inn, a pub where Eastwood is the former owner. Or, visit the 22-acre Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant, where the actor has been owner since 1986.
Visitors may notice that Carmel-by-the-Sea has some quirks and one or two highly unusual laws on the books. No chain restaurants are allowed. Neither traffic lights nor parking meters exist. No buildings or houses have street address (the residents pick up their mail instead of having it delivered), but a house can certainly have a name. And oddly enough, high heels above two inches with a base of less than one square inch are banned unless the wearer obtains a permit, free of charge at city hall. The 90-year-old ordinance was intended to prevent liability of the part of the town should a pedestrian trip over a tree trunk. Trees have the trump card, as new buildings must be built around existing trees.
And, as for Clint Eastwood as mayor, he overturned a law that prohibited the selling or eating of ice cream in public...so, will it be chocolate or vanilla?
Monterey and Carmel maintain a busy festival calendar year-round, including music events Carmel Bach for three weeks in July and Monterey Jazz in September. Among the other big draws are Pebble Beach Food & Wine in April, Carmel Art in May, Monterey Car Week and Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August, Carmel International Film Festival in October and the annual Carmel Birthday Party and Parade in October.
Did You Know?
- Incorporated in 1916, the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea has a 2016 centennial year.
- Many Carmel houses have personalized quarterboard signs displaying their names, instead of addresses. It’s considered bad luck to change one of these houses’ names.
- For a century, Carmel has been a magnet for local artists, who currently have more than 80 downtown galleries displaying their work.
- Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance brings together the world’s top 200 car collector to roll onto the legendary 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links and compete for best in show.