Best Places to Visit in Carmel
Visiting Carmel by the Sea feels like stepping into a fairytale wonderland. Far from the real world, this quaint seaside village resembles a fantastical European hamlet, with tree-lined streets lined with handsome Spanish-style buildings, elegant Victorian homes and storybook cottages. Attractions aside, secret passageways and quiet courtyards await those who take the time to explore at their leisure. Plan a great sightseeing trip, weekend getaway or beach getaway.
Carmel’s lack of numbered street addresses (GPS cannot pinpoint specific locations) encourages roaming. Tourists stumble upon craft shops, one-of-a-kind local shops, world-class art galleries, and tempting restaurants as they wander around the city.
The peaceful seaside town of Carmel is a popular place to stay after visiting the boutiques, relaxing on beautiful Carmel Beach, or taking a scenic stroll. Visitors can choose from luxury bed and breakfasts, historic inns and luxury hotels. Cozy lodges tend to have a relaxed style that’s perfect for cold, foggy summer evenings.
For a few days, visitors to Carmel can explore the attractions near Monterey, 6.4 miles away, or head up Highway 1 to Big Sur for stunning ocean views. For travelers living in San Francisco, Carmel is one of the city’s most popular day trips.
Discover the best places to visit this delightful resort on California’s Central Coast with our list of the Best Places to Visit in Carmel and make your trip enjoyable.
10 Best Places to Visit in Carmel
Let’s explore the top 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in Carmel:
1. Carmel Beach and Ocean Avenue
This gorgeous stretch of soft white sand surrounds Carmel Bay bay and is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The beach offers a secluded feel, which is rare in a popular resort.
With its pristine coastline, rocky cliffs lining the shore, and rough Pacific surf, Carmel Beach is an inspiring natural attraction. Iconic cypress trees add interest to the landscape and its unique appearance is quite different from the beaches of nearby Santa Cruz.
Visitors should note that this is not a swimming beach, as dangerous streams and rogue waves are common and there are no lifeguards on duty. But despite that, or probably for that reason, it is a great place for nature walks, sunbathing, volleyball or frisbee. The stunning scenery more than makes up for the fact that swimming is often prohibited.
A 3.5-mile scenic cliff path running parallel to the beach gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy views of Carmel Bay and the coastline from Point Lobos to Pebble Beach. Multiple stairs lead to the beach and footpaths. The trail ends at Carmel River State Beach, but many take just a short hike to enjoy the ocean views or watch the sunset.
2. Carmel Mission
The San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission is one of the most interesting and beautiful Spanish missions in California. Carmel Mission was founded in 1770 by Father Junipero Serra of Spain and is still an active parish church.
The heart of the Carmel Mission is the Cathedral, completed in 1797 and designated a National Historic Landmark. Renovations are close to the original building. Unlike most unpretentious Spanish mission churches, Carmel Mission Church has a highly decorative interior.
Visitors admire the striking facade of the garden courtyard and the Moorish-style domed bell tower. Equally impressive are the tunnel-vaulted ceiling of the sanctuary and the 30-metre-high gilded re-reliefs behind the altar. Very beautiful Spanish colonial liturgical art is displayed throughout the cathedral.
The Carmel Mission Basilica Museum contains several different collections containing valuable artifacts and showcasing the monument’s history. In one of the historical buildings of the mission, visitors can see where Father Junipero Serra lived.
In keeping with the peaceful principles of the mission, the gardens of Munrás Courtyard are filled with lush flowers and shady palm trees. Red-throated Anna’s hummingbirds can sometimes be seen flying on the ground.
The Carmel Mission Basilica and Carmel Mission Basilica Museum are open to the public from Wednesday through Sunday. Masses are held in the cathedral on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Address: 3080 High Rio Rd, Carmel, California
Official website: https://carmelmission.org
3. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
The stunning coastal scenery and incredible diversity of wildlife make Point Lobos a great place to explore. Visitors marvel at the majestic ocean view as the waves of the Pacific Ocean crash against the rocky cliffs and ledges.
Scenic hiking trails pass through Monterey pine and cypress forests, as well as coastal bushes filled with ocean terraces, tide pools, and vibrant wildflowers. In the spring, large numbers of wild lilacs and California poppies cover the fields.
For many, the highlight is seeing marine mammals at Point Lobos. The Sea Lion Point trail takes hikers to a staircase that offers beautiful views of the bay, where barking sea lions perch on rocks offshore.
To see Point Lobos’ cutest animals, head to the Cypress Grove trail, where playful sea otters eat mussels or swim around algae at Headland Cove. Otters can also sometimes be spotted in the calm waters of the “pit” on the Granite Point trail.
Many artists and photographers are inspired by the beauty of Point Lobos, while scuba divers appreciate the place’s colorful underwater seascapes and diverse marine life.
Address: 62 CA-1, Carmel-by-Sea, California
4. 17 Miles Driving
From Arrowhead Point in Carmel-by-the-Sea to Spanish Bay at Pebble Beach, this scenic coastal road wraps the outer edge of a small cliff that separates Monterey Bay from Carmel Bay.
For many travelers, a short drive along 17-Mile Drive is one of their favorite things to do in Carmel. At each turn of the winding coastal road, visitors will marvel at the magnificent scenery and dazzling ocean views. Along the way are scenic observation decks, wildlife viewing spots, secluded beaches, and picnic areas overlooking the picturesque scenery.
17-Mile Drive is known for The Lone Cypress, the Monterey cypress standing majestically atop a granite hill. The tree is over 200 years old and is one of the most photographed trees in North America.
Pebble Beach Golf Links, the nation’s premier public golf course, is a short drive from The Lone Cypress Viewpoint. The prestigious course has hosted six US Opens and has been selected to host the 2023 US Women’s Open and the 2027 US Open. Right next to the trailhead, The Lodge at Pebble Beach offers luxury accommodations for its location.
In addition to Pebble Beach Golf Course, there are five more golf courses within the 17-mile driving range: Cypress Point Club, Telescope Hill Golf Course, Poppy Hill Golf Course, Monterey Peninsula Country Club, and Links at the Spanish Bay court.
For many visitors, the highlight of 17-Mile Drive is the beautiful Spanish Bay Beach, named after the Spanish explorer who discovered it in 1769. Visitors will appreciate the pristine sandy shoreline and picnic tables overlooking the deep blue waves. In this stunning setting, the Spanish Bay Hotel offers five-star accommodation nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Monterey Pine Forest.
Bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts appreciate the Bird Rock and Seal Rock stations. Bird Rock Viewpoint overlooks a large boulder in the ocean with flocks of birds. Bird Rock is also home to barking sea lions (which can be heard from afar) and less noisy seals. Seal Rock Station includes a sheltered beach, tide pools, and picnic areas.
17-Mile Drive is privately owned and operated. Visitors must pay $10.75 per vehicle to enter Carmel Gate at the South Entrance to Carmel-by-the-Sea or the Pacific Grove Gate at the North Entrance to Pebble Beach. Guests staying overnight at the Pebble Beach Inn and Spanish Bay Inn have free access to 17 Mile Drive.
Official website: www.pebblebeach.com/17-mile-drive
5. Fairy-Tale Cottages and Hidden Passageways
Carmel’s special charm is reflected in the fantastic buildings built in the town in the 1920s and 1930s. At the Carmel Visitor Center (located on Ocean Drive), visitors can pick up a map showing the location of the Fairy Tale Cabin. Taking a self-guided tour allows visitors to appreciate the hidden beauty of the city.
Carmel resident Hugh Comstock came up with the idea for the cottage in 1924 when he decided to set up a studio for his wife Mayotta’s hobby of making dolls. Hansel’s hut (Gretel’s hut next door) was Comstock’s first hut, and Mayotta used it to make the “Otsy-Totsy” rag doll.
Comstock then bought cheap land to build various odd huts. Its distinctive storybook style includes steep thatched roofs, glass windows and half-timbered details, possibly inspired by English cottages in Stratford-upon-Avon or colorfully flower-decorated houses in Alsatian villages.
Of Comstock’s original 30 fairy tale cottages, 21 have survived. The Tuck Box cottage is now an English tea room and is also popular for breakfast and lunch. Rose Tea Collection Cottage is a shop selling fine china and tea.
While visitors search for a fairytale cottage, they can stroll and photograph Carmel’s atmospheric secluded alleyways and tranquil garden courtyards. These nooks and crannies offer great finds from small boutiques, art galleries, cafes, and other businesses.
The Las Tiendas building was built in 1929 and features a decorative staircase with grilles. Inside the Las Tiendas passage is the Carmel Coffee House, a quaint little cafe with nice outdoor seating in the courtyard.
6. Tor House and Hawk Tower
Built from local granite by Californian poet Robinson Jeffers, Tor House sits directly facing the ocean. The Tor House was completed in 1919, and the following year Jeffers built the Eagle Tower, a medieval-looking building designed to be a creative space for his wife and a magical playground for his son.
Guided tours of Tor House and its gardens are available on Saturdays. Visitors learn about the history of the house’s construction, the Jeffers family, and the poet’s literary career. The tour includes visiting the rustic Tor House, climbing the tower and visiting the site’s truly manicured English cottage gardens. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed.
Address: 26304 Ocean View Ave., Carmel, California
Official website: www.torhouse.org
7. Monterey Aquarium and Cannery Row
Carmel is just about 10 minutes drive from Monterey on the CA-1 direct route, or an hour’s drive of the 17-mile scenic drive, a picturesque coastal road that passes Pebble Beach Golf Course and Pebble Beach Inn.
The most legendary attraction in Monterey is Cannery Row, set in John Steinbeck’s novel. This tourist area is full of shops and seafood restaurants.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a fantastic family attraction, home to adorable penguins, playful southern otters, seagulls, turtles, sharks, and a variety of fish. Visitors can also learn about Monterey Bay and its resident species. The aquarium’s observation deck offers panoramic views of the bay and ocean, perfect for whale watching and spotting other wildlife in coastal waters.
For those living in San Francisco, it’s a good idea to take an organized trip to Monterey and Carmel. The Monterey and Carmel Explorer Full-Day Tour takes passengers to the scenic Pacific Coast Highway and 17-Mile Drive. The route includes stops at Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Whale City Bakery, Pebble Beach, and Cannery Row.
Address: 886 Cannery Street, Monterey, California
Official website: www.montereybayaquarium.org
8. Garland Ranch Regional Park
This expansive park is surrounded by floodplain poplars and plane trees, St. It offers a variety of hiking trails up to the peaks of the Lucia Mountains. Trails wind through canyons surrounded by forests of maple, redwood, and shady oak. The calm Garzas Creek runs through the park.
During a nature walk in Garland Ranch Regional Park, hikers will have the opportunity to see a variety of birds and wildlife. A park is also a great place for jogging, horseback riding, and photography tours.
Another popular natural area in Carmel is Galapata State Park, a waterfront park that includes two miles of beaches and coastal walking trails that lead to scenic views. Visitors can find many activities here, from watching sea lions and seals to snorkeling, windsurfing and swimming.
Address: 700 West Carmel Valley Road, Carmel, California
9. Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant
Mission Ranch and Restaurant is located on the grounds of an 1850s dairy farm in the idyllic seaside countryside. This award-winning hotel is owned by long-time Carmel resident Clint Eastwood, former Mayor of Carmel. Eastwood has preserved the iconic property and turned it into a luxury hotel with tennis courts and a health club.
Old farmhouses and barns have been converted into luxury accommodations; newer ranch-style homes offer additional rooms. The restaurant at Mission Ranch, St. It offers stunning views of the Lucia Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Diners can also enjoy live piano music every night of the week.
Address: 26270 Dolores Avenue, Carmel, California
Official website: www.missionranchcarmel.com
10. Pebble Beach Golf Links
Surrounded by Monterey pines and cypresses, this legendary 18-hole golf course is located on a rocky bluff overlooking the choppy surf in a stunning coastal setting. Many notable golfers and celebrities have played here since 1919, including Bing Crosby, Teddy Roosevelt, Sir Winston Churchill, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
Pebble Beach Golf Course is considered the premier public golf course in the United States, where it has hosted six US Opens.
The most anticipated event of the year at Pebble Beach Golf Links is the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in mid-August. This fascinating auto show gives you the chance to see around 200 of the world’s best collectible cars and motorcycles, including Ferraris, British pre-war sports cars and Shelby GT350 Mustangs.
Lodge at Pebble Beach overlooks the famous 18th hole of the Pebble Beach golf course. This historic 5-star landmark hotel offers luxurious rooms and stunning views of Carmel Bay.
Address: 1700 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach, California
Official website: www.pebblebeach.com/golf/pebble-beach-golf-links
Hope you like our choice of the best places to visit in Carmel. If you think there are some more beautiful places to visit in Carmel, we should cover them. Write us below in the comment box.