Just miles from the famous Monterey Bay, Carmel, California is a sun-drenched, ocean town with a rich history. More loquaciously referred to as Carmel-By-The-Sea, the town was first colonized by Europeans in the late 18th century when Spanish missionaries established missions along the coast. The city is perhaps best known for its contribution to the visual arts and literature. Many famous authors and painters lived or vacationed in Carmel in the early 20th century, and the theatre scene is still quite impressive throughout the town. Here are ten things to do in Carmel.
10. Old Fisherman’s Wharf
When California was under Spanish control from the mid-1700s to the early 1800’s, the town of Monterey served as its capital. The main wharf in the area eventually became so integral to the area, that the City assumed control of it, expanding it greatly in the early 1900s, and adding warehouses and retail. Today, Old Fisherman’s Wharf is equal parts commerce and tourism, offering numerous specialty shops and restaurants serving up fresh seafood. Additionally, there are several whale watching tours that take off from the wharf.
9. Forest Theatre
Its construction dating back to over 100 years ago, the Forest Theatre is one of the oldest open-air theatres in the West. The theatre changed hands several times, falling into disuse occasionally, but was eventually restored to its current state under the ownership of the Pacific Repertory Theatre’s School of Dramatic Arts. Today, the gorgeously lit theatre is has a back drop of the tops of pines and, if you catch it at the right time, the California sunset. Tickets are extremely affordable; starting at $16, so there is no reason not to catch a show.
8. Monterey Bay Aquarium
Perfect for a rainy day with the kids, this aquarium is as large as it is beautiful. Part of the draw of this aquarium is that it is located directly on the bay, allowing for wildlife viewing and educational opportunities both in captivity and in the wild, with an exhibit that steps down into the real tide pools of the bay. Visitors will also have the chance to learn about the Monterey Bay ecosystem, including kelp forests and other habitats. Additionally, there are touch pools and feeding shows. Tickets start at $40 for adults and $25 for children under 12.
7. Garrapata State Park
With nearly 3,00 acres spanning ecosystems from shores to dense forest, Garrapata State Park is one of the most diverse in the area. The land was originally purchased and established as a ranch until it was designated as a state park in 1985. Beginning closest to the ocean, the park has large, rolling hills with cliffs that often plunge deeply into the ocean, Inland from there, visitors can follow the Rocky Ridge Trail for a very steep climb with a rewarding view of the Pacific, before plunging back down on the other side into a canyon replete with magnificent redwoods. Trail signage can be a little scarce, so be sure to keep track of your direction.
6. Scheid Vineyards Tasting Room
Scheid Vineyards is very open about its un-humble beginnings as a tax shelter begun by an investment banker in the 1970s. But perhaps it is telling that the owner is still so passionate about the vineyards. The company grows their own grapes and ferments and bottles their own wine and they talk about their process in an extremely enlightening yet matter-of-fact manner. These guys really know their stuff. Visitors to the Carmel location can purchase flights beginning at $10, while their main vineyards, about an hour away, is perhaps the more fun and immersive experience. Oh, and their wines are delicious.
5. Carmel City Beach
With bleached white sand and soft, lapping waves, the beach is the main reason to stay on the coast, so why not visit the best in the area? Huge, gnarled Cyprus trunks align Scenic Road, which parallels the beach and looms above it, allowing for periodic access points. Although it can be a little crowded on weekends, parking is free, access is free, and restrooms are available. Plus the beach (like much of the city) is dog friendly and is aligned for some truly breath-taking sunsets, so why not grab a bottle of wine from Scheid Vineyards and some local food and have a romantic picnic?
4. One Ocean Avenue
Leading away (or towards) Carmel Beach is the famous Ocean Avenue. The street offers plenty of shopping and dining in a quaint, quirky atmosphere. Many of the buildings aligning the street are colorful or built of interesting materials, offering an ever-changing environment. Take advantage of one of the small specialty boutiques behind bushels of colorful flowers or dine at an outdoor café with the family as the trees and birds swirl around you! The avenue also has a multi-level outdoor shopping plaza that you can’t miss.
3. Tor House
Constructed of large granite boulders removed from the nearby cliffs, Tor House were the dream home of poet Robinson Jeffers and his wife Una and was the location where Jeffers wrote nearly all of his recognizable work. Completed in 1919, the house is today available to the public for touring. Visitors can view the stone cottage and the nearby Hawk Tower, which Jeffers built on his own for his children and their friends. Tours are given at the top of every hour during Fridays and Saturdays and tickets cost only $10.
2. San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission
Only the second of its kind built in Northern California, this Franciscan missionary was relocated to its current site in 1771 and is one of the most unique tourist attractions in Carmel. Suffering the erosion of time and materials, as well as a few violent raids over the centuries, the mission was dilapidated until restoration efforts went underway in the mid 1800’s, then controlled by the Roman Catholic Church. Now obviously a historical monument, this mission is a gorgeous building rich with history and culture. Visitors can tour the grounds daily between 930Am and 7PM for only $6.50 a ticket.
1. Point State Reserve
This stunning cove surrounds a section of rough sea with huge rocks jutting out from the waters upon which waves dazzlingly break upon with much fervor. Additionally, there are abundant hiking trails leading to the shoreline and handfuls of smaller, hidden coves. Certified divers will find the waters rich with treasures of marine life and coral. The grounds also include a whalers cabin museum, housed in a small cabin built by Chinese whalers. Guided walks are available each month.
Visiting Carmel is like visiting no other city – wealthy in its natural beauty and odd culture, visitors can just as soon swoon at the majestic ocean waves as they can pick up a permit for wearing high heels around the town at City Hall (thanks to an antiquated and strange law). Like most of the cities in the area, the area benefits from a cool and consistent Mediterranean climate, making any time of the year a great time to visit. Once you are here, you will find no shortage of interesting places to visit in Carmel.