Carmel-by-the-Sea is for Me

By Kate Riley June 12, 2010

If there ever was a town that is not only quaint and charming, but also chic and sophisticated, it is Carmel-by-the-Sea.  Located on the Monterey peninsula south of San Francisco, Carmel is a small town filled with art galleries, shops and inns, and is surrounded by golf courses.  Only the well to do can afford to actually live in Carmel, but for the rest of us, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a fantastic getaway destination in California for anyone seeking beauty, culture, rest, and relaxation along the coast.

We spent two days and nights here a few weekends ago, so today I’ll share a few photos of our brief stay.   My most favorite thing about downtown Carmel is that everywhere you walk you’ll find a secret corridor, alley, or courtyard, and along every street, flowers are abundant.  They grow up along walls, blooming in pots, and spilling out of window boxes, flourishing in the sun and sea air.

brick wall and bouganvillia

window boxes carmel


secret garden trio

window boxes in carmel

fireplace inn

pot and window box

window boxes

zen fountain


Carmel has a few ritzy hotels, but I’m partial to the plentiful downtown inns.  You can’t get any more quaint (and comparatively affordable) than these, plus when you stay downtown, you’re in the middle of it all, just steps from the great restaurants, shops, and the beach.

briarwood inn


fireplace inn 2


cypress inn


Carmel’s shopping is exceptional, offering everything from jewelry stores and clothing boutiques to antique stores and home decor.

turq glass window


I fell in love with Jan de Luz when I first visited Carmel eight years ago, and to this day it still sells the most breathtaking French antiques and embroidered linens.

jan de luz trio

jan de luz bench

My other decadent find was Trouvé, filled with all things French inspired for garden and home.

trouve trio

gray rattan sofa


Then there was Dolores street off Ocean Avenue and one building adorned with tile and white stucco – could not j’adore more.

tiled walls

Gorgeous patterns in tile . . . wouldn’t these be stunning in fabric ?

tiled walls along street


And the real estate, oh, the real estate.  Let’s not even go there.

ocean and door


But here’s an interesting fact from the town’s website:  “To this day, there are still no addresses, parking meters, street lights, or sidewalks outside of Carmel’s downtown commercial area.

The local post office continues to serve as a social hub for residents retrieving mail from post office boxes.  Those seeking directions receive hints such as “fifth house on the east side of Torres Street, blue trim, driftwood fence” or by the legendary names adorning most houses, such as ‘Periwinkle’ or ‘Sea Urchin’.”

Hungry ?  In the charming downtown, there are plenty of places to dine outdoors, from fine restaurants to quaint bistros.

outdoor deck seating

courtyard seating


At our breakfast stop, I admired the turquoise beams of Em Le’s, but my little guy made every attempt to steal the show.

Silk Base Wigs


Later, at our lunch at Village Corner, I fell in love with the series of scroll lanterns along the outdoor pergola.

village corner trio

If you ever make the trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea, your visit isn’t complete without a jaunt along the white sands of Carmel Beach.

carmel beach


carmel beach 2


And you simply can’t mistake the trademark cypress trees that dangle over the precipice of much of the coastline and the famous 17 Mile Drive.

carmel coastline


To learn more about all things Carmel, read up right here.   If you’re considering a trip to California, I highly recommend putting Carmel-by-the-Sea on your list !

Carmel is one of my favorite getaways.  What is one of yours ?




  1. Just gorgeous!! Love all the flowers, so pretty. Do you know what the flowers are in the 3rd photo?

  2. Everything looks gorgeous. I actually live in Monterey when I was in preschool. My dad was stationed at Fort Ord there. I was too young to really appreciate it, but I remember the cypress. I called it, “the lonely tree.” :)

  3. oh wow… thank you for sharing, it was nice to take a little virtual vaca… this would surely be one of my favorite get-a-ways if I didn’t live on the other side of the US! Over by me there is a quaint little fishing town called Apalachicola, FL that I just adore for many of the same reasons you mention. Great little shops and restaurants and just a short drive to St. George Island Beach.

  4. Oh mine is also Carmel/Pacific Grove, it is heaven to me and we go as often as we can. I am a northern Calif gal also and we can get there in 2 hrs. I love to stay at the Seven Gables or the Tickled Pink Inn. To me there is nothing better than sitting in my car, windows down and eating lunch with my honey, we can sit and talke for 2hrs at a time. The hardest thing about Carmel is Leaving!! Happy Weekend,Kathysue

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your lovely photos from your trip. You reminded me of our trip to San Francisco many years ago when we rented a car and drove down the coast to Carmel and to Pebblebrook. I remember Carmel by the sea being so beautiful and I would have loved to stay. I even mentioned to my husband that we must go back some day. I guess I will have to mention it again.

  6. I passed this place while visiting my dad last November. I didn’t have time to check it out but I will next time! STUNNING photos girl! I loved them all-they look like they are straight out of a magazine, you have a great eye. :)


  7. it’s beautiful…. unfortunately i live in Kuwait where is a desert :( and it’s impossible to growth any plant except cactus….

  8. It’s one of my most favorite places! Haven’t been since we started having babies but looks like your little guy enjoyed himself. Might just have to go with them.. Thanks for sharing your gorgeous pictures!!

  9. Oh I love Carmel. My cousin lives there and gets to enjoy it all the time! She works at Pebble Beach. I think my favorite is Monterey. But I love that whole area!

  10. I was in Carmel just recently- memorial day weekend. Oh, how I want to go back… everyday. It’s so beautiful, and only a couple hrs. away from me. I remember sitting on Carmel Beach thinking, “Why don’t I do this more often?!”
    Your photos are so wonderful. You captured it so well, and it was fun to recognize spots that I had just been! Okay, now I REALLY want to go back!

  11. I am inspired.Establishing a B&B/Inn just got added to my goals. Thanks ! :-)

  12. Kate,

    I love the Carmel area. My father gets a yearly membership to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, so Carmel is always a stop when we visit. Just love the entire area and I would move in a heartbeat if I could!

    Gorgeous pictures!


  13. I love Carmel. It’s my favorite spot in the world and this post made me so homesick. See, I’m from there and it it Dreamy and perfect and unlike no other. Here’s a secret “local” tip for ya – when you are buying anything, ice cream at the Gelatto place, lunch, tea, espadrilles on Delores street, tell them you are a local and you will get a HUGE discount! The raise the prices for the tourists of course but are very loyal for their Locals. (Locals mean anyone living in the Monterey Bay Area – Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, Seaside, Salinas ETC) Who will know?

  14. My dad was raised in Carmel, and my grandmother was an artist with a gallery there! Oh, I miss it so much since she died! That was always a favorite summertime visit for us. I love the “old world” feel of it!

  15. I lived on the Monterey peninsula my whole life. Raised my children there and now my grandsons are growing up there. I moved to so cal 5 yrs ago,needless to say i am headed back to where i consider home to be-Carmel. Looking at it through your eyes makes it even more enchanting for me. My ahh place is sitting on my favorite bench on the walking path overlooking the beach. Magical!

  16. I grew up spending our family vacations in Carmel and seeing these pictures brings back so many fond memories! We moved to Atlanta when I was in middle school, but I recently got to visit and relived all the fun. I’m glad to see other people love it there as much as I did and still do! I actually blogged about it here:

    Since I don’t make it back to California too often, I now get to enjoy the Atlantic and Gulf Coast! :)

  17. What beautiful photos. I would love to take a trip there. Have been to southern CA before, but not there. Reminds me a bit of Mackinaw Island in MI.

  18. Your pictures are so beautiful!

    My parents took my sister and I on a vacation to San Fran over 15 years ago (I’m really feeling old right now). We took a side trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea and it was the highlight of the whole trip for me. It’s so gorgeous.

    I would LOVE to get back there someday. Thanks for triggering such sweet memories.

  19. WOW! In my dreams I see places like this!
    I could look at pictures of flowers and gardens all day as I do enjoy my own garden immensely. Keeps me sorta’ sane.

    Oh~ By the way Kate….A Container Planting hint for your readers….

    Instead of filling the planter/container with mounds of heavy dirt;
    1\ Add a layer of stones to allow drainage.
    2\ Add blocks of “Fresh flower Oasis” to cover this layer of the container ~ NOT THE DRIED
    FLOWER BLOCKS- they do not hold water.
    3\ Add the potting soil and your flowers
    4\ Water and enjoy


    Now when you water your plants the water will be held to keep them damp and from drying out for a couple of days [at least]
    Also…the planter is not so heavy that you cant’ move the thing around if you want to.

  20. We just moved here (well, Pacific Grove, just next door), so I can’t wait to check out some of the treasures you uncovered!

  21. Such a beautiful place! I have never visited there, but now it’ll be on my must-see list! I love all the bright and vibrant colors everywhere you look, it’s like you couldn’t help feeling happy there! Thanks for sharing,

  22. Oh, I am SO with you on this. The last time I went was 5 years ago and I have been aching to go back. We ate at PortaBella! It was so yummy and the quaint vibe just had me.
    I loved it.

  23. Hi there, I’ve never been to California, but this palce is absolutely breathtaking!!!!!!!
    Thanks for posting such beautiful and inspiring pictures. I would love to visit and for sure this place will be on my list!
    Hugs, Li :-)

  24. Oh, my! All the flowers are so gorgeous! Great photos! Visiting Carmel is definitely on my Bucket List! I only wish it were closer! Patti in TX

  25. Love the pictures & narrative. I have to get to Carmel at some point! Also Healdsburg. My favorite town around me is Cannon Beach, Oregon, such a cute town with lots of shops down the main street like gelato, brew pub, espresso, bike rentals, kite shop, local bookstore; totally cute beach houses off in the neighborhood with beachy shrubs/flowers/landscaping; Haystack Rock – monolithic rock just off shore; & tidepooling.
    I’d love a blog post of the cute Carmel cottages that I’ve read about. Maybe it’s hard to get to them because of the no sidewalk thing?

  26. Wonderful post. It reminds me of Sausalito. I have now added this to my list. It looks amazing. As for my favorite getaway, I love the South Carolina Coast since I live in SC and it’s such a short trip to get the coastline. There is something about driving across a 2 mile long bridge to get to an island that is just amazing to me. Thanks for the post!

  27. Was there 3 years ago, but pregnant and sick to my stomach and COLD! I couldn’t believe how CHILLY it was there. Wished I had enjoyed it more!!!!! Your pics make me want to go back and get a “redo”.

  28. I love love love love Carmel-by-the-sea!! Don’t forget all of the fabulous Hugh Comstock Storybook houses that reside there!!!!

  29. Kate, your pics are gorgeous! My hubby took me to Carmel going on 5 years ago, right after we got married. He lived in Carmel for a year with his family about 20 years ago. I had always heard about it, but loved getting to experience it in person. You really captured the feel of it.

    I wonder if you’ve ever been to Nepenthe Rest. up on the cliffs of Big Sur?? He took me there and it was a fabulous place to eat & enjoy the view. One of my fave places EVER.

  30. I used to live in Carmel, Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Marina. I love it. My husband and I love the outdoor theatre in Carmel. Wonderful memories.

  31. I’m totally drooling over all those blooms. Makes me wanna hop on a plane.

    And, I love the tidbit about having no addresses. That’s really amazing.

  32. Amazing pics Kate!! I’ve never been to California, but these pics really make me want to go! My brother-in-law lives in San Diego, but he always comes here to visit. As for my favorite spots, I love Hilton Head Island in SC. The pine trees, golf courses, and the beach are just so peaceful. I also love Captiva and Sanibel Island on the Gulf Coast of FL. In fact, my aunt owns a place right on the beach and we’ll be there in 4 weeks!!

  33. Looks beautiful. The beach looks just as gorgeous as the white sand beauties in Australia (where I’m from) Kind of reminds me of a little town at the very top of Queensland called Port Douglas. Does it get hot there in summer? Pt Douglas reaches about 35 to 40 degrees celsius through summer. Would love to visit there during our winter, the shops look amazing – and those inns – I’d be in heaven – LOVE the American architecture etc. I wonder when it was first settled? Maybe I need to research Carmel…………

  34. We went there on our honeymoon, and loved it! It’s also close to so many quick day trips of hiking, dining and sight seeing!

  35. I’ve seen this beautiful town, but I have to say you’ve done such a great job capturing it! Great job on the photography. I really enjoyed it.

    Warmly, Michelle

  36. I love Carmel! It holds a special place in my heart, my husband and I got married there at the Mission Inn. When you go back you have to try Katy’s Place for breakfast…killer eggs benedicts. Wish I was there right now.

  37. Carmel of course! I was so happy to see your pictures! We’ll be there on Wednesday! In laws have a place so we are escaping the TX heat for a bit! I, too, am in love with Jan de Luz and Trouve…TO DIE FOR!

  38. I’ve only visited Carmel once and adored it. Sadly, it’s the kind of small place which turns Beloved Husband jittery with boredom… much better as a girlfriend getaway, I suspect!

  39. I love Carmel-by-the-Sea!!! We go there about every other year for a staff retreat with my dh’s job. We always stay at Mission Ranch. Don’t do a lot of shopping. We spend more time on the beach, hiking, & riding bikes. It’s so beautiful… I just like to walk around & look. Where do you live? You must live nearby? I live in the East Bay — Concord.

  40. Thanks for sharing!! The hubs and I are planning a trip to the San Fran/Napa Valley area and I had dont some research about driving down the coast to Monterey and Carmel-by-the-sea. I am sold now!! Have you stayed at any of those inns you pictured in your post? Looking for recommendations as to where to stay…

  41. I LOVE your travel posts. I learn so much (and my to-visit list keeps expanding!). Thanks for sharing.

  42. Thanks for the great trip down memory lane! I had the great fortune of living in Monterey for 6 months many years ago. Vising Carmel was always a delight. I was thrilled to see that you included a picture of Cypress Inn (owned by my idol Doris Day!).

    Love the high quality of your blog, both in terms of photos and writing! Keep up the awesomeness!

  43. We spent one of our honeymoon driving down the CA coast , on of the nights in Carmel at the Normandy Inn. My parents had honeymooned there 30 years earlier and my parents booked us at the same place! There was a delicious little restaurant across the street – it was fall, the fireplace was going, it was so romantic! I cannot tell you how much I loved waking up that morning and hearing the waves crash on the beach!

    We loved that little town and I’m thinking now we need to go back this fall for our anniversary!

  44. I love everything about Northern California and haven’t been back since I had my daughter in 1997. One my favorite places is Point Reyes which is a National Sea Shore park that juts out north of San Francisco. It is an inlet but seems like an island and its’ huge. On one side it has a herd of tulle elk and and the other end is St. Francis Drake beach which is where he landed the first time in California. At the far end is a light house that you have to hike down 150 feet to get there. If it’s too windy the place is closed. They don’t want anyone blowing into the rocks below (yes the wind is that bad). Through out the National Seashore are dairy farms spotted here and there. Once you drive onto the inlet you feel that all things are possible and you’re totally free from the rat race of city life. I live in Los Angeles so escaping the rat race is very appealing to me.

  45. Just got back from a visit to Carmel, and it is one of the most magical places on Earth!! My Brother-in-law works in Carmel-by-the-Sea’s city hall. Did you know it is against the law to were heels in excess of 2 inches. You have to get a permit! For a keepsake I had my Brother-in-law get me one! So funny!

  46. I love your photos from Carmel. I was just telling someone this week, how the whole town smells of fragrant flowers. One of my favorite spots to visit. Don’t forget to go by Clint’s “Mission Ranch” for dinner on the veranda. I hear he sometimes shows up at the piano bar!

  47. I love Em Le’s. They have the most delicious breakfast. I cannot wait for another trip to Carmel. Your review is so inspiring!

  48. We were in Carmel last April as part of our anniversary trip which also included San Francisco and wine country and Monterrey. When we drove to Carmel and my husband could not drag me from the beach even though it was windy and cold, he knew that I must have been born to live there in another life. Heck, I feel like I was born to live there now! I love everything about the area and you showcased it so beautifully here. Alas, I am horribly landlocked in north central Texas and wistfully dreaming I was there again. Hubby has already mentioned he will take me on a trip for my big birthday coming up on October. Dreaming of visiting the Reagan Presidential Library and Santa Barbara and hopefully hop up to Carmel again too. I can only hope!

  49. Great post, always love to read anything about Carmel. We are lucky enough to live close enough to make it a day trip, 2.5 hours so if we leave at 7 a.m. we’re there to enjoy the beach, shops and food! Years ago we discovered Casanova, a fabulous restaurant, my hubby painted it for a gift for my sister, ours is next. The story book homes are so charming, hubby painted the Tuck Box for one of our Etsy shops, Paris Cabinet. What a delight to enjoy afternoon tea at the Tuck Box, yummy scones and jams. We especially enjoy watching owners and their dogs, Carmel is very dog friendly and water bowls are outside the doors of many shops. I’m talking myself right into another day trip, very soon!

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