Whether you're artsy or a foodie. Or just love a cute town by the sea - Carmel never disappoints. Rated "One of America's Top Beach Towns”, Carmel is much more than just its heavenly location. There are secret passageways, courtyards, and hidden gardens tucked throughout this tiny European-style town. All that and its iconic white sand beach and you'll know why Carmel gets busy on the weekends.
Carmel has retained its artistic renegade flair that its freethinking iconoclastic artist and writer founders established in the early 1900s, Today, it's still the artistic refuge it sought out to be - albeit more crowded. Here are five ways to discover all that this tiny - but mighty- beach town has to offer.
1. Explore Carmel Beach on an e-bike
One of the most recognizable locales in California, Carmel Beach is meant for exploring its crescent bay by bicycle. Rent a hip retro e-bike from Mad Dogs & Englishmen and choose a stylish helmet to complete the look.
Then pedal your way through Carmel to the coastal Scenic Bluff Path. An easy flat ride, park your bike next to one of its eight wooden staircases and get your toes wet as you walk along the azure blue ocean tideline.
Bike up the hill through Monterey cypress trees and classic Carmel stone and wooden homes that look like they were transported from the English Cotswold countryside. That beauty of e-bikes is that they make hills and long distances a breeze - including the scenic 17 Mile Drive. Give yourself a good three hours to complete the loop. Or longer if you want to park and picnic.
2. Work the wine rooms
One of Wine Enthusiast’s top ten wine destinations, award-winning Monterey County wines aren't to be missed. Uber isn't necessary as Carmel’s nearly two-dozen wine tasting rooms, wine bars, and bottle shops are totally walkable. Known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Carmel's chic yet casual atmosphere welcomes guests where the winemaker herself just might be pouring.
3. Stay in a charming historic inn
Originally an artist colony, Carmel is home to many historic inns. A cozy gem and local’s favorite is the Lamplighter Inn. Just up the hill from Carmel Beach, it's been welcoming guests since 1912. Perched in an ancient tree grove, elegant patio fire tables warm you up at an al fresco breakfast while you enjoy the view and fresh ocean air. After a day of art galleries, beach walks, and bike rides - cheers with friends and relax at the daily wine tasting hour. No doubt you’ll meet Shadow, the inn’s charming cat who steals hearts and loves a good head scratch.
4. Tap into your Inner Artist
Since its inception, Carmel has been a magnet for artists and free-thinking personalities. Thought of as a refuge for intellectuals, this artist colony has always been an inspiration. Today, its artistic heritage continues with more than 100 art galleries, boutiques and working studios – all within one square mile. Be a patron of the arts and take home your favorite piece. Or tap into your inner artist and sign up for an inspiring drawing class.
5. Dine by the sea
Ever so charming and effortlessly chic, Carmel’s European flair reflects on menus while the best of Monterrey wines grace wine lists. Add to it a fierce commitment to locally sourced ingredients.
La Balena, headed by Chef Emanuele Bartolini, was named one of the five greenest restaurants in Monterey by the San Francisco Chronicle. Old world Tuscan cooking and values include a compost program and sourcing from local farms. Enjoy simple but divine Italian classics like cavolfiore fritto and gnocchi with wild mushrooms. Or try their crispy and delicious pollo fritto.
The Stationaery, a family restaurant- where the owner takes your order with his toddler resting on his hip - boasts a specialty seasonal menu. Local favorites are the homemade ricotta on fresh sourdough, baked duck egg with burrata and grilled polenta, and arguably the best coffee in town. Dine inside and enjoy its warm modernist design. Or catch some rays and in its cozy courtyard.
For the conscious carnivore, head to Cantinetta Luca where Aaron Rayon (previously with Bestia in Los Angeles) came on as executive chef. Famous for locally sourced housemade salume, eating here will save you a plane ticket to Italy. The classic Margarita pizza is as good as in Naples. And there are plenty of fresh and delicious farm-to-table options for vegans and vegetarians.
If you're looking for fancy, book a table at award-winning Aubergine. Chef Cogley’s seasonal cuisine is enhanced by unique flavors extracted from vegetables by skillful technique. A nightly tasting menu, savor pacific gold oysters with yuzu emulsion, and cucumber gelee, delicate English peas in herb oil and savory comte, morels, porcini confit.
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