Fully and appropriately named Carmel-by-the-Sea, this Shangri-La features exceptional cottages by a stunning coastline. Truly unique amongst American cities, you’ll be enchanted if you are lucky enough to visit, and may fall in love if you are able to stay.
Wind-worn cypresses with gnarled roots cling to the earth as they face the formidable sea; these cypresses have the appearance of being in motion even when the air is still, imprinting a strange rousing in the soul. The late landscape painter Francis McComas called it, “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world.”
It’s no wonder that former mayor, Clint Eastwood, was willing to take a nominal fee just for the privilege of presiding over the artistic village.
Even as a child, I knew that Carmel-by-the-Sea was special. As most children, I was interested in the beach more than the restaurants and shops. It was a foggy, cool day when I played on Carmel Beach, yet I wanted to linger. We drove through the middle of town and I listened to my parents ooh and ah at the quaint shops, cottages, and restaurants; it gave me the feeling of being in a land from a fairytale—not a common feeling in the United States.
Artists knew and know that Carmel-by-the-Sea is special as well, and following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, a group of them migrated to Carmel and formed a colony of creative folk devoted to the artistic lifestyle. Carmel’s roots are apparent throughout the village with beautiful art galleries flavoring the already magnificent, natural setting.
Writer Robert Louis Stevenson reportedly spent some time in Carmel, and poet Robinson Jeffers built a castle-type home, Tor House, facing the ocean.
The climate maintains nearly year-long “sweater weather” (60s Fahrenheit and in the teens Celsius), which has a dreamy, huddling effect both indoors and outdoors. Don’t resist the sometimes foggy days which only add to the romantic magic—a perfect place for a honeymoon or couples’ getaway. In fact, Carmel has been voted one of the most romantic cities in America.
For the full Carmel-by-the-Sea experience, try this luxury home exchange cottage, On the historical register, this home is great for snuggling and is authentic Carmel.
With approximately 60 galleries in Carmel-by-the-Sea, there is something for virtually every art lover.
One of the delights of Carmel is Clint Eastwood’s, Mission Ranch Hotel & Restaurant. With a meadow with grazing sheep, the Pacific, and Point Lobos visible, this is truly a unique dining experience. The piano bar is a lot of fun and pairs well with the featured American cuisine.
Actress, Doris Day has also had an interest in Carmel. Her love of animals proved contagious, and Carmel is a very dog-friendly community with numerous restaurants where dogs are allowed.
When the Spanish settled California, they built 21 missions designed to be a day’s walk apart. The Carmel mission is an especially beautiful one. Founded in 1771, the basilica portion of the mission has 5-foot-thick walls. The bell tower is in beautiful contrast to the Spanish-tiled roof, and Munrá’s courtyard gives one the feeling of sacred contemplation.
Point Lobos, south of Carmel, looks like something out of an idealized painting. The rocky coast and the Pacific are one of the most dramatic convergences on earth. Besides magnificent views, hiking trails interlace the park and welcome exploration of this exceptional place. Point Lobos not only invigorates the eyes, but also the olfactory pleasures; as my father says, “The smell there is classic California coast.”
Some of the finest golf courses in the United States are near Carmel-by-the-Sea. Pebble Beach, which has hosted the U.S. Open, is considered the best public golf course in the United States. Also nearby is Spyglass Hill Golf Course, which is one of the toughest courses in the world.
If your tastes run toward inward reflection rather than fun-in-the-sun mentality (or even if you are given to inward reflection right now), visit Carmel-by-the-Sea. Like numerous artists and lovers before you, you may never want to leave.
See IVHE’s exclusive home exchange cottage, “Hob Nob.”
Thank you to travel blogger Sona Schmidt-Harris