Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA 93921
Best Carmel Things To Do
These Carmel things to do are attractions which even jaded San Francisco Locals will keep on returning to enjoy. See our Carmel Area Map for precise locations of these best of the best gems!
Coastal scenery near Carmel
Monterey County has some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. Here are some specific examples not to miss.
- Monterey Bay coast: Cannery Row has gotten old to us but we still find the nearby coastline wonderful. From Monterey Aquarium at Cannery Row go northwest on Ocean View Blvd then take Sunset Drive around the coastline to Asilomar State Beach.
- 17-Mile Drive, coast side only: From 17-Mile Drive’s Pacific Grove Gate head south along the coast to enjoy the world famous scenery (e.g., Spanish Bay, Bird Rock & Seal Rock, Cypress Point Lookout, and The Lone Cypress) and to check out the luxurious golf courses (e.g., The Inn & Links at Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, Pebble Beach Lodge-Shops-Golf Course). For details see the map provided at the gate. Admission to 17-Mile Drive is $10 but, as the map says, you can get this $10 gate fee reimbursed with a purchase of $10 at several of the 17 Mile Drive golf course restaurants. Just present the gate receipt to your server.We usually exit either the Carmel Gate or the Pacific Grove Gate and skip the inland portion of 17-Mile Drive.
- Carmel-by-the-Sea beach: This small but uniquely beautiful city beach is located at the west end of Ocean Ave, Carmel.
- China Cove, Point Lobos State Park: China Cove is a magical beach whose jade green waters will stay in your memory forever. Point Lobos State Park has many beautiful nature trails and is conveniently located just south of Carmel. It costs $10 to park inside at the four parking lots near key scenic features. Or, you can park outside, walk in, and pay $2 for a trail map.
- Elkhorn Slough, Moss Landing: On the drive to Carmel from San Francisco wild life lovers may want to check out for future reference Elkhorn Slough just north and west of Moss Landing. Being the second largest marine wetland in California, this slough is a wealth of biological diversity. The best way to see it is by renting a kayak or taking a pontoon boat tour. Summer days can be quite overcast. The best time to visit is September-October, the warmest months and when over 200 bird species stop over during migration.You can’t see much from Highway 1 but we often take a quick side trip west on Jetty Road, located just north of the Hwy 1 bridge over the Slough, to watch otters playing within the little harbor area.Moss Landing itself is not an exciting destination but it is easy to spot from the tall towers of the largest electrical generating plant in California. It is also one of the State’s most active fishing ports due to being adjacent the Monterey submarine canyon (which goes 25 miles out to sea and is big enough to hold the Grand Canyon).
- Laguna Seca Raceway If you enjoy motorsports this nearby raceway features many nice events such as the MotoGP motorcycle world championships, Gran Am sport car races, and special race reunions for Ferraris, for Porsches, and for rarely seen historical race cars.
For high-end art-oriented shoppers the Carmel area is a delight.
- Ocean Ave, Carmel: The commercial heart of Carmel is along Ocean Ave. Shopping tends to be smaller shops, jeweleries, and art galleries rather than what you would find in a fashion mall. Even if you are not into shopping just the atmosphere is pleasant. Taking a quick walk along Ocean Ave to the beach and to some food is fun to do.
- Pebble Beach Lodge Retail Shops: There are some nice casual clothing shops and golf & tennis shops at Pebble Beach Lodge on 17-Mile Drive. The setting is less quaint than Carmel but is still high-end, unique, and pleasant.
- Gilroy Discount Outlets: Those who prefer saving money might want to visit the Gilroy Premium Outlets when driving back from Carmel. There you can find many big brand name factory discount stores — e.g., Coach, Nike, Saks 5th Ave, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, etc. — at a good discount.
Carmel has a wide variety of restaurants though we only know a few (since we are usually there during the middle of a day trip and leave by early evening). Here are some.
- Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company, Ocean Ave/Lincoln, Carmel : For some reason we usually get our coffee here. That’s probably because of its central location near the beach, decent coffee, tasty snacks, and because it doesn’t look like a StarBucks.
- Le St. Tropez, Carmel: This convenient and pleasing French Bistro is located on Delores St just south of Ocean Ave. Eating here is a nice experience that fits the Carmel setting without being outrageously expensive, crowded, or formal.
- Pebble Beach Lodge: We like sitting on the Stillwater Grill balcony overlooking the 18th hole and Carmel Bay. The least expensive thing on the luncheon menu is a $19 hamburger. The Gallery, on the second floor above the putting green, is casual and less expensive.
Other Carmel attractions
- Carmel Mission: This registered national historic landmark is one of the oldest and nicest missions in California. It is at the southern end of Carmel. A good way to get there is to follow the coast line south from Carmel Beach at the end of Ocean Ave.
- Special Events: There is a wide variety of special events in the Carmel-Monterey area, many of which rank among the finest in the world. For example the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and U.S. Open Golf Tournaments, the Monterey Jazz Festival, and the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca. Also see our review of the Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance on the Cheap, one of the most prestigious luxury auto events anywhere.
These are some of the best things around Carmel even a jaded San Francisco Local will enjoy over and over again. They work for a sophisticated visitor as well. Please see our Carmel area map for precise locations and more details. Enjoy!