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A Quick Guide to 11 Best Things to Do in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea, often simply called Carmel, is a city in Monterey County, California, United States, founded in 1902 and incorporated on October 31, 1916. 

Situated on the Monterey Peninsula, Carmel is known for its natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. Artists, authors, actors, and musicians were among the early city founders drawn to the area’s warm temperature and magnificent shoreline.

Carmel has grown in popularity as a tourist destination in recent years, with people going to enjoy its beaches, golf courses, and restaurants.

From wandering the charming streets lined with adorable shops and restaurants, to soaking up the sun on the beach,

here are 11 must-dos in this picturesque coastal town. So pack your bags and get ready for some fun in the sun!

Is There a Difference Between Carmel and Carmel-by-the-Sea?

Carmel and Carmel-by-the-Sea are two names for the same place: a small town on the Monterey Peninsula in California.

The town is known for its arts and culture scene, as well as its scenic location on the coast. 

While both names are used interchangeably, Carmel is the more formal name, while Carmel-by-the-Sea is more commonly used by locals and businesses. 

In addition, while Carmel covers a larger area that includes the surrounding hills, Carmel-by-the-Sea refers specifically to the town center. So whether you call it Carmel or Carmel-by-the-Sea, you’re referring to the same charming place.

Fun Facts About Carmel-by-the-Sea:

  • Carmel is home to roughly 3,700 residents.
  • The town covers an area of just over one square mile.
  • Carmel’s famed Pebble Beach is one of the most popular golf courses in the world.
  • The annual Carmel Art & Film Festival attracts celebrities and film enthusiasts from all over the globe.
  • Diane Keaton owns a property in Carmel that she has dubbed “The Baby Box.”
  • Clint Eastwood served as Carmel’s mayor from 1986 to 1988.

1. Take a Walk Along the Carmel Waterfront Scenic Walkway

Carmel Waterfront Scenic Walkway

The Carmel Waterfront Scenic Walkway is a beautiful place to take a leisurely stroll. 

It winds its way along the shoreline, offering stunning ocean views. The walkway is also dotted with benches and picnic tables, making it the perfect place to rest and enjoy the scenery. 

In addition, the walkway is home to a variety of wildlife, including birds, squirrels, and even deer. 

As you stroll around the Carmel Waterfront Scenic Walkway, you’ll enjoy the fresh air, the beautiful scenery, and the peace and quiet.

2. Pay a Visit to the Carmel Mission Basilica Museum

Carmel Mission Basilica Museum

The Carmel Mission Basilica Museum is one of California’s most prominent tourist attractions.

Located in the historic town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, the museum is housed in a beautiful Spanish Mission-style building. You can tour the museum to learn about the fascinating history of the Carmel Mission and see a variety of artifacts and exhibits. 

The museum is also home to a beautiful chapel, open to the public for Mass and other religious services. 

Whether you are a history buff or simply looking for a unique place to visit, the Carmel Mission Basilica Museum is sure to impress.

3. Explore the Downtown Carmel Area

Downtown Carmel

There’s so much to see and do in the downtown Carmel area! 

Whether you’re strolling down Main Street, browsing the shops, or taking in a show at the Civic Theater, there’s always something to keep you entertained. 

And when you need a break from all the excitement, you can always relax at one of the many cafes and restaurants

With its quaint atmosphere and abundance of things to do, the downtown Carmel area is the perfect place to spend a day out with family or friends.

4. Wander Around the Fairy-tale Cottages in Carmel

Fairy-tale Cottages in Carmel

Take a trip down to Carmel and check out the fairy-tale cottages! 

These cottages, designed by an architect in the 1920s, are sure to capture your imagination. 

With quaint turrets and gabled roofs, they look like they belong in a storybook

Take a self-guided tour of the cottages and learn about their history. Then, stop by one of the nearby cafes for a bite to eat. 

Carmel is an excellent spot to spend a day exploring and enjoying the company of friends.

5. Hike One of the Trails at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

There are few places on Earth as beautiful as Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Located on the Monterey Peninsula, this 554-acre park is home to rocky cliffs, sandy coves, and lush forests. 

You can explore the reserve’s many hiking trails, which wind through a variety of spectacular landscapes. 

The Sea Lion Point Trail offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, while the Cypress Grove Trail takes you through a grove of old-growth cypress trees.

 No matter which trail you choose, you’re sure to be amazed by the natural beauty of Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

6. Go Bird Watching at Carmel River Lagoon

6. Go Bird Watching at Carmel River Lagoon

The Carmel River Lagoon is a secluded spot that is perfect for bird watching. 

There are plenty of benches where you can sit and relax while you watch these magnificent birds. 

The lagoon is home to a variety of species, including pelicans, cormorants, ibises, herons, and egrets. You may even see bluebirds or goldfinches.

The best time to go bird watching is early in the morning, when the birds are most active. However, you can also find plenty of birds at the lagoon later in the day. 

So, whether you are an early riser or a night owl, you can enjoy watching the birds at the Carmel River Lagoon.

7. Have a Picnic in Garrapata State Park

Garrapata State Park

Garrapata State Park is one of the most beautiful places in California. 

With its miles of coastline and its towering redwoods, the park is a nature lover’s paradise. Picnicking in Garrapata State Park is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with family and friends. 

There are picnic tables available for use, or you can bring your own blanket and choose a spot on the grass. 

There are also plenty of hiking trails to explore, so you can make a day of it. Just be sure to pack plenty of food and water, as there are no food concession stands in the park. 

Garrapata State Park is the ideal place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. So why not pack a picnic lunch and head out for an adventure?

8. Drive the Scenic 17-Mile Drive in Carmel

17-Mile Drive

The Seventeen Mile Drive in Carmel is one of the most scenic drives in California. 

The drive takes you through a tunnel of tall trees, along a winding road that offers breathtaking views of the coastline. 

You’ll see crashing waves, rocky cliffs, and pristine beaches. The drive also takes you past some of the area’s most famous landmarks, including the Pebble Beach Golf Course and Bird Rock. 

The Seventeen Mile Drive is a great way to experience all that Carmel has to offer. 

So whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a family vacation, be sure to add the Seventeen Mile Drive to your list of must-do activities.

9. Visit Tor House for an Architectural Spectacle

Tor House

Tor House is a beautiful example of Carmel stone architecture, nestled atop Windy Hill in Carmel, California. 

The house was designed and built by poet Robinson Jeffers between 1918 and 1926, and today it stands as a monument to his life and work. 

You can tour the main house, which contains original furniture and artworks, as well as Jeffers’ study and library. 

The grounds are also open to the public and feature a variety of native plants that were planted by Jeffers himself.

For those interested in learning more about the poet and his work, Tor House is an essential stop on any visit to Carmel.

10. Visit the Sunset Center at Carmel-by-the-Sea 

Sunset Center at Carmel-by-the-Sea 

The Sunset Center is a must-see for anyone visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea. 

This elegant Spanish-style building was erected in 1926 and serves as a community center for the performing arts. 

The Center hosts a variety of events throughout the year, ranging from theater performances to concerts to lectures. 

One of the highlights of the Sunset Center is the stunning courtyard, which features a beautiful mosaic fountain and is surrounded by lush gardens. 

The courtyard is the perfect place to relax and take in the captivating architecture of the center. 

Whether you’re attending an event or simply taking a stroll through the grounds, the Sunset Center is sure to dazzle.

11. Experience the World-class Pebble Beach Golf Links

Pebble Beach Golf Links

Pebble Beach Golf Links is one of the most famous and beloved golf courses in the world. 

Nestled on the picturesque California coast, Pebble Beach has been challenging and delighting golfers for over a century. 

With picture-perfect views and world-class amenities, it’s no wonder that Pebble Beach is often called one of the best golf courses in the world. 

If you’re looking for an unforgettable golfing experience, then Pebble Beach Golf Links has you covered.

From the moment you arrive, you’ll be awestruck by the beauty of this special place. And once you tee off, you’ll understand why Pebble Beach is such a cherished destination for golfers from all over the globe.

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