Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA: Stays, Sights & Bites

September 24, 2023Two Plane Girls

This Labor Day weekend we had our first TPG trip together in quite awhile. With two new additions to our families 👶🏼🎀👶🏼we were so excited to get our girls together and celebrate our husband’s fall birthdays. By celebrate I mean they played Pebble Beach while we were left with babies and chardonnay🥂. This was our first time in Carmel and it truly did not disappoint. What we loved most was how easy going and flexible it is for every type of traveler. It truly is a place for everyone, whether you are outdoorsy, into the food scene, avid golfer or a wine drinker. Kids + dogs are easy to bring here as well!

Where We Stayed:

We stayed in the CUTEST Airbnb straight out of a fairytale. We opted for an Airbnb because it was much easier with babies and we loved the option of having somewhere central to relax during naptime and after their bedtime. The the property was spacious and even had a cedar hot tub and sauna in the backyard-an unexpected treat for sure! Location wise, we were about a quarter of a mile south of downtown Carmel (directly across the street from the Mission Basilica) and walked almost every trip into town and back. It is hilly, sidewalks come and go and there are some busy parts of the road but we really enjoyed walking the neighborhoods and how easy it was to get into town without having to worry about parking or Ubers! If you want to be directly in the heart of Carmel with a much shorter walk, downtown is the place to stay.

What We Did:

While the boys golfed in the morning, Abi and I started bright and early with our morning walk to town and usually grabbed a coffee and breakfast at Carmel Bakery. Once we were fueled with coffee and croissants, the day was our oyster!

Scenic Bluff Path:

A short walk from town (and 15 min walk directly from our Airbnb) is Carmel State Beach which has a 3.5 mile walking path along the bluffs. It was a beautiful way to see the coastline, get in some exercise and take tons of photos. Stroller friendly, dog friendly and plenty of places to stop to take in the view.

Carmel State Beach:

If you’re already on the bluff path, you’re only a few stairs from the actual beach. You likely wouldn’t want to spend a whole day here given the chilly ocean air and freezing water, but a fun stop if you have kids, pets or just want to stroll along the coast for a beautiful view.

Wine Tasting:

Carmel has a ton of wine tasting rooms, it truly seems like there is one on every street corner. No reservations were required and we came on a busy weekend. You could easily do a whole day in town and add in the tasting rooms if you want to hit multiple. We did Galante and Scheid and had great experiences at both. Both tasting rooms (along with most of the town) was very family + dog friendly!

17 Mile Drive:

If you do one thing in Carmel, do this! It is the perfect way to be halfway outdoorsy, get the pics, walk a bit and then jump back in the car for the next sight. It’s for us girlies who love the views but not the climb🙋🏻‍♀️ Note, the first few miles of the of the drive is underwhelming since it’s mostly dense trees. But it gets better- SO much better! You’ll know once you make it to the views. The drive is along the coast of Pebble Beach and has the most beautiful coastline and tons of areas to get out to walk, take photos and explore. If you get out at every stop you can easily do a half day here or longer if you chose to take it slow.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse:

This is a stop along the way from SFO to Carmel on Highway 1. Highly recommend stopping, the views were gorgeous and there are plenty of spots to walk around and take photos. Feels very Big Little Lies without having to drive all the way down to Big Sur.

Point Lobos State Park:

This was on our list and we *technically* went but didn’t quite make it out of the car. We showed up mid morning on a Sunday and could not find parking anywhere. Our advice would be to go early in the morning or on a weekday! Learn from our mistakes😉

Where We Ate:

The food scene here is fantastic. Tons of European influence plus lots of fresh coastal seafood.

Alvaredo Street Brewery:

Great little upscale brewery/restaurant with a heated patio. Great for kids or an informal dinner, not a fine dining or intimate date night spot.

La Bicyclette:

This is a staple in Carmel and is always the top of every list of recommendations. We really felt like we stepped into Europe. The food was delicious and was a blend of French and Italian dishes. Truly, there is no better combination of cultures. The Italians + French do carbs and cheese best🤌🏻

The Mission:

We definitely recommend coming here for dinner! It is a whole experience. Clint Eastwood owns this property and the views are just stunning. They don’t take reservations so I’d encourage showing up for happy hour around 4:30 to guarantee a spot. We started to see a line form around dinnertime. After dinner you can stroll the property and visit the sheep pastures and surrounding gardens.

The Forge:

This is a casual spot for dinner. If you’re a foodie the food isn’t exceptional so I wouldn’t put it top of the list, but its definitely kid friendly and a great spot if you don’t have reservations lined up. The menu is big and they have most dinner staples! We loved the cozy vine-covered outdoor patio as well.

Carmel Bakery:

Our favorite bakery! We kept coming back because we couldn’t get enough. This place draws quite the crowd 1. for their coffee/pastries 2. for their window display of baked goods. Great stop for a grab and go breakfast to take to the beach or stroll the town.

Katy’s Place:

If you’re looking for a good old fashioned diner breakfast on a rainy day-this is your spot! Feels like your grandma’s home cooking in a cozy little restaurant with a great shaded patio. No fuss breakfast with all your homestyle staples.

Tips for a seamless trip:

  • Don’t pack heels! No really, there is a law banning heels higher than 2 inches😂. We have no idea why or if it is even enforced but we did so much walking that tennis shoes and sandals were the way to go.
  • Pack layers. We were both hot and cold-sometimes within the same day! The fall is actually warmer than the summer, so if you’re looking for highs in the low 70’s, you’ll have a better shot in the fall!
  • Rent a car. You can uber but there is so much more to see outside of the town especially if you want to get outdoors! Our advice: Fly into SFO for the cheapest and most direct flight and rent a car here. We took Highway 1 down to Carmel (~2 hours without stops) to see the coastline. There is also the option of flying into San Jose or Monterrey but it might be a pricier option.
  • Make reservations in advanced-this goes for golf as well! We also came during a busy weekend but the earlier the better.

There is so much to see in Carmel and the surrounding coast and we simply did not have time to visit it all! We missed Point Lobos, Farmers Market, Folktale Winery and driving down highway 1 to Big Sur. Looks like we have an excuse to come back😊

Happy Travels


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