Carmel-by-the-Sea offers eclectic architecture, streets rich in bohemian history, and a laid-back lifestyle. Spanish explorers and missionaries first claimed the area around Carmel in the 17th and 18th centuries. It wasn’t until the after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake that the sleepy hamlet began to develop into a charming and ecclectic town that continues to draw art lovers and romantics.
Carmel’s heady bohemian days may have long passed, but the city is still fully engaged in the arts and determined to preserve the small community’s characteristic atmosphere and aesthetic. Several artists have served as mayor, including actor and director Clint Eastwood. Historic theaters, including the Sunset Theater and Forest Theater, are still thriving. Check local guides for current productions. There are over 80 art galleries dotted throughout the downtown area, which is impressive for a town with a population of less than 4,000. Pick up a Carmel Gallery Guide or simply take a wander.
Architecture is one of Carmel’s main attractions. Don’t miss Tor House on Carmel Point. Once the home of renowned American poet Robinson Jeffers, the house was built by Jeffers himself with stones collected from the beach below. This extraordinary home features a 40-foot (12-meter) tower embedded with stones from around the world, including the Great Wall of China. Walker Residence is another of the city’s architectural marvels. This modern stone building sits just above the beach and was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Ocean Avenue is the old town’s busy hub and is perfect for people-watching. There are over 500 boutiques to explore, and plenty of excellent cafés and restaurants. Monterey County’s reputation as a commercial fishing hub means the seafood is fresh and abundant. Carmel is also close to the California wine region, resulting in wine lists that are long and impressive. The city is renowned for its relaxed attitude towards dogs, and that includes the beach and many restaurants.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a 15-minute drive from Monterey and is accessible by bus from downtown Monterey. Once you arrive, it’s best to sightsee on foot. Pick up a self-guided tour map or join one of the fascinating two-hour Carmel Walks.