Carmel-by-the-Sea: 100th Birthday
Carmel-by-the-Sea is located south of San Francisco and in the Monterey Peninsula of California. The city has not changed much in the past 50 years due to strict city ordinances that strive to keep the natural habit as authentic as possible.
In Carmel, signs are typically made of wood materials and must maintain a specific size. Local businesses support one another and chain restaurants are not allowed. They do not even have a Starbucks, though their many other local coffee shops fill the needs of the locals and tourists better than Starbucks ever could. It is an incredibly tight-knit community recently celebrated their 100th birthday.
Carmel-by-the-Sea has stunning beaches, upscale restaurants and shops, wine tasting rooms, antique stores, and more than 80 one-of-a-kind art galleries and shops. The homes and hotels resemble enchanted fairy-tale cottages more so than typical houses and buildings.
You will find European-inspired gardens on many of the properties dotted with vibrant flowers. Carmel-by-the-Sea is near Big Sur, Pebble Beach, and Monterey so there is a plethora of things to see and do.
In Carmel-by-the-Sea, my daughter, Taylor, and I stayed at Hofsas House, a lovely hotel within walking distance of practically everything. In only four to five minutes, you can easily be in the center of town for dinner, shopping, or wine tasting.
The Hofsas House is a family business, owned by Carrie Theis, her mother, and brother. The beautiful inn has been in their family for six centuries. With excellent customer service and friendly staff, it is no wonder that it is so popular. It is pink, too, so you cannot miss it!
The pet-friendly Hofsas House’s walls are hand-painted with Bavarian murals by local artist Maxine Albro. There are 38 charming rooms with modern conveniences, including a mix of marble-topped antiques and furniture, a comfortable bed, and a functional kitchenette. Hofsas House offers free continental breakfast, Wi-Fi, and on-site parking. The open-year-round 80° pool is heated and offers views of the ocean, located only eight blocks away.
Extra touches that set Hofsas House apart from others include offering the guests binoculars for nature or beach walks, umbrellas, and Dutch doors for enjoying the weather. Our room even had a heated bathroom floor!
If you are not familiar with the geographical location of Carmel, it gets chilly here, and downright cold. Our room had a wood-burning fireplace (which we thoroughly enjoyed), a wet bar, and a small kitchenette. Best of all, a mouth-watering hunk of triple creme and cheddar cheeses with crackers was waiting for us from the Cheese Shop. A bottle of Holman Ranch’s Chardonnay wine accompanied the cheese and crackers, a perfect pairing.
Fun Fact: Hofsas House artist Maxine Albro painted murals side by side with Diego Rivera in San Francisco.
An Intro to Carmel by the Sea
A cool thing about Carmel-by-the-Sea is that they do not have physical addresses, but instead, use the streets the place is within. For example, the Hofsas House address is between 3rd and 4th Streets and San Carlos.
There are plenty of adorable stores offering Christmas knacks, gifts, souvenirs, hardware, home furnishings, jewelry, apparel, and toys downtown. A thriving art community is the star of the town and Carmel by the Sea offers dozens of galleries including Thomas Kincade, Dr. Seuss, Richard MacDonald, and Wyland.
Carmel-by-the-Sea’s scenery is so beautiful that you’ll be in love at first sight! I have never seen such a wide variety of flowers anywhere that I have traveled. I was continually taking photographs at nearly every house, inn, and local business. The trees are equally as gorgeous in this very green city.
The beach is only a few blocks away, so you can easily pick up a gourmet picnic from 5th Avenue Deli to take with you. Try the yummy Curry Chicken Salad or homemade Quiche. The 5th Avenue Deli also offers beer, wine, soups, and a well-stocked salad bar.
The Hofsas House provided our breakfast each morning, but one day we ventured out to visit Katy’s Place. Katy’s is a Carmel tradition, and a place I ate at years ago. Taylor and I arrived to find a long wait at the door, but we waited patiently for a seat at the bar.
Katy’s Place stays super busy, but the staff is efficient at handling large crowds. I could not keep from staring in amazement at the ease of which this operation runs; every dish came out looking picture-perfect. Taylor ordered the Katy’s Combo (pancakes with eggs and bacon), and I chose the Santa Fe Benedict, one of the 20 Benedicts on the menu. We both loved every bite of our meals. Heads up, Katy’s Place only takes cash.
Monterey: A Fun Side Trip
One day, Taylor and I visited Monterey’s Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name. There are dozens of cheesy touristy things to do in the area, including the Spirit of Monterey Wax Museum, Doc Wentzel’s Old Time Portraits, miniature golf, and the Monterey Mirror Maze and Lazer Challenge.
We were limited in our activities because it rained the entire time we were in Monterey, but that was a good thing for the drought-stricken vicinity. This visit to California was my first time in a place where water was such a commodity. It certainly made me aware of my usage.
Monterey is a marine sanctuary that is home to over 350 kinds of fish, 100 different plants, seals, sea otters, and turtles with beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. Kayaking, fishing, and SUP are popular. Monterey Bay is one of the world’s premier cold water scuba diving destinations.
Located near Monterey’s waterfront is a stunning monument depicting Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck immortalized at Cannery Row. He sits amid eight other figures, including a Chinese fisherman, entrepreneurs, and Ed Rickett’s, known as the “father of marine biology.”
Carmel’s Wine Offerings
Since Carmel by the Sea is part of the state’s wine country, a fun activity is to have a wine tasting. Carmel Wine Walk-by-the-Sea is a fun way by using a passport with coupons at designated locations. Each voucher is redeemable for a wine flight tasting (four pours) at any of the tasting rooms, including De Tierra Vineyards, Wrath Tasting Room, and Silvestri Vineyards.
Taylor and I only had the opportunity to visit one tasting room, Caraccioli Cellars, but we had a blast. Caraccioli’s top-tier grapes come from the Santa Lucia Highlands. The wines were all delicious, but my favorite was Rose Pinot. Our hostess was both knowledgable and attentive. Great news: passport coupons never expire, so you do not have to use them all at once.
One of California’s Most Charming Towns
Taylor and I enjoyed visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea, which feels more like an enchanted storybook village. Taylor was surprised by how quaint and woodsy the town was considering its upscale reputation.
The laid back charm of Carmel-by-the-Sea is apparent from the moment you get there. You immediately get a sense of relaxation. Clint Eastwood is no longer the mayor, but there are still dozens of reasons to drop by this picturesque part of California, maybe the most charming town in the state.