Carmel-by-the-Sea: 100 Years in the Making
Carmel-by-the-Sea is located south of San Francisco and in the Monterey Peninsula. It is a California city of European charms that 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 certain 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 anniversary.
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 in close proximity to Big Sur, Pebble Beach, and Monterey so there is a plethora of things to see and do.
Where We Stayed
During my travels to Carmel-by-the-Sea, my daughter, Taylor, and I stayed at Hofsas House, a lovely hotel within walking distance of downtown. 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, now owned by Carrie Theis, her mother, and brother passed down from her grandmother. The beautiful hotel has been in their family for six centuries. With excellent customer service and friendly personalities, it is no wonder that Hofsas House is so popular. It is pink, too, so you cannot miss it!
The Hofsas House’s walls are hand-painted with Bavarian murals by local artist Maxine Albro. It has 38 charming rooms with modern conveniences including a mix of marble-topped antiques and furniture, a super comfy bed, and 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. Hofsas House is pet-friendly, which is a big plus in my book.
Extra touches set this hotel apart such as offering the guests binoculars for nature or beach walks, umbrellas in case of rain, Dutch doors for enjoying the weather, and our room even had a heated bathroom floor!
If you are not familiar with the geographical location of Carmel, it gets chilly here, and even downright cold. In fact, during our March visit, it was 45° at night. Our Hofsas House room had a wood-burning fireplace which we thoroughly enjoyed. It also had a wet bar and small kitchen. Best yet, the staff left us a mouth-watering hunk of triple creme and cheddar cheeses plus crackers from the Cheese Shop, a chef’s mecca in Carmel-by-the-Sea for over 30 years. 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.
What is Carmel-by-theSea Like?
A neat thing about Carmel-by-the-Sea is that they do not have physical addresses but instead use the streets the place is between. For example, the Hofsas House address is between 3rd and 4th Streets and San Carlos.
In town, there are plenty of adorable stores offering Christmas knacks, gifts, souvenirs, hardware, home furnishings, jewelry, apparel, and toys. A thriving art community is the star of Carmel as they have dozens of galleries including Thomas Kincade, Dr. Seuss, Richard MacDonald, and Wyland.
Carmel-by-the-Sea’s scenery is so beautiful that you will be amazed! 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 frame of trees is equally as gorgeous in this very green city. The beach is only a few blocks away so you can easily visit a deli (such as the 5th Avenue Deli) and pick up your gourmet picnic lunch to take over to the beach and enjoy. Try the fantastic Curry Chicken Salad or their homemade Quiche. 5th Avenue Deli also offers beer, wine, soup, and a well-stocked salad bar.
A Fabulous Breakfast
Breakfast was provided by the Hofsas House each morning, but one day, Tayor and I wanted to visit Katy’s Place. It is a Carmel tradition, and a place I ate at years ago and still had fond memories of it. We arrived to find a long wait at the door, but we patiently waited 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 grace in which this operation runs; every item came out looking picture perfect. Taylor had 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. Katy’s is open for breakfast and lunch daily 7 AM to 2 PM. Heads up, the restaurant only takes cash.
A Fun Side Trip
One day, Taylor and I explored Monterey, including 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 activity because it rained steadily the entire time we were there, but that was a good thing in this drought-stricken vicinity. This was my first time in a place where water was such a commodity, and 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 other water activities are popular. Monterey Bay is also one of the world’s premier cold water scuba diving destinations.
Located near Monterey’s waterfront is the stunning monument, dedicated in February 2014. The memorial depicts Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck immortalized at Cannery Row with eight other figures including a Chinese fisherman, four entrepreneurs, and Ed Rickett’s, known as the “father of marine biology.” The tiny plants around the monument are so pretty and ones that I had never seen before.
Carmel-by-the-Sea’s Upscale Eateries
For dinner, Taylor and I ate at The Grill on Ocean Avenue, a restaurant of globally influenced California cuisine. Upon arrival, we opted for a Mango Margarita and Peach Bellini. The Grill on Ocean Avenue’s Bibb Lettuce and Gorgonzola Salad is outrageously good (it even has currants and sweet pecans) and the service is remarkable. I liked the tasteful decor which was artsy and sophisticated, but not a bit overdone. **as of January 2019, this restaurant has changed hands and is known as something else.
Carmel’s Wine Offerings
Since this is part of California’s wine country, a fun activity you can do at your leisure is the Carmel Wine Walk-by-the-Sea. To begin, purchase a wine-tasting passport that consists of a tiny plastic case with nine coupons inside as well as a map of the participating locations. Each voucher is redeemable for a wine flight tasting (four pours) at any of the fourteen tasting rooms, including De Tierra Vineyards, Wrath Tasting Room, and Silvestri Vineyards.
Taylor and I only had the opportunity to tour 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 wonderful, my favorite being the Rose Pinot. Our hostess was knowledgable and attentive. We both loved the look and ambiance of Caraccioli Cellars, very old meets minimalist. Great news, the passport coupons never expire, so you do not have to use them all at once. The plastic case design is super smart; we were impressed.
Another Epic Visit to Carmel-by-the-Sea
Taylor and I loved our visit to Carmel-by-the-Sea, complete with its enchanted village storybook feel. I learned so many new facts about this cool community as well as sampled delicious eats and wine. 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 reach the town. You immediate sense a relaxing feel. No, Clint Eastwood is no longer the mayor, but there are still dozens of reasons to drop by this beautiful part of California.