Carmel is a charming little town where all you may want to do is just wander around, saying "oh, how cute!" If you want to make sure you enjoy the best things to do in Carmel for visitors, try these:
Downtown WalkDowntown Carmel's Ocean Avenue has some great shopping and nice art galleries, but to enjoy its best points, you'll have to do a little more work. Walk down the streets that branch off the main drag and look for the little garden courtyards.
This famed drive passes through an exclusive neighborhood, past scenic beaches, golf courses and luxury hotels. If you're already in Carmel, look for the entrance to the drive from town, where the entrance gate is likely to be less busy.
Watercolor artist Francis McComas once called Point Lobos "the greatest meeting of land and water," a description most visitors would concur with. If all this small park had to offer was some great hikes and a dramatic shoreline rockscape, it would be worth a visit. Add the offshore wildlife which includes sea otters and harbor seals, and it becomes almost magical.
You'll find a couple of nice, easily accessible beaches in Carmel. Just south of town off Highway One, Carmel River State Beach
offers a nice place to watch the sunset. In town, Carmel Beach
at the end of Ocean Avenue has nice stretch of white sand that's fun for a walk, sunbathing or people watching.
One of our favorite places for Sunday brunch anywhere in California, Mission Ranch serves a tasty buffet, with a side benefit: a pastoral view of grazing sheep with the ocean in the distance. On a sunny day, their patio is the place to be. To top it all, you can listen to a great live jazz ensemble while you eat.
This is also a great place for an early evening drink before dinner. The scene is so idyllic that we're surprised the resident herd of sheep haven't earned an award for their performance.
Head for the bar at the Highlands Inn about half an hour before sunset and settle into one of the seats next to their floor-to-ceiling windows for a great view.
I visited The Forge on my first trip to California in 1985. Its outdoor fireplaces and lush landscaping seemed quintessentially California then, and it still has the same feel now. Their food is good and you can eat outside under one of their overhead heaters in all but the coldest weather. You can also just grab a seat by one of the outdoor fireplaces and toast your toes while you enjoy an after-dinner drink.
The place where Carmel began is one of California's most beautiful Spanish missions, dripping with charm.