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What to Do In Carmel-by-the-Sea

Updated on October 20, 2014

What to see and do in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Traveling alone and in Carmel? You can still have a wonderful time if you do what I did on a recent trip to Carmel-by-the Sea. Taking a group tour is always a safe bet on your first day. That way you get the lay of the land and can scope out where you really want to spend your valuable time. Join me on my self created "tour" of Carmel and decide where you want to go.

The collages shown featuring my visit to Carmel-by-the-Sea, were made using All photos are mine unless otherwise stated.

Handbook about Monterey and Carmel - you must be prepared!

I always read about my destinations before I book a trip. It is very useful to prepare for a visit to the area around Carmel and Monterey. There is just so much to see there so you have to choose wisely if your stay is limited to just a few days. Every time I visit this area of California, I visit somewhere new--yes, it is possible.

I am so very glad that I was able to tell you about the Tor House and my walking tour of Carmel-by-the-Sea on this page.

You must check out this book so you can be prepared for your California vacation.

My personal list of what to see and do in Carmel:

Yes, this is an actual list of what I did on my last trip to Carmel, California and the Monterey area. The photos are also mine. I hope this page will help you plan your trip to this part of California as there is a lot to see and do in that area of the Golden State.

  1. Take a Walk around Carmel-by-the-Sea
  2. Visit a poet's Home: The Tor House
  3. Taste Handcrafted vinegar: The Bountiful Basket
  4. Catch a race at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway (maybe Patrick Dempsey will be there!)
  5. Drive The Big Sur on Hwy 1
  6. Enjoy lunch on the beach by the Pacific Ocean

Where in the world in Carmel-by-the-sea? - In California, of course.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a little village located just south of Monterey, California. In fact, you might zip right by it on US 1 if you are not paying attention.

A markerCarmel-by-the-sea is surrounded by Carmel. -
get directions

Carmel Walks: - A 2 hour a docent led walking tour of Carmel-by-the-Sea

I will not tell you exactly what you will see on this docent led tour of Carmel-by-the-Sea because I don't want to spoil the surprises; but I will give you the information to make a reservation for this delightful experience. You will need to call the phone # on the website and leave a message. The instructions are clear on the voice message. Tours are offered every Saturday at 10 AM. and 2 PM; Tuesday thru Friday at 10 AM.. Cost is $25 and is well worth it to hear Steinbeck quoted and have your gnawing questions answered by a very knowledgeable tour guide. In case you are wondering, I did pay the fee. The tour guide did not know that I was going to write about the experience.

On this walking tour, you will be led through lovely, hidden courtyards and walkways in this sea-side town. There were 7 people present on the day I took my walk. It was such fun. Wear good walking shoes and layered clothing.

The phone # to call for your reservation is: 831-642-2700 The delightful website can be reached by clicking Carmel's #1 Walking Tour.

Gael Gallagher was our tour guide, well, more than that, really. She quoted Steinbeck, spread a little gossip, and escorted our small group to her favorite places in this village that she loves.

Carmel Walks begins in the courtyard of the Pine Inn on Lincoln

Carmel Walks begins in the courtyard of the Pine Inn on Lincoln
Carmel Walks begins in the courtyard of the Pine Inn on Lincoln

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Visit the Poetic Tor House and Hawk Tower - Make a Reservation to see this site in Carmel

The home of poet Robinson Jeffers is only open to visitors on Friday and Saturday. The cost is $10 and you should have a reservation for a docent guided tour. It is well worth finding this historical home to get a glimpse of the life that the earliest residents of this sea side town cherished. Yes, you will get to climb the tower so wear appropriate shoes and clothing.

To make a reservation, visit Tor House Tours to get the information.

Robinson Jeffers built Tor House with his own hands! - He used boulders from the Carmel beaches below the building site.

Tor House Carmel California
Tor House Carmel California

Boulders on a Carmel Beach

Poet Robinson Jeffers used boulders like these to build his "Tor House". That is Point Lobos in the background with the fog just lifting.

Family friends often brought souvenirs to use in the boulder walls and walks of Tor House in Carmel. - It is fun to see how Mr. Jeffers used these gifts to make

Robinson Jeffers could be labeled an early re-cycler! He often found objects and discards to use in his building of Tor House. The larger stepping stones are made from the slate tops of pool tables from nearby Ft. Ord. Visitors often brought Jeffers and his wife souvenirs from their own travels that he used in the walls and walkways. In one of the pictures above, you will see a black, shiny stone on the top of the wall. It is black obsidian which is not found on the beaches of Carmel. I cannot remember where the guide told us it came from, but I remember words like Pompeii and Great Wall of China.

The family English Bulldog is buried in the garden next to the house. You can read the poem Jeffers wrote by clicking here. Have a hanky ready.

More views of the garden at Tor House - Jeffers hand picked the granite stones that were used in the house and Hawk Tower.

See more of this handmade Carmel cottage:

The Tor House and Hawk Tower are featured in this beautiful book. The house on the cover was built my Mrs. Jeffers' ex-husband and is just down the road from Tor House. Hmm. There IS a story there that you can hear about on your tour of Tor House and Hawk Tower.

Cottages by the Sea, The  Handmade Homes of Carmel, America's First Artist Community
Cottages by the Sea, The Handmade Homes of Carmel, America's First Artist Community

Tor House is one of the most unique cottages I have ever seen. Totally hand made by the family who lived there.

Carmel’s Fairy Tale Cottages
Carmel’s Fairy Tale Cottages

Would it not be wonderful to live in a house that you truly love?


Taste Handcrafted Vinegar

made by Sharon Cuneo at The Bountiful Basket

I absolutely love visiting The Bountiful Basket! This shoppe used to be located in the Barnyard Shops on Hwy 1. That is were I first tasted the handcrafted vinegars that one of the owners makes in the shop. Yes, Sharon actually makes it IN the shop. When I discovered that The Bountiful Basket had moved, I sought it out after completing Carmel Walks. One of the couples on the tour followed me and bought three bottles of vinegar. My personal favorite is the OMG Pomegranate Blueberry vinegar. The bottle I purchased almost 6 years ago had just been emptied and I needed to replace it. Yes, the large bottle lasted six years--and, yes, I did use it a lot. Especially on strawberries. It was also a splendid bread dipping sauce. Be sure to visit my page to find a recipe for Fresh Strawberries that uses this balsamic vinegar.

On my last Saturday in Carmel, I returned to attend a wine tasting. The labels featured are unique to the area. The Olive Oil Tasting Bar is open every day as is the vinegar bar.

The photo of the bottle of vinegar is used by permission of Sharon Cuneo, co-owner of The Bountiful Basket located at San Carlos SW of Ocean Avenue in Carmel-by-the-sea.

Catch a race at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway - East of Monterey, California

Yes, I know, the racetrack is NOT in Carmel, but I had to make a visit.

The Laguna Seca Raceway is not very far from Carmel but it is miles away from the quiet and serenity. My husband sometimes works for ALMS as a technical inspector and I get to tag along on trips. In May 2012, Dempsey Racing debuted a new car and the crowd around Patrick Dempsey's pit and car was to be expected. I got a distant photo by holding my iPhone as high as I could and took a chance that I could capture the actor as racer. If you look closely, you will see him in the top right photo. He has his hat on backward and is wearing sunglasses. He is facing the camera. The photo below in the Polaroid frame was taken by a friend of mine.

The May day was perfect for racing. Not too hot and clear as a bell. I did not stay for the race, however. Seen one, seen them all and I have seen many. Since my own husband was not racing (he races a SPEC Racer Ford), I did not want to spend 6 hours with nothing to do but watch others go around the track. I have done that before, too. Besides, Carmel is much more pleasant and the food is better.

You Might See Patrick Dempsey Race at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway (Photo was taken in May 2012)

You Might See Patrick Dempsey Race at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway (Photo was taken in May 2012)
You Might See Patrick Dempsey Race at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway (Photo was taken in May 2012)

See the Big Sur - South of Carmel, California

Pulling off the road to take a photo along California Hwy 1 south of Carmel.
Pulling off the road to take a photo along California Hwy 1 south of Carmel.

If you have your own car or a rental, you should positively drive down Hwy 1 to the south of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Along this state highway you can turn off into state parks or quaint towns. I just pulled off the road on one of the many dirt parking areas and took photos with my iPhone. I drove for 30 minutes going south and turned around and drove back to Carmel. Well worth the time and the gas money.

Eat Lunch by the Pacific Ocean in Carmel-by-the-Sea! - It is hard not to see the ocean in California!

At the end of Ocean Avenue, one will find the Carmel-by-the-Sea city owned beach and parking lot. After touring Tor House, I bought a sandwich for $7 at the Carmel Bakery on Ocean Avenue at Lincoln. I then drove down Ocean Avenue to the Pacific and was lucky enough to find a free parking spot right by the beach. I rolled down the windows of my rental car and enjoyed my sandwich while reading a book and watching a wedding on the beach. The my images above show the Carmel Bakery, the view from my car, and the newly weds enjoying nuptial bliss in a red BMW convertible.

See my review of The Carmel Bakery at Yelp!

Useful "Carmel-by-the-Sea" links - Where I visited on-line before my trip to California.

I did a fair amount of research before I visited Carmel. The links you will find below helped me enormously when I was deciding what to do on my short stay.

  1. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.

    This website has link that will lead you to coupons for meals, hotel, tours and stores. Just look for "Exclusive Offers" on the top left side of the page. The money saving links are just below.

  2. Official Vistors Guide & Walking Map
  3. City of Carmel--Official Website
  4. Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau/Carmel-by-the-Sea

    This page has a cool map called "The Lay of The Land" that gives you a real sense of where Carmel-by-the-Sea is located on US 1.

Please sign in to let me know what you think of my visit to Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Will you seek out the places that I have written about? Need to know more about this village? I will add more to this list of things to see and do as soon as the photos are ready, so bookmark this page so you can find it again.

If I had a cottage in Carmel, I would have a Guestbook for you to sign:

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    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 3 years ago from Seattle, WA

      It's a beautiful place that regrettably I haven't visited in years. Hopefully that will soon change! Pinned

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 3 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Carmel-by-the-Sea and the whole Monterey Peninsula along the coast on Highway 1 is so gorgeous. The rugged coastline of California has always entranced me with its huge boulders and the waves dashing against them. I haven't been there since the early 1980s, but would love to visit once again.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 3 years ago from United States

      What a fascinating trip you have described! So many cool things to do and see at Carmel by the Sea. It would be fun to actually happen upon Patrick Dempsey at a race. I don't know why you didn't jump the whole crowd and grab the man for a photo opt, before you got arrested :) Some things might just be too tempting!

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Spectacular, wow I would love to visit here, gorgeous!

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 3 years ago

      @Ruthi: The $10 fee for the tour of Tor House was worth every penny. I love seeing how people live.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 3 years ago

      Carmel-by-the-Sea looks lovely and appears to have much to do and see. I would love to visit Tor House! And I might have to check out the race track too!

    • jknake lm profile image

      jknake lm 4 years ago

      What an awesome place to see. I love the originality of it , all the little paths, stairways etc.

      Maybe I'll put that on my to do list. Wonderful pictures.

    • profile image

      poutine 4 years ago

      It looks like a lovely place to visit.

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      I've visited Carmel-by-the-Sea and driven through Big Sur several times during the seven years I lived on the California Central Coast. A very lovely area indeed. I never took the tour, so thanks for sharing yours with me. :)

    • profile image

      MarcellaCarlton 5 years ago

      It's really not that far, not really. I'm in Oregon. You did say the magic word "steinbeck". Very nice lens!

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 5 years ago

      We love to go to Carmel-by-th-Sea every year and just walk around the villages and shops and of course, bakeries. The sound of the ocean waves really appeal to me. Perhaps, it is time to go again. Thanks for sharing.

    • IMKZRNU2 profile image

      IMKZRNU2 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      I love has been many years since I have been there but it is such a serene place to visit. Nice lens. Thanks for sharing!

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image

      hntrssthmpsn 5 years ago

      We live in Santa Cruz, about an hour from Carmel, and my son and I have spent many a happy afternoon there, though it's been a while. We're overdue!

    • joykennel profile image

      joykennel 5 years ago

      lovely lens--Carmel is worth visiting for sure!

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 5 years ago

      This is a very nice place, I wish I can be there one day. Thanks for sharing!

    • MariaMontgomery profile image

      MariaMontgomery 5 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      HI, Mickie! What a great lens! I love Carmel, too. It's been too long since we were there, so this little tour was great fun.

    • McBub-Squidoo profile image

      McBub-Squidoo 5 years ago

      I like the tor house.

    • profile image

      davecurrtis 5 years ago

      The place looks stunning, it's a great spot to visit.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      This looks like a little piece of paradise! Lovely!!

    • Erebos411 profile image

      Erebos411 5 years ago

      What a lovely spot! Definitely going to have to make it a destination on my next car trip.

    • Mary Crowther profile image

      Mary Crowther 5 years ago from Havre de Grace

      Beautiful place and great lens! Angel Blessed!

    • terrywoodhouse lm profile image

      terrywoodhouse lm 5 years ago

      Looks great - I think I went to Carmel when I took a road trip through the US back in 1994. A long time ago!!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 5 years ago

      I can't believe I've never toured Tor House. Next time for sure. We are long overdue for a trip to Laguna Seca. Thanks for sharing the highlights of your trip.

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 5 years ago

      @lucky izan: You can always visit this page again!

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Great information. Now I just need a plane ticket.

    • ceejaycmarshall profile image

      ceejaycmarshall 5 years ago

      Great lens, my husband loves Carmel. :)

    • randomthings lm profile image

      randomthings lm 5 years ago

      This is absolutely beautiful. Would love to visit there. Thanks for adding it to my list !

    • lucky izan profile image

      lucky izan 5 years ago

      it's a beautiful place, to bad it's to far from my place

    • bushaex profile image

      Stephen Bush 5 years ago from Ohio

      A wonderful magnet for drawing people to Carmel. I do miss California! SquidAngel blessings.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 5 years ago

      Oh! Yes! Carmel is a place I love on California coast, I will say even more then Santa Barbara which I also love.

      Thanks for the memories.

    • LadyFlashman profile image

      LadyFlashman 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      I love Carmel, I went there alone and just spent hours wandering about on the gorgeous beach. This lens is beautifully crafted - as beautiful as Carmel is!

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      We've been to Carmel and would like to go again. Maybe later this year. Thank you for publishing this helpful reminder.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 5 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      Such a beautiful place! It has been many years since I was there and your lens has made me yearn to go back.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I am now interested to check this out.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I am planning a trip there in september. Very helpful information. Photos are good!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Mickey, thank you for sharing your experiences of Camel with me. It is wonderfully written and has a lot of excellent content. We are in Colorado this summer. Please contact me if you come through.

      Karen Werner (who took the tour fwith you in Carmel!)