One Fine Overnight in Carmel
Where to eat, drink, play, and stay in this quaint seaside village.
A mere two-hour drive south from the East Bay, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a charming European-style village beloved for its welcoming, laid-back atmosphere. But don’t let its quaint nature fool you—Carmel is more than your average beach town. Aside from boasting one of the best beaches in the state, the city is abuzz with top-notch restaurants, world-class boutique wineries, and ample outdoor activities. And there’s never been a better time to go: This year, the town commemorates its 100-year anniversary by hosting an array of celebratory events through December.
Get on the road early for breakfast at From Scratch Restaurant, a down-home eatery that attracts locals and visitors alike. Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, the restaurant offers American breakfast classics all day, with popular menu items including biscuits and gravy, crab eggs Benedict, and corned beef hash. As the name implies, everything at From Scratch is made in house. fromscratchrestaurant.com.
Spend the rest of your morning at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, home to 350-plus species and more than a dozen hiking trails. For an easier walk, meander along the Sea Lion Point and Sand Hill trails, which border the coast and offer expansive vistas. You might spot sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks below and, if you’re lucky, an orca slicing through the waves. More ambitious hikers can start at the Cypress Grove Trail—which winds through one of the last native stands of Monterey cypress trees left in the world—and then continue to the Sea Lion Point and Sand Hill trails. www.parks.ca.gov/pointlobos.
If you worked up an appetite on your hike, head to Carmel Belle, where you can choose from an array of sandwiches, salads, and fresh-pressed juices made with locally sourced, organic ingredients. carmelbelle.com.
The 15-plus tasting rooms in downtown Carmel provide ample opportunities to experience premier California wines. Try Trio Carmel, where you can sample olive oils and vinegars from around the world alongside the wines. Next, head over to the bustling Scheid Vineyards to try award-winning Pinot Noirs and crisp, fruity Chardonnays. For a more intimate tasting experience, walk up the street to Manzoni Cellars, where welcoming staff members are more than happy to launch into detailed descriptions of each wine. Don’t miss the velvety 2014 Pinot Noir, which earned a gold medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition last year. triocarmel.com, scheidvineyards.com, manzoniwines.com.
Carmel also offers plenty of excuses for a little retail therapy. Shop for environmentally friendly household items and gifts at Eco Carmel; browse for books at the Pilgrim’s Way Community Bookstore and Secret Garden; or head to the Cottage of Sweets for locally made chocolates, fudge, and more than 50 types of licorice. facebook.com/ecocarmel, pilgrimsway.com, cottageofsweets.com.
For Italian food at its finest, head to Il Tegamino, a cozy eatery tucked away in a courtyard. Owners Giuseppe and Salvatore Panzuto offer authentic Italian comfort food based on the dishes their mother cooked when they were growing up in Naples. Choose from six types of meatballs from the meatball bar—which features traditional meat as well as seafood and vegetarian versions—or indulge in the sformato di patate, a delectable mixture of creamy potatoes, Italian salami, and cheeses topped with buttery bread crumbs. Another must-try: the paccheri al ragu napoletano, a house-made tube pasta bathed in a rich tomato sauce featuring short rib and pork rib meat, then finished with fresh basil and Parmesan. iltegamino.com.
Grab a nightcap at Brophy’s Tavern, an Irish gastropub that serves strong cocktails, local wines, and craft brews. As you sip your drink, play some tunes on the vintage jukebox, or check out the sports paraphernalia and 1,000 vintage beer cans adorning the walls. thehotelcarmel.com/bites-bevs/brophystavern.
Walk around the corner to Hotel Carmel, a rustic-chic boutique hotel that recently underwent a $2.5 million renovation. You can end the evening by reading a book or playing a board game (available in the lobby) or by simply sitting next to the fire pit in the courtyard and reminiscing about your day. thehotelcarmel.com.
Head to the warm and cozy hotel lobby to enjoy a light breakfast of fresh bagels, house-made cream cheese spreads, freshly brewed coffee, and orange juice. thehotelcarmel.com.
Walk 15 minutes to Carmel Beach, a mile-long strip of white sand. Stroll along the Scenic Bluff Path that borders the beach, and take in the jagged Pacific coastline punctuated by rocky outcroppings, bright green slopes, and majestic cypress trees. Or walk down one of the eight staircases leading to the beach, kick off your shoes, and sink your toes in the sand before heading home. carmelcalifornia.com/carmel-beach.htm.