Carmel is a charming quaint town located on the central coast of California off of famous highway 1 just south of Monterey. Known for its cozy inns, boutique shopping experience, antique stores and many art galleries, Carmel has become one of the most visited destinations in all of California. With the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop, the town begins at the beach and ascends up a hill. In a perfect grid fashion, the town is laced with streets and drives along with thousands of trees giving the town a very cozy and quaint feel. The town has a central district called the village where Ocean Avenue runs its length. Radiating out from Ocean Ave are little drives where multi million dollar homes that range in size from small cottages to bigger estates with views of the ocean are located.
he Character of Carmel By the Sea
Ocean Ave is the main artery that runs east/west through Carmel from highway one all the way down to the beach and Pacific Ocean. For those accustomed to the general Spanish-mission stucco type style of other California buildings, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the ambiance the entire town gives of being something out of early 1900s New England/Europe. The store fronts all have a whimsical way about them that give way to an architectural style found in Fantasy Land at Disneyland-small doorway entrances, irregular shaped roofs that are either coned or rectangular in nature-often with bright green moss growing on the wooden tiles. Many of the store fronts hang signs that are oriented perpendicular to the side of the building in the identical way the names of pubs and hotels are presented in England. In front of these commercial areas of business are bustling red brick stone sidewalks, that at times are rather un even with a few having the spill out from an occasional café where room is scarce on the walk between the curb and the front door for out door tables. Looming over this central district of Carmel and placed throughout the town are tall Pine trees and Oak trees that hang over the town giving an almost permanent shadow and cozy feeling. During the summer time a thick heavy fog rolls into this region giving the area an even “colder” feel even though temps rarely dip below 50. With this unique architecture and sidewalks, combined with the effect from the trees, many visitors feel they are in Med Evil England.
Ocean Ave is the main street that runs through the commercial district of Carmel. The times of shops that can be found along Ocean are antiques, clothing, bakeries, art galleries, restaurants and pubs. The shopping opportunities of Carmel are abundant as the vast majority of stores carry unique items not found anywhere else. Even though Carmel is a heavy tourist draw, its shopping is not cheap, honky tonk or a rip off of any kind. From toys, to glass wares to clothing there is something special to be found on every corner. Many of the shops in Carmel have been run by generations of families while others sport familiar names in fashion such as Coach and Boggeta Verta. Although Ocean is the main route through town, many of the stores are situated on the many cross streets as well, such as San Carlos and Monte Verde Streets. Just like Europe where many little walks lead off the main sidewalk into grand courtyards, Carmel also offers the same experience. Drift off one of these walks on Ocean and you’ll find additional shopping and dining opportunities not seen from the main street.
Staying in Carmel-The Inns of Carmel By The Sea
One of Carmel’s biggest claims to fame is its culture of Inns. Peppered throughout the side streets that run off of Ocean and blending in with the natural forest of trees, these Inns also take on architecture that is of 16-18th century Europe. Each Inn is painted somewhat different from the others, ranging from light greys and browns to bright yellows, whites, blues and pinks. The rooms at a lot of these inns open up to the outside and often feature fire places and Jacuzzis. The rates to a room in one of these Inns range from $100 to $200. Most of these Inns are located just off Ocean on either San Carlos or Monte Verde and are often less than a 5 to 10 minute walk to Ocean. Many of the Inns, like the shops on Ocean have been under consistent family ownership for years, while other corporate chain type companies (Best Western, Clarion and Comfort Inn) have taken ownership or built their own inn type accommodation under their brand name. Travelers who have frequented Carmel often prefer the more independent Inns however some have voiced an opinion that they independents are no different from the chain except chains are usually cheaper. Like the store fronts along Ocean, each end has a special sign, sometimes shield that hangs out front perpendicular to the hotel. Many of these inns cater to couples and offer “Romance Packages” where one can add an additional fee to the room for chocolate and champagne.
Celebrities and Carmel
Carmel maintains a reputation as being the main destination for celebrities visiting Monterey Bay. With its location on the south border of Pebble Beach, Carmel over the years has seen its share of Hollywood talent passing through either for a quick stay or as a long term resident. Clint Eastwood was the Mayor of Carmel from 1986 to 1988 and is home to dozens of novelists.