Carmel-by-the-Sea is one of our favorite romantic getaways. The charming little art town is only about a 2-hour drive from San Francisco. Carmel’s fun, laid-back atmosphere and its mild Mediterranean climate makes it a perfect place for getting away from it all and unwinding. Renowned for its beautiful white-sandy beach, quaint specialty shops and boutiques, upscale art galleries, wine-tasting rooms and over 50 restaurants, it’s no surprise that it’s one of California’s most popular destinations. And it’s also home to some of the world’s best golf courses. Be sure to take the scenic 17-Mile Drive. Its scenic coastal route hugs the rocky coastline between Carmel and Pacific Grove, offering visitors some of the best views on the planet.
What better place to celebrate a special occasion. And that’s exactly what we did for a recent anniversary. Here are a few of our tips and recommendations on Fun Things To Do during a long weekend in Carmel.
Fun Things To Do in Carmel
We arrived in Carmel late morning and it was a beautiful sunny day. We lucked out with the weather, especially as June can be unpredictable with fog along the coast. With a few hours to spare before we could check into our room, we parked our car at the B&B and walked down to the beach. It’s a short downhill walk along Ocean Avenue. Beach parking is available but we recommend you walk if you are staying in Carmel because spaces are limited, especially during peak Summer tourist season.
Bring along a deck chair or a towel to sit on, pack a picnic snack and spend a few hours sunbathing, surfing, paddle-boarding or just chilling out at the beach. Note: The Pacific Ocean is cold, so be prepared if you go swimming. We opted to take a leisurely stroll along the beach. There’s something special about feeling that soft white sand in our toes. It was a perfect start to our getaway weekend 🙂
Walk Along Scenic Road
Whenever we visit Carmel, we love walking along Scenic Road. Its pathway begins at Eighth Avenue and runs parallel to the beach and Pacific Ocean. Admire beautiful Monterey Cypress trees and gorgeous homes overlooking the beach and coastline. Note: Walking back up Ocean Avenue (from the beach) is a little steep so be prepared to get your exercise. Take it slowly and be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring along bottled water, especially if it’s a hot, sunny day. Or take 8th Avenue as an alternative route.
Lunch at Forge in the Forest
Forge in the Forest is one of our favorite go-to places for lunch, dinner or drinks. A lovely outdoor garden courtyard offers diners a tranquil setting nestled among a 100-yr-old oak tree, pine trees, heaters and stone fireplaces. Refreshing ice teas cooled us off after our trek from the beach. We ordered a light lunch of Crab Cakes, served with coleslaw and a lemon-garlic aioli and a big Charbroiled Fresh Artichoke marinated with balsamic glaze and Dijon mustard dip. It was a great way to start our Carmel dining adventure. Note: The pet-friendly restaurant even offers a Canine Cuisine menu just for dogs!
The historic Forge in the Forest Restaurant and Bar (also known as The Forge) is housed in the building that was once the workshop of a village blacksmith. Inside the Saloon bar you can see the original tools (pictured below) and early photographs of artist and master blacksmith, Francis Whitaker. Renowned writer John Steinbeck frequented the bar back in the day and it’s reported that his novel Grapes of Wrath was inspired there.
More Info on Forge in the Forest
Forge in the Forest is located on Junipero, between 5th & 6th. 831-624-2233
Lobos Lodge B&B on Ocean Avenue
Lobos Lodge is conveniently located on Ocean Avenue, just a short walk from the shops, restaurants and the beach. Check-in is at 4pm. Our room (#18) was on the 3rd upper level floor. The spacious room features a King bed, fireplace, private patio with partial ocean view, flat-screen TV, free wireless internet, couch, comfy chair, big bathroom (loved the shower!), table and chairs, mini fridge, hairdryer, standing fan, and in-room coffee-maker. Complimentary Continental Breakfast (fruit juice, yogurt, fresh baked pastry) is delivered to your door daily. Complimentary afternoon cookies (packets of 3): chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and macadamia nut/white chocolate) are available every day at the front desk – they’re soooo yummy! Free coffee and a selection of teas are also available at the front desk.
Note: Our room was very nice and we’d definitely stay there again, except for one caveat. Because of it’s location on the 3rd floor, heat rises, especially during hot, sunny days – and there is no air-conditioning. However, a standing fan is provided and we had it on most of the time, including all night. Also, there are quite a few steps leading up to the room so if you have mobility issues, you may want to get a room on the mid-tier or lower level. Guest parking is available. We parked on arrival and didn’t use our car again until we left to drive home. Overall, we’d definitely recommend Lobos Lodge, but we’d probably request a mid-lower level floor if temps are above 70 degrees.
More Info on Lobos Lodge
Lobos Lodge is located on Ocean Avenue & Monte Verde. 831-624-3874
Drinks at Mulligan Public House
We stopped by Mulligan’s for a pre-dinner drink to watch one of the NBA playoff games between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics. The lively pub has a festive atmosphere and the bar area is lined with large flat-screen TVs. It’s a fun place to enjoy a pint of Guinness and watch your favorite sports teams.
More Info on Mulligan Public House
Mulligan Public House is located on Dolores St, between Ocean & 7th. 831-250-5910
Dinner at Little Napoli
Opened in 1990, it’s one of Carmel’s oldest restaurants. The iconic restaurant offers authentic Italian cuisine, featuring Chef Pepe’s signature family recipes. During this visit, we dined in the restaurant’s Sinatra Room, located just off the main dining room. It overlooks the scenic outdoor courtyard, which is pet-friendly by the way. The cozy room is filled with photos and pictures of Frank Sinatra and Italian memorabilia. And Italian music playing in the background adds to the ambience.
We started our meal with an appetizer of Pepes Famous Garlic Bread (a 100-yr-old family recipe). We both love anything with garlic! It was the perfect accompaniment to their classic Spaghetti and Homemade Meatballs. And Little Napoli’s Margherita Pizza with fresh basil and mozzarella was light and flavorful. We even had a few pieces leftover that we took back to our room for a late night snack… glad we had our mini fridge! A fabulous dessert rounded off what was yet another great meal at one of our favorite Carmel restaurants.
Bar Napoli is located next door to the restaurant. It’s a fun place to stop by for Happy Hour.
More Info on Little Napoli and Bar Napoli
Little Napoli and Bar Napoli are located on Dolores, between Ocean & 7th 831-626-6335
Katy’s Place for Brunch
Over 15 Varieties of Eggs Benedict!
As it was another beautiful day, we opted to sit outside on their patio deck overlooking Mission Street. Wait until you see their amazing selection of Eggs Benedict – over 15 variations! As we were celebrating a special occasion, we decided to splurge and ordered the Lobster Benedict. It’s served with three poached eggs atop an English muffin, smothered in a homemade Hollandaise sauce, topped with big chunks of lobster, and homemade country potatoes. In a word… scrumptious!
And with the heavenly smell of bacon wafting out of the kitchen, we couldn’t resist an order on the side. The bacon arrived crispy and delicious – a perfect complement to the Lobster Benedict.
Other popular menu options include a selection of homemade Buttermilk Pancakes, Omelettes, Waffles, and French Toast.
Katy’s Place is open for breakfast (served all day) and lunch. Cash only. No personal checks.
More Info on Katy’s Place
Katy’s Place is located on Mission between 5th & 6th. 831-624-0199
Shops and Galleries along Ocean Avenue
Carmel is a shopper’s paradise. Spend a leisurely afternoon browsing the shops along busy Ocean Avenue, the main road in Carmel. It’s lined with quaint specialty shops, jewelry stores, art galleries, and restaurants. One of the things we love about Ocean Avenue and its charming little side streets is that it’s remained relatively the same over the years, untouched by fast food restaurants and coffee shops (like McDonalds or Starbucks). Here are a few of our favorite shops and galleries along Ocean Avenue:
- Cottage of Sweets – this tiny traditional candy shop (sweets to Brits) is popular with visitors and locals alike. I always feel a little homesick when I see all of the British chocolates and sweets on display. The shop offers a selection of homemade fudge and chocolates, imported licorice and assorted candies. We splurged on a big square of Maple Walnut Fudge to-go. Soooo good! 🙂 Cottage of Sweets is located on Ocean Avenue, between Monte Verde & Lincoln St.
- Carmel Bakery & Coffee House – don’t be surprised if you see a line out the door; it’s very popular. The family-run bakery is one of Carmel’s oldest running businesses. Enjoy a selection of delicious pastries (incredible bear claws, apple turnovers and buttery croissants), cannolis, giant pretzels, coffees, ice cream, and frozen yogurt.
- Carmel Classics – shop for a variety of fun Carmel and California t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, baseball caps, jewelry and gifts. The shop is located on the NE corner of Ocean Avenue & Dolores St.
- Galerie Rue Toulouse – stunning colorful French artwork featured on black walls – a dramatic backdrop! The gallery is located on Ocean Avenue, between Dolores and San Carlos St.
- Thomas Kinkade Studio in the Garden – look for the sign over the little alleyway on Ocean (between Lincoln and Dolores St) that leads to the art gallery. Thomas Kinkade Studio in the Garden is the first art gallery that Thomas Kinkade opened to the public in 1992.
Dinner at Dametra Cafe
This delightful little Greek/Mediterranean restaurant is co-owned by two best friends – Bashar Sneeh from Damascus and Faisal Nimri from Petra. The restaurant is named after both of their homelands; hence the name “Dametra.” It’s extremely popular with the locals and now we know why. It’s such a FUN restaurant and a great dining experience. Their food is incredible and they offer an excellent selection of fine wines. Add to that its festive atmosphere and friendly attentive service, it’s easy to see why Dametra is packed for lunch and dinner every night. Luckily we made reservations well in advance for a Friday night so we didn’t have to wait for a table. Just after we were seated, the restaurant came alive with a musical performance that added to the magic of the evening. There was singing, guitar-playing, Egyptian doumbek drums, dancing in between tables, and everyone clapping to the music. We felt like we were back in the Greek Islands on our honeymoon!
Both of our entrees were divine. I enjoyed a tender fall-off-the-bone Greek-style Lamb Shank, atop potato a gratin and fresh veggies (perfectly cooked carrots and green beans). Barry ordered the Fisherman’s Cioppino, a house specialty. It was loaded with clams, mussels, salmon, prawns, and snapper, in a tasty tomato herb wine fish broth. Garlic ciabatta bread was served on the side – perfect for dipping in the sauce. Following our meal, a surprise complimentary dessert appeared before us – a sweet and delicious Baklava (thin layers of phyllo dough, piled with chopped walnuts and pistachios, syrup and honey). All in all, an amazing anniversary meal. We can’t wait to go back again!
More Info on Dametra Cafe
Dametra Cafe is located on Ocean Ave, between Dolores & Lincoln St. 831-622-7766
Irish Coffees at Hog’s Breath Inn
Our last day in Carmel we fancied an Irish Coffee, so we headed over to the Hog’s Breath Inn. We sat outside on the cozy patio in front of the brick fireplace and toasted to a fantastic weekend. The coffees were good, but pricey!
The famous restaurant, patio and bar was originally owned by ex-Mayor and actor Clint Eastwood. He sold it to a good family friend in 1999. Today, Hog’s Breath Inn is a popular place to go at night for before or after dinner drinks and sit outside among the trees.
More Info on Hog’s Breath Inn
Hog’s Breath Inn is located on San Carlos, between 5th & 6th. 831-625-1044
Lunch at Village Corner
Village Corner, Carmel’s popular California bistro, provides casual indoor and outdoor dining. We opted to sit outside near the open fire pit. It’s also a fun place for people-watching.
The bistro offers a varied menu selection for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For lunch, we satisfied our hamburger craving, along with a healthy Carmel Valley Green Salad. Their juicy Village Burger comes with all the toppings and roasted garlic aioli, served on a brioche bun with crispy French Fries.
Feeling full and satisfied, we were ready for an afternoon of exploring more of Carmel’s little shops and art galleries.
More Info on Village Corner
Village Corner is located on Dolores & 6th Ave. 831-624-3588
More Fun Places to Visit in Carmel
We love walking around Carmel and discovering all the little gems tucked inside its little side streets, alleyways and courtyards. Here are a few of our favorite galleries and fun places to check out:
- Dawson Cole Fine Art Gallery – features some of the most amazing sculptures we’ve ever seen. Dawson Cole Fine Art specializes in Contemporary and Modern sculpture, drawings, prints, and unique works on paper by American and European Masters. The spacious gallery is located on the corner of Lincoln & 6th. It’s well worth a visit, as you can see from the beautiful sculptures above!
- The Cheese Shop in Carmel Plaza – a Carmel staple for over 45 years. We both love cheese and always stop by for a visit and a taste. They offer a huge selection of domestic and imported cheeses, as well as crackers, cookies, jams, chocolates, meats, mustards, vinegars, olive oil, caviar, gourmet foods, and fine wines. We bought a tasty aged Cheddar and an Artikaas 5-year Gouda to take home with us (neither one needs to be refrigerated). The Cheese Shop is a great place to buy a special gift. It’s located on the lower level of Carmel Plaza, on the corner of Ocean and Junipero St.
- Jan de Luz – a charming little shop, filled with bath and bedroom accessories, customized embroidered linens, and unique speciality gifts. Their new location is on Dolores Street & 6th Ave.
- Pilgrim’s Way Books & The Secret Garden – look for the Secret Garden sign above the narrow alleyway, lined with tall bamboo and plants (on Dolores, between 5th & 6th). The bookstore is filled with books, jewelry and crystals. We fell in love with the Secret Garden, a hidden oasis featuring a Zen setting filled with buddhas and plants. The garden offers a wonderful selection of wind chimes and assorted local-made gifts. We sat on their little bench (pictured below) and did a short 60-second meditation – it was magical!
Dinner at The Tree House Cafe
If it’s a nice evening, we recommend you reserve a table upstairs on the outdoor patio deck. It’s an enchanting atmosphere to sit among the flowering trees and little twinkle lights, especially at night. The deck has umbrella tables to shade you from the sun and heat lamps to keep you warm on chilly nights. If you’d rather sit inside, there’s a cozy indoor dining room on the ground floor.
Menu options offer a variety of Asian, Greek and Mediterranean food. They also have a wonderful selection of fine wines. If you like curries, try their Yellow Thai Curry (salmon in yellow curry and coconut milk, with carrots, potato, and onions, served with streamed rice). It’s offered either mild or spicy. I opted for the mild and it had quite a kick to it. So if you like it medium spicy, mild is the way to go. Lamb Kebabs (2 skewers of New Zealand lamb), served with saffron rice and a Greek salad is also excellent. It was a perfect last dinner of our getaway weekend.
More Info on The Tree House Cafe
The Tree House Cafe is located on San Carlos, between 7th & 8th. 831-626-1111
Popular Carmel Restaurants
Carmel has so many fantastic restaurants. Here are a few of the most popular ones in the area.
Dining Tip: Yelp is one of our favorite apps to get the latest info on restaurants, menus and reviews. Be sure to book well in advance for weekend dinner reservations, especially during peak tourist season.
- Alvarado Street Brewery & Bistro
- Anton & Michel
- Bistro Giovanni
- Brophy’s Tavern
- Flaherty’s Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar
- Flying Fish Grill
- Hanagasa Japanese
- Il Fornaio
- Il Tegamino
- La Balena
- La Bicyclette Restaurant
- Pangaea Grill
- Seventh & Dolores Restaurant
- The Pocket
- Vesuvio & Starlight Rooftop Terrace Lounge
Happy Travels and Bon Appetit!
We hope this article (with our pictures and videos) gets you in the mood for planning a romantic Carmel getaway. It’s a truly magical place. If you feel like sharing, we’d love to hear about your favorite things to do and places to eat in Carmel. Have Fun!