What Things to See in Carmel
Tour and Travel

What Things to See in Carmel?

Nestled on the Monterey Peninsula along the rugged Pacific coastline, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a charming village brimming with art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and natural beauty. Carmel has so much to offer visitors, from white sand beaches to quaint cottages. Here are 50 exciting things to see in carmel.

Sightseeing & Landmarks

Sightseeing & Landmarks

1. Carmel Mission

Founded in 1771, the iconic Carmel Mission is considered one of California’s most beautiful Spanish Colonial buildings. Marvel at the striking Romanesque facade and stroll through the tranquil courtyard filled with flowers and fountains. Don’t miss the museum displaying artifacts from Mission Times.

2. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

With its rocky coves, pine forests, and abundant wildlife, Point Lobos is often called the “crown jewel” of the California park system. Hike scenic trails along the dramatic headlands, watch harbor seals play in the protected waters, go whale watching, or enjoy the breathtaking natural scenery.

3. Tor House and Hawk Tower

Take a docent-guided tour of the unusual home and nearby tower hand-built from local stone and driftwood by 20th-century poet Robinson Jeffers. The structures blend into the surrounding landscape, offering panoramic vistas of the rugged Big Sur coastline.

4. 17-Mile Drive

Cruise along this world-famous scenic drive following the Pacific coastline. See remarkable sights like the Lone Cypress tree perched over the waves, pullouts overlooking the picturesque Pebble Beach golf course, and exclusive estates tucked into forested hillsides.

5. Carmel Beach

Stroll, jog, or relax on this idyllic, squeaky white sand beach stretch. Let the kids play in the shallow, calm waters near shore as you take spectacular views of Point Lobos. Bring your camera for the perfect sunset photo op.

6. Ocean Avenue

The main drag running through town is lined with art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and cafes housed in storybook cottages with flower-covered patios. Duck into courtyards and alleys to discover hidden nooks and crannies full of charm.

7. Carmel River State Beach

Walk along the boardwalk edging the wetlands and dunes, then head down to the often deserted Beach. Explore the trails meandering through the surrounding lagoon habitat, home to many species of birds and wildlife.

8. Carpenter Street

Stroll or drive down this photogenic residential street showcasing fairy tale-style storybook homes with quaint names like Hansel, Sea Urchin, and Mushroom House. See if you can spot the ultra-slim “Invisible House.”

9. Harrison Memorial Library

This Tudor-style building in the heart of downtown has a charming courtyard garden, and the second-floor reading room offers stunning ocean views through a wall of windows. Browse the collection focused on local history and art.

10. Devendorf Park

Relax on a bench under shady trees in this peaceful park at the north end of Ocean Avenue. Bring the kids to play in the jungle gym and splash in the fountain.

Why is Carmel so popular

Activities & Recreation

11. Walk Along the Scenic Bluff Path

Starting near Devendorf Park, this paved public pathway winds along the bluff tops, offering nonstop postcard-worthy coastline panoramas. Spot everything from frolicking otters to migrating whales, depending on the season.

12. Go Wine Tasting in Carmel Valley

Just a short drive inland, Carmel Valley has numerous wineries offering tastings and tours. Sip local Chardonnay and Pinot Noir while soaking up the charming countryside views dotted with vineyards and olive groves.

13. Play a Round at Pebble Beach Golf Links

Ranked as one of the world’s best courses, playing 18 holes at the iconic Pebble Beach is a bucket list experience for serious golfers. Pebble Beach is a paradise for golf enthusiasts with its clifftop views and breathtaking coastal scenery.

14. Hike Point Lobos Trails

With over 10 miles of trails, Point Lobos has options ranging from easy to strenuous. Don’t miss the routes to Whaler’s Cove, Cypress Grove, and Sea Lion Point for some of the reserve’s most magnificent scenery.

15. Go Horseback Riding

Take a guided beachfront horseback tour along the sand and through the waves for a fun way to experience the coastline. Some stables also offer tours inland through redwood forests and mountain trails with panoramic valley views.

16. Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium

See mesmerizing jellyfish exhibits, get close to playful sea otters, and walk through a three-story kelp forest filled with sea life at this world-class aquarium less than 10 miles from Carmel.

17. Enjoy a Forest Bathing Walk

Take a meditative walk under the redwoods, absorbing nature’s tranquil sights, smells, and sounds. Guided forest therapy walks to reduce stress are offered in Garland Ranch Regional Park just outside town.

18. Go Kayaking

Paddle along the coastline for an up-close view of the aquamarine waters, craggy coves, and sea caves. Whale watching and sunset tours are also available. Rentals and guided trips launch from multiple spots along the coast.

19. Take a Surfing Lesson

With its mellow waves, Carmel Beach is the perfect spot for beginner surf lessons. By your 2-hour small group class ends, you’ll stand on the board catching waves.

20. Mountain Bike Garland Ranch

Pedal along dirt trails through redwood groves, oak woodlands, and chaparral-covered slopes. Rent bikes right outside the park, or bring your own. Trails range from gentle to advanced.

21. Visit the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Scuba dive or snorkel in this federally protected marine area teeming with sea life. Boat tours allow you to explore unique habitats like the lush kelp forests offshore.

22. Go whale watching

Numerous companies offer whale-watching boat excursions into the Monterey Bay. Gray whales pass from December to April, while humpbacks and blue whales visit spring through fall. Seeing these majestic marine mammals is unforgettable.

23. Fly a Kite at Carmel Beach

The consistent winds coming off Point Lobos make Carmel Beach an ideal spot for kite flying. Bring your own or pick one up in town. Watch your kite soar and dip along the shore with the picturesque village as a backdrop.

24. Play Disc Golf at DeLaveaga Park

This scenic wooded park about 20 minutes from Carmel has an acclaimed disc golf course with varying elevations and two canyon crossings over meandering creeks. Please bring your discs or rent them at the course.

25. Go Stand Up Paddleboarding

Paddle through calm coastal waters while viewing the shoreline and Point Lobos. Lessons and rentals are available for all experience levels at local outfitters like Adventures by the Sea.

Arts & Culture

26. Browse Art Galleries

With over 80 galleries, Carmel has the highest concentration of art galleries in the U.S. Explore a variety of mediums, from painting to sculpture to photography. Don’t miss mesmerizing glasswork by local artisan Simon Bull.

27. Visit the Tor House Foundation

See the starkly beautiful home studio where poet Robinson Jeffers wrote his acclaimed verses in the 1920s and 30s. Photography and art exhibitions provide insight into his creative process and ties to the dramatic Big Sur coast.

28. Watch a Show at Sunset Center

This state-of-the-art performing arts venue hosts concerts, theater, dance performances, and comedy shows in a striking Spanish mission-style building. Their outdoor Forest Theater set amidst redwoods is also a treat in summer.

29. Experience Magic at Bruce Ariss Wharf Theater

Magician Bruce Ariss performs dazzling up-close magic tricks incorporating humor and audience participation in an intimate 90-seat theater in a historic harbor. His shows have wowed locals and visitors for over 40 years.

30. See the Lone Cypress Tree

Perhaps the most photographed tree in North America, the iconic 250-year-old Monterey Cypress clings to granite cliffs along 17-Mile Drive. Seeing it in person, silhouetted against the Pacific, is an unforgettable travel moment.

31. Visit Harrison Memorial Library

In addition to the lovely Tudor building and reading room with ocean views, the library hosts art exhibits, author events, craft fairs, lectures, and other cultural happenings. Browse their well-curated collection of books on local history and art.

32. Explore Colton Hall Museum

Housed in Monterey’s original 1840s adobe government building, this free museum illuminates the history and culture of the Monterey Bay region through fascinating exhibits and artifacts. Don’t miss the courtyard filled with native plants.

33. See a Show at the Golden Bough Theater

Housed in the historic Golden Bough Playhouse built in 1924, this respected repertory theater company produces year-round high-quality dramas, comedies, and musicals.

34. Browse the Music in the Air Sculpture Courtyard

Part of Sunset Center, this courtyard contains a collection of whimsical bronze sculptures inspired by different genres of music, from classical to rock and roll. It’s a fun spot for photos. Live music is often performed in the space as well.

35. Visit Cannery Row

Once home to sardine canneries immortalized in John Steinbeck’s novel, today, Cannery Row offers shops, restaurants, wine-tasting rooms, and marine-themed attractions like the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Grab a bite to eat on the waterfront.

Shopping & Dining

36. Stroll Ocean Avenue Boutiques

Ocean Avenue is lined with classy clothing, jewelry, home decor, and gift boutiques housed in charming historic buildings. High-end but laidback, Carmel shopping offers everything from designer fashions to doggie couture.

37. Experience the Carmel Farmers Market

Running Tuesday afternoons at Sunset Center, this is the place to sample just-picked local produce, artisanal foods, baked goods, flowers, and crafts. Enjoy live music as you shop at the festive open-air market.

38. Try Carmel’s Famous Fairy Tale Cottages

The European-style Hansel and Gretel cottages serve freshly baked storybook treats like gingerbread, strudels, macarons, and hot chocolate. Browse their specialty food shop filled with candy, spices, oils, and more.

39. Go Wine Tasting on Ocean Avenue

Stroll between tasting rooms in the village center, sampling Monterey County wines. From lively wine bars like De Tierra to sophisticated rooms like Blair Estate’s underground cellar, various sophisticated sip spots await.

40. Enjoy a Picnic at the Beach

Pick up gourmet sandwiches, cheeses, fresh fruit, and other picnic provisions from local cafes and grocers like Nielsen Bros. Market or Bruno’s Market and Deli. Dig your toes in the sand as you dine oceanside.

41. Splurge on a Meal at Aubergine

Set in an elegant cottage, Aubergine earns rave reviews for its seasonally inspired prix fixe menus, and an extensive wine list focused on small family wineries. With just 34 seats, reservations are essential at this intimate fine-dining gem.

42. Browse the Wine Cellar Tasting Room

Part wine shop, part hip tasting venue, the Wine Cellar stocks over 2,000 wines. Try before you buy by the glass, or enjoy a full sit-down tasting paired with artisanal cheeses and charcuterie.

43. Indulge in Craft Beer on Tap

The rustic Tap Room at Seventh & Dolores and farmhouse-chic Albatross Ridge tasting room downtown serve a stellar selection of craft and cask beers in relaxing spaces with plenty of outdoor seating.

44. Try Authentic Gelato

Lula’s Chocolates sources ingredients from Italy to create intensely flavorful gelato and sorbetto. Their sea salt caramel is legendary. Grab a cup and stroll, or sit outside under string lights. Cash only.

45. Eat at a Restaurant with Ocean Views

For ambiance, you can’t beat restaurants like The Terrace at Spanish Bay or California Market at Pacific’s Edge, with expansive floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Pacific. Watch the waves and sunsets while you dine.

46. Get House-Roasted Coffee at Carmel Coffee House

This cozy cafe has been locally owned for over 20 years. In addition to smooth lattes and espresso drinks made from their personally roasted beans, they offer breakfast sandwiches and bagels.

47. Try Authentic Italian Pastries at Poppy Hall

This little bakery on a side street uses family recipes to turn out delicious traditional Italian treats like cannoli, tagliatelle, and bomboloni donuts. The pistachio cake is a local favorite.

48. Enjoy Live Music at Barmel

Pull up a chair in the charming courtyard strung with twinkle lights to hear anything from jazz groups to solo guitarists perform. Their globally inspired tapas menu pairs nicely with local wines and craft cocktails.

49. Experience Mediterranean Cuisine at Basil

For fresh Mediterranean flavors, longtime favorite Basil uses seasonal ingredients in creations like wood-fired pizzas, kebabs over tabbouleh, and Spanish tapas. Their lively patio captures Carmel’s relaxed vibe.

50. Grab Acai Bowls and Smoothies from Lumaé Juice Bar

Choose from ready-made acai bowls with granola and fruit, or customize your superfood smoothie bowl at this tiny cafe. A healthy, energizing breakfast or snack.

FAQ About Visiting Carmel

What is the best time of year to visit Carmel?

Fall and spring tend to be ideal with mild weather and smaller crowds. September-October and April-May offer sunnier days and more moderate temperatures. Summer is busier with foggy mornings but excellent for beachgoing.

Where should I stay in Carmel?

Downtown near Ocean Avenue offers the most charm and walkability. Alternately, lodging options on Carmel Beach or along Scenic Drive blend comfort with easy access to the shoreline.

How do I get to Carmel from San Francisco?

The drive from San Francisco to Carmel takes about 3 hours. Take Highway 101 South to Highway 156 West at Prunedale. Follow 156 W to 1 South into Carmel. You can also take scenic Highway 1 along the coast.

Is Carmel dog-friendly?

Extremely! Carmel is known for being very dog-friendly. Most restaurants have outdoor patios allowing dogs, and leashed dogs are permitted on Carmel Beach and downtown. Many hotels and shops welcome dogs as well.

How much time do I need in Carmel?

2-3 days allow enough time to see top sights like Point Lobos, browse downtown, relax on the Beach, hike scenic trails, and enjoy memorable meals. With day trips factored in, plan 4-5 days to make the most of the area.


With its storybook charm, artsy vibe, breathtaking natural scenery, and abundant activities, Carmel offers the quintessential California coastal getaway. From beachgoing and hiking to shopping and dining, there are many beautiful ways to experience this seaside village’s laidback appeal and picturesque setting.

Explore the enchanting allure of Historic Gates Around the World, and whether planning a quick weekend escape or a more extended stay, use this list to help craft an unforgettable itinerary showcasing the top sights, flavors, and experiences these captivating entrances offer in each delightful destination.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *