Located by the idyllic Pacific ocean, it’s one of the most romantic getaways on the coast. There are many things to do in Carmel, California whether it’s inside or outdoors. Carmel or Carmel-by-the-Sea as the downtown in its full name is called, is the perfect year-round destination. It never seems to get absolutely cold and when it does chill up, there are plenty escapes inside.
Set between Monterey and Big Sur, Carmel makes as one of the best home bases to explore this part of California. There is a lot going on in the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea so you can easily spend a day exploring there. Some of the best gems lie just outside of the city — like Carmel Valley, state parks, and more. After visiting multiple times for work this past year from San Francisco, I wanted to compile what has been my favorite things to do in Carmel.
Ready to explore? Jot down these things to do in Carmel on your next visit.
Best Things to Do in Carmel, California
Hike in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.
One of my favorite places to explore is this state park on the ocean. Filled with wildlife along the ocean, you can follow the paths in and around the coastline here.
Spend a day on Carmel Beach.
The main beach in Carmel is at the end of Ocean Avenue and it spreads along the water up until you can see Pacific Grove. The beach is perfect for a walk and when the weather is nice, you can take a dip.
Tour the art galleries.
In the heart of Carmel-by-the-Sea, there are many art galleries to explore. On every street you’ll find at least two or three, so be sure to work your way down Ocean Avenue. It’s a perfect way to spend some time on a weekend getaway.
Go wine tasting in Carmel Valley.
Who knew this part of California had such great wine? It’s some of the best and there are tasting rooms in the downtown or you can head out to the valley. One of my favorite experiences is at Folktale Winery for a stunning setting, great food, and incredible wine.
Shop the local boutiques in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
There are plenty of boutiques in downtown Carmel, so if you’re on the hunt to do some shopping, this is where to go. A lot of the hotels are also in this area, so if you’re wanting to be close, be sure to book in the center of town.
Take a picnic to Carmel River State Beach.
I love Carmel River State Beach as it’s tucked further around the corner. A lot of people don’t even know this one exists and it tends to be quieter than the other beaches since you need to drive to get here. I’d pack a lunch and come here for the day.
Drive the scenic 17 Mile Drive.
If you’re not playing golf at Pebble, you can still pay to access the iconic 17 mile drive. It’s a stunning drive along the ocean that starts in Monterey and works its way down.
Visit the Carmel Mission.
Part of California’s heritage, the Carmel Mission is one of many you can visit. This one has been restored and you can tour inside to see it. (Guided tours are available).
Go see the Bixby Bridge.
If you’re not wanting to go all the way down to Big Sur but do want to see part of the epic cliffs, drive to Bixby Bridge. It’s worth it and truly wonderful for views down the coast.
Spend a day in Big Sur.
There is so much to do in Big Sur from Mcway Falls to hiking in the start parks, you could spend a full day or two here exploring.
Head to Monterey’s Cannery Row.
Just one city up is Monterey and the Cannery Row is an iconic part of the city right on Monterey Bay. You can find confectionery shops, the aquarium, and breweries popping up here.
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