Weekend Guide to Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

If you followed us last weekend on Instagram, you know far too well how we are now obsessed with Carmel-by-the-Sea. We had the privilege of visiting this 1 square mile town last weekend, and we both came home declaring that this city is one of our top 3 favorite places we have ever visited. Honestly, we loved every single thing about this amazing place and can’t wait to go back! Take a look at our pics from Carmel* and then we can chat about where we ate, what we did, and general tips for anyone else planning a trip there!

*note: Everything about this place was just as gorgeous as it was charming so we took WAY too many photos throughout our short stay. #consideryourselfwarnedCarmel California Travel Guide | DIY PlaybookCarmel California Travel Guide | DIY PlaybookCarmel California Travel Guide | DIY PlaybookCarmel California Travel Guide | DIY Playbook

Carmel California Travel Guide | DIY PlaybookCarmel California Travel Guide | DIY PlaybookCarmel California Travel Guide | DIY PlaybookCarmel California Travel Guide | DIY Playbook

Carmel California Travel Guide | DIY Playbook

Carmel California Travel Guide | DIY PlaybookCarmel California Travel Guide | DIY PlaybookCarmel California Travel Guide | DIY Playbook

Carmel California Travel Guide | DIY PlaybookCarmel California Travel Guide | DIY Playbook

Carmel California Travel Guide | DIY Playbook

What We Did

Walked around town:Carmel California Travel Guide | DIY Playbook

Because the town is literally 1 square mile, everything in Carmel-by-the-Sea is within walking distance (and that includes the beach!). We took in the town by walking around and immediately fell in love with the colors, gorgeous plants, and quaint shops/homes throughout the city.

Walked the Beach:Carmel California Travel Guide | DIY Playbook

Ocean Avenue (the street that runs right down the middle of town) will lead you down to the ocean & Carmel’s gorgeous beach. This beach is known for its white sand and without even knowing that, we immediately noticed (and commented!) on how white and rock-less the sand was. Although we were not dressed for the occasion (leather jackets are not the best beach wear…), we walked the beach a few blocks north and enjoyed climbing the rocks and seeing Pebble Beach Golf Course in the distance. Because we loved these gorgeous views so much, we even got up early the next morning to come back and run south on the beach and explore even more. The views of both the ocean and the gorgeous ocean-front homes were even better than expected!

Pebble Beach:

Carmel California Travel Guide | DIY PlaybookWe took an $8 Uber ride over to check out the famous Pebble Beach property (per instructions from BOTH of our dads). We walked around the beautiful grounds and then grabbed drinks and a light dinner on the patio just off the 18th hole. This would be an AMAZING spot to watch the sunset on the ocean, but unfortunately, the sun never made its way out that day. We can’t complain though… drinks by the fire on the patio overlooking the iconic 18th hole was pretty darn amazing!

Clint Eastwood’s Mission Ranch:

Did you guys know that Clint Eastwood used to be the mayor of Carmel?! Crazy, right? Well, he owns a huge ranch about 5 minutes outside of town and it’s pretty darn adorable. We ended up going there to grab a drink on the patio of Mission Ranch Dining Room after Pebble Beach, but by that time we got there it was dark. We really wish we had more time to go back because it was one charming place. Rumor has it is that Mr. Eastwood can be found in the dining room’s piano bar anytime he’s in town. And when we say dining room… think old ranch restaurant from the 50’s but in the most adorable way. String lights, live piano bar, and tables looking out over grazing animals right in front of the ocean. Next time we make it back to Carmel, spending more time at Mission Ranch is on the top of our list!

Carmel Valley Ranch:Carmel California Travel Guide | DIY Playbook

Although this is not in Carmel-by-the-Sea, we still have to mention Carmel Valley Ranch because we definitely think it’s worth checking out if you have an extended amount of time planned in the Carmel area. It’s a 10-15 minute drive outside of Carmel-by-the-Sea and offers an entirely different feel. Instead of quaint and coastal, this 500 acre ranch is spread out in the California mountains and has more of a vineyard-meets-mountain-ranch-meets-golf-resort feel. We couldn’t believe that the terrain and whole “feel” of this area could change so drastically in a 15-minute car ride. We’ll get into more details about the Carmel Valley Ranch in our Michaels Maker Summit Recap (next week!), but we had to mention how unreal we thought this property way. In all honesty, this property is out of our price-range, but if you’re looking to splurge and relax… Carmel Valley Ranch is worth looking into! #WOW

Where We Ate

Before we get into what we ate while in Carmel, we have to THANK YOU guys so much for all of your recommendations. Your tips + messages totally helped us choose some amazing restaurants… and so did this post.

Carmel California Travel Guide | DIY Playbook

  • La Bicyclette: We grabbed breakfast here and really enjoyed it. It’s an old pharmacy turned french restaurant so you can imagine how cute it is. Plus they had great lattes, great breakfast, and great bakery goods! Carmel California Travel Guide | DIY Playbook
  • Niko’s: We grabbed a drink on the outdoor patio at Niko’s. Note to wine drinkers — there are lots of wine tastings around town…. almost all of them start at noon.
  • Forge in the Forest: We grabbed lunch outside on the patio here and loved sitting fireside while enjoying some great food. We both ordered the soup & sandwich combo, but probably our favorite part of this lunch? The skillet cookie for 2! Highly recommended.
  • The Bench at Pebble Beach: This scenic spot was a bit pricey but fun to check off the bucket list. If you’re bringing your +1, this would be a great way to earn some serious brownie points. Patio cocktails next to the fire, looking out on the 18th hole, and sunset over the ocean? I guess we can see why it’s a bit pricey!Carmel California Travel Guide | DIY Playbook
  • Katy’s Place: This old-fashioned, cash-only diner was definitely worth the 15-minute wait. We heard so much about this place before heading to Carmel so we were determined to try it while we were in town. The diner style breakfast was delicious and the decor reminded us of Grandma’s kitchen. It was charming and homey and we would recommend it if you’re looking for a good ol’ fashioned breakfast.Carmel California Travel Guide | DIY Playbook
  • Our friend Courtney from A Thoughtful Place went to Affina while she was in Carmel last weekend and raved about the food and piano bar atmosphere.  You can read her specific tips in this post.

Our Travel Tips about Carmel

Carmel California Travel Guide | DIY Playbook

  • High Heels: We randomly met the mayor while we out running in Carmel and after chatting with him for about a half hour, he told us that it’s illegal to wear anything higher than 2-inch heels in Carmel. Saaaay whaaat?! How funny is that?! Although we don’t think they really enforce this law, he did invite us to stop by city hall and pick up high heel permits so that we could get formal permission to break that law. #troublemakersCarmel California Travel Guide | DIY Playbook
  • The Bench: The mayor and his buddies also brought us down to this little bench just outside of Carmel overlooking the beach. Under this bench looking over the ocean, there is a mailbox that has a pen and a journal inside. The tradition is that people come visit, sit on the bench, write in the journal and leave it in the mailbox. When the journal is filled, it’s added to the local library and replaced with a new one. We absolutely LOVED this tradition, so of course, we had to sit at the bench and write a little something to be left by the sea.Carmel California Travel Guide | DIY Playbook
  • Shopping: Although Carmel by the sea is small, there is lots of upscale shopping crammed into this square mile. From big brand stores like J. Crew, Anthropologie, Kate Spade and Tiffany & Co to more one-of-kind souvenir shops, specialty shops, and art galleries, there really is something for everyone. We didn’t do much shopping, but if that’s your thing there are lots of opportunities to shop in Carmel.
  • Uber Rides: We did not have a car while in Carmel. Although we wish we did to take the 17 mile drive or go hike Point Lobos. We had no problem at all getting an Uber and couldn’t believe how close everything was. Anywhere we wanted to go was about a 10-15 minute/$8-$15 Uber ride.
  • Pet Friendly: Dogs are literally allowed in just about every single restaurant or store throughout town. And not only are they allowed, almost every store/restaurant offers water bowls and treats. Heck, even the toll booth to jump on the 17 Mile Drive was giving out dog treats!
  • More Time?: If we had more time, we would have checked out the entire 17 mile drive, drove over to Monterey to explore, drove to Big Sur to take in even more of this amazing part of the country.

Carmel California Travel Guide | DIY PlaybookAs you can probably tell by now, we loved everything about Carmel-By-the-Sea. Next week we will be dishing on our experience at the Carmel Valley Ranch for the Michaels Makers Summit but in the meantime, we would love to hear from our fellow travelers or even locals.

Did we miss something in Carmel that you really love? Leave it in the comments below so that we can put it on our “next time” to-do list and so our fellow readers can add it to their Carmel travel notes.


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

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