whalers cove, point lobos natural reserve, pacific ocean

Say the words Carmel, California and it brings up instant memories for many people. I’ve known this storybook village by the sea since I was a small child. I’m what you’d call a wannabe Carmel resident. Perhaps you’ll find these travel tips on how I do Carmel like a local to be helpful on your next visit to this gem in Monterey County.

Carmel like a local

I wrote about Carmel for Uptake this week from an “almost local’s perspective.”  My mom and dad have lived there for over twenty years, my husband and I were married in Carmel and I visit often.  I’m what you’d call a “wannabe” local.  Don’t get me wrong; I love my hometown in Contra Costa County, but someday I’d like to live in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

I prefer to do Carmel like a local. To me that means visiting this coastal town on a week day. Sad, to say, but traffic gets pretty heavy on scenic California Highway 1 during weekends and the busy summer travel season. Most visitors to Carmel drive down Ocean Avenue, park their car and walk the few steps it takes to get to the white sand beach. While Carmel Beach on California’s Central Coast is beautiful and dog-friendly, I’d head over to Carmel River State Beach. This beach is less crowded and features a lagoon that attracts a large number of migratory birds. The one downside, Carmel River State Beach is not pet-friendly in that dogs must remain on leash.

subaru forester sport utility vehicle, carmel beach

If you want to experience Carmel like a local, you’ll want a car. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

Carmel, California – An Ideal Road trip for Bay Area Residents

Home to Clint Eastwood, Dorris Day and Betty White, this picturesque village is frequented by the newlywed and the nearly dead.  Sad note, since this writing, Dorris Day has passed away. It’s a great place to visit with a special someone and with the cost and hassle associated with flying these days, Carmel is an ideal destination for the Bay Area road tripper.

If you want to know what millennials do when they visit Carmel, my Generation Y daughter wrote about her favorite things to see and do in Carmel-by-the-Sea on California’s Central Coast.

labrador retriever, nala, on carmel beach at sunset

Locals, and wannabe Carmel locals, take their dogs to Carmel Beach on California’s Central Coast.

Sunshine in Carmel Valley, California

My favorite place to stay was the Cobblestone Inn, formerly owned by Four Sisters Inns. (Has anyone stayed there since the changing of the guard in April of 2008? ) The pet-friendly Hideaway in Carmel took up residence at the shuttered Cobblestone Inn. I’ve highlighted the link to my hotel review. We loved that the Hideaway is within walking distance of dog-friendly Carmel Beach; our Labrador Retriever, Nala, loved it for the dog treats available in the lobby.

If you experience fog in Carmel, as is often common in the summer. Retreat to sunshine and warmer temperatures in Carmel Valley. As noted in the photo above, if you want to do Carmel like a local, it’s best to have a car. The village of Carmel is very pedestrian friendly, but if you want to visit Big Sur, Point Lobos, or you are looking for the best things to do in Monterey, you’ll need a car to get there.

pork mole, cultura comida y bebida carmel, california cuisine

Stop at Cultura Comida y Bebida for the pork mole. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

Dining in Carmel like a local

Like any popular tourist destinations, restaurants come and go in Carmel. Case in point, Bistro 211 has since closed since I mentioned it, but Yeast of Eden in Carmel Plaza has opened, as has Cultura comida y bebida. We stopped by Cultura for Taco Tuesday – remember what I said about visiting Carmel like a local midweek – this is when the special offers appear for locals and those in the know like you and me.

My new favorite restaurants are Bistro 211, located in the Carmel Crossroads shops and Basil in downtown Carmel, between Ocean & 7th.  The Thai short ribs, braised in a sweet & spicy barbecue sauce, served over scallion mashed potatoes are to die for.

tacos inspired from Oaxaca, Mexico at Cultura restaurant in Carmel, California.

Visit Carmel midweek for specials such as Taco Tuesday. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

I mention a host of other things to  see and do in Carmel from a  local’s perspective over on the  UpTake blog.  UpTake, a travel search engine, was launched in May 2008 but has since been purchased by Groupon.

What are your favorite things to do in Carmel, California?

Beer on tap at Yeast of Eden in Carmel Plaza, downtown Carmel.

Yeast of Eden in Carmel Plaza. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

Related Post:

Things to Do in Monterey, California