Unusual Things to Do in Carmel CA: A Local’s Guide

Image of building in downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel, California, is a charming coastal town that attracts visitors from all over the world. While the area is known for its beautiful beaches, picturesque streets, and world-class restaurants, there are also plenty of unique and unusual things to do in Carmel. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, there’s always something new and exciting to discover in this quaint town.

One of the most unusual things to do in Carmel is to visit the Fairy Tale Cottages. These whimsical homes were built in the 1920s and 1930s by Hugh Comstock, a local artist and designer. The cottages are known for their charming details, including thatched roofs, hand-carved doors, and intricate stonework. Visitors can take a stroll through the neighborhood and admire the architecture, or even book a stay in one of the cottages for a truly unique experience.

Another unusual activity in Carmel is to visit the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. This park is home to a variety of rare and endangered plant and animal species, as well as stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Visitors can hike along the park’s trails, go scuba diving or snorkeling, or even take a guided nature walk to learn more about the area’s flora and fauna. With its diverse wildlife and breathtaking scenery, Point Lobos is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for an unusual adventure in Carmel.

Unique Outdoor Adventures

Carmel-by-the-Sea is an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The town boasts a plethora of outdoor activities that cater to all preferences and skill levels. Here are some unique outdoor adventures that visitors can enjoy:

Explore Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a must-visit destination for nature lovers. The reserve is located just south of Carmel and offers visitors breathtaking views of the rugged coastline, wildflowers, and diverse marine life. Visitors can hike along the many trails that wind through the reserve, including the Cypress Grove Trail, which takes hikers through a forest of cypress trees. The reserve is also home to a variety of wildlife, including sea otters, pelicans, and seals.

Picnic at Carmel River State Beach

Carmel River State Beach is a beautiful stretch of coastline that offers visitors the perfect spot for a picnic. The beach features a large grassy area where visitors can set up a picnic blanket and enjoy the stunning views of the ocean. The beach is also a popular spot for birdwatching and is home to a variety of shorebirds.

Hike Through Fairy Tale Trails

Carmel is home to a variety of hiking trails that offer visitors the chance to explore the town’s stunning natural beauty. One of the most popular trails is the Fairy Tale Trail, which winds through a forest of redwood trees and offers visitors stunning views of the ocean. The trail is also home to a variety of wildlife, including deer and coyotes.

Whether visitors are looking to explore the rugged coastline, relax on the beach, or hike through fairy tale trails, Carmel-by-the-Sea has something for everyone.

Cultural and Historical Exploration

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a town rich in cultural and historical heritage. Visitors can explore the town’s captivating history and architectural splendor through various walking tours and attractions. Here are some of the best cultural and historical activities to do in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Visit Carmel Mission Basilica

The Carmel Mission Basilica, also known as the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission, is a National Historic Landmark and one of the most visited attractions in Carmel-by-the-Sea. The mission was founded in 1771 by Father Junipero Serra and served as the headquarters for the California mission system. Visitors can explore the beautiful chapel, museum, and gardens, and learn about the history of the mission and the role it played in shaping California’s history.

Discover Local Art at Galleries

Carmel-by-the-Sea is home to over 100 art galleries, making it one of the most culturally rich towns in California. Visitors can explore the local art scene and discover everything from fine art to avant-garde. The galleries exhibit works from both local and international artists, and visitors can purchase unique pieces to take home as souvenirs. Some of the most popular galleries in Carmel-by-the-Sea include the Weston Gallery, the Gallery by the Sea, and the Carmel Art Association.

Tour the Fairytale Cottages

The fairytale cottages of Carmel-by-the-Sea are a must-see attraction for visitors to the town. These whimsical cottages were built by architect Hugh Comstock in the 1920s and 30s and are known for their unique architecture and charming design. Visitors can take a self-guided walking tour of the cottages and discover the history behind each one. Some of the most popular cottages include Hansel, Gretel, and the Fables.

In conclusion, visitors to Carmel-by-the-Sea can explore the town’s rich cultural and historical heritage through various activities, including visiting the Carmel Mission Basilica, discovering local art at galleries, and touring the fairytale cottages.

Culinary Delights and Wine Tasting

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a food lover’s paradise with its wide range of culinary delights and wine tasting options. Whether you are a foodie or a wine connoisseur, this charming town has something to offer to everyone. Here are some of the best places to indulge in culinary delights and wine tasting in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Indulge in a Breakfast at Tuck Box

Start your day with a delicious breakfast at Tuck Box, a quaint English-style tea room that has been serving breakfast and lunch since 1949. The cozy ambiance and delicious food make it a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Some of the must-try dishes include their famous scones, eggs benedict, and French toast.

Enjoy Wine Tasting at Vineyards and Tasting Rooms

Carmel-by-the-Sea is home to several vineyards and tasting rooms that offer a unique wine tasting experience. You can take a leisurely stroll through the town’s wine walk and visit some of the best tasting rooms that offer a wide range of wines, including local and international varieties. Some of the popular tasting rooms include Wrath Wines, Caraccioli Cellars, and Scheid Vineyards Tasting Room.

Savor Dinner at Mission Ranch Restaurant

Mission Ranch Restaurant is a historic landmark that offers stunning views of the Carmel River Beach and Point Lobos. The restaurant is housed in a 19th-century barn that has been restored to its former glory. The menu features an array of seafood dishes and other American classics, all made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Some of the must-try dishes include the clam chowder, grilled salmon, and prime rib.

In conclusion, Carmel-by-the-Sea offers a unique culinary and wine tasting experience that is sure to delight every foodie and wine connoisseur. Whether you want to indulge in a hearty breakfast at Tuck Box, taste some of the best wines at the town’s tasting rooms, or savor a delicious dinner at Mission Ranch Restaurant, Carmel-by-the-Sea has something to offer to everyone.

Seasonal Activities and Events

Whale Watching in Winter

Winter is the best time to visit Carmel if you want to witness the spectacle of whale watching. Every year, thousands of gray whales migrate from the Bering Sea to the warm waters of Baja California, passing through Monterey Bay. Carmel is one of the best places to see these magnificent creatures up close.

Several companies offer whale watching tours from December to April. These tours are led by experienced guides who are knowledgeable about the behavior and habitat of the whales. You can expect to see gray whales breaching, spouting, and fluking, as well as other marine life such as dolphins, sea otters, and sea lions.

Experience the Fall Wine Harvest

Fall is the perfect time to visit Carmel if you are a wine lover. This is the time when the grapes are harvested and the wineries are bustling with activity. You can take a tour of the vineyards, learn about the winemaking process, and sample some of the finest wines in the region.

Some of the best wineries to visit in Carmel include Bernardus Winery, Chateau Julien Wine Estate, and Galante Vineyards. These wineries offer a range of wines, from crisp whites to full-bodied reds, and have picturesque settings with stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

In conclusion, Carmel has a lot to offer in terms of seasonal activities and events. Whether you want to go whale watching in winter or experience the fall wine harvest, there is something for everyone. So, plan your visit accordingly and make the most of your time in this beautiful coastal town.

Leisure and Relaxation

When it comes to leisure and relaxation, Carmel-by-the-Sea offers a wide range of activities to help you unwind and recharge. Here are some of the best things to do in Carmel for a relaxing day.

Unwind at a Spa

Carmel is home to several world-class spas that offer a variety of treatments to help you relax and rejuvenate. Whether you’re looking for a massage, facial, or body treatment, you’ll find a spa that suits your needs.

One of the most popular spas in Carmel is the Spa at Pebble Beach. This luxurious spa offers a range of treatments, including massages, facials, and body wraps. The spa also features a private outdoor pool and hot tub, as well as a relaxation lounge with stunning ocean views.

Another great option is the Refuge, a day spa that specializes in hydrotherapy. The Refuge features a variety of hot and cold pools, saunas, and steam rooms, as well as a range of massage and body treatments. The spa also offers a unique “quiet room” where you can relax and meditate in silence.

Take a Scenic Drive on 17-Mile Drive

For a leisurely and scenic drive, head to 17-Mile Drive. This iconic road winds its way along the Pacific coastline, offering breathtaking views of the ocean and the rugged coastline.

Along the way, you’ll pass by several landmarks, including the Lone Cypress, a 250-year-old tree that has become an emblem of the Monterey Peninsula. You’ll also have the opportunity to stop at several scenic viewpoints, such as Bird Rock and Seal Rock.

To make the most of your 17-Mile Drive experience, consider renting an electric bicycle and cruising along the coastline on a guided tour. This is a great way to take in the sights and sounds of the ocean while getting some exercise at the same time.

Off-the-Beaten-Path Experiences

Carmel, California, is known for its picturesque beaches, quaint shops, and world-class dining. However, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path experiences to be had in this charming town. Here are a few suggestions for those looking for something a little different.

Adventure in Carmel Valley

For those seeking adventure, Carmel Valley offers plenty of opportunities. Visitors can take a scenic drive through the valley, which is home to numerous vineyards and wineries. For a more active experience, visitors can go horseback riding or hiking in the nearby Santa Lucia Mountains. The Garland Ranch Regional Park is a popular destination for hikers, offering trails of varying difficulty levels.

Discover the Underwater World at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Located just a short drive from Carmel, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must-see attraction for visitors of all ages. The aquarium features a variety of exhibits showcasing the diverse marine life of the Monterey Bay. Visitors can get up close and personal with sea otters, touch rays and starfish, and even watch feeding time for the resident penguins. The aquarium also offers special experiences, such as behind-the-scenes tours and sleepovers.

Whether seeking adventure or looking to explore the area’s unique attractions, Carmel, California, has plenty to offer beyond its well-known beaches and shops.

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