● By Tara Mendanha
Step out of the mundane and into the magical, with a trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea. This tiny seaside town is known for its fairytale cottages, famous residents and tranquil way of life—and not to mention, gorgeous coastline.
You cannot come to Carmel and not see Hugh Comstock’s famous fairytale cottages, so stop by the Carmel Visitor Center and ask for directions. Take time to “ooh” and “aah” at “Hansel,” “Gretel,” “Obers” and “Honeymoon.” Designed in the style of old English cottages, these whimsical homes with their wooden window shutters, narrow chimneys, and stone walls are truly delightful.
Although alluring, the cottages aren’t the only things to see in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Tour Robinson Jeffers’ Tor House, built with stones from Carmel Beach. Stop by the most photographed tree—Lone Cyprus—that stands tall and fearless before the rugged sea. Hike the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve to enjoy ocean views, or get acquainted with the frigid waters at the Carmel River State Beach. Catch a performance at the outdoor Forest Theater or spend some quiet time at the peaceful Carmel Mission. Peruse artworks by Northern Californians at Nancy Dodds Gallery and don’t forget to drop by the quaint Cottage of Sweets. Get lost in Downtown’s secret passageways and courtyards, and for a taste of the famous, visit Hog’s Breath Inn (previously owned by former mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Clint Eastwood), stop by Cyprus Inn (previously owned by Doris Day), or eat at Van Gogh’s Table at Casanova restaurant.
A trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea is incomplete—for me at least—without a visit to Hyatt Carmel Highlands overlooking the Big Sur Coast. The property is perfectly perched on a hillside and has some of the best views in town. It oozes romance and elegance, and is the perfect place for lovebirds and families alike. Impeccably landscaped gardens, outdoor Jacuzzis and wood-burning fireplaces entice you to indulge in laidback luxury. If staying at any one of their coveted ocean view rooms isn’t on the cards, drop by their award-winning California Market at Pacific’s Edge Restaurant (voted most romantic restaurant in town).
This eatery welcomes you to dine on its 870-square-foot deck featuring glass panel walls and picturesque views. You can spot humpback whales in the distance and watch the sun set in real time here. Ask for a Chef’s Choice dinner and you’ll be treated to a feast by Chef Poncho’s creative offerings that could be anything from Brussels sprout kimchi to lamb with figs and spices. There’s beauty on every plate and around every corner at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands. The magic of the West Coast is ubiquitous here.
There’s so much else to see, taste and do at Carmel-by-the-Sea, that it might just take you a lifetime to truly experience it all. But the lure of this small town is hard to resist, so going back won’t be very difficult.