Category Archives: California

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Carmel by the Sea, or simply Carmel, is California’s perennial favorite  travel destination. Formerly an artist’s colony –there seems to be more art galleries than people, tiny Carmel, population 4000, has worked hard to keep their village lifestyle.

The one-square-mile village of Carmel has no big-box stores nor chain restaurants. Don’t worry about paying to park your car – there are no parking meters and no street lights – great for star-gazing.

Monterey Cypress at Carmel Beach
Monterey Cypress at Carmel Beach photo credit: John Cameron

Carmel’s city founders favored a central post office instead of door- to-door delivery thus no addresses. Carmel street signs, carved vertically on short wooden poles, are easy to miss.

Court of the Fountains
Court of the Fountains photo credit: John Cameron

The ubiquitous Dutch doors, favored by almost all business owners, really enhance the friendly small-town feel.

Famous citizens include 93- year-old Doris Day, part owner of the dog- friendly Cypress Inn, whose movie posters adorn Terry’s Bar – an homage to her son. Another famous resident and former mayor of Carmel (1986-1988) Dirty Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) made it safe to once again eat ice cream on Carmel’s public streets.

Rated the #1 dog-friendly town in America, you can bring your pets to restaurants, bars, the beach, even wine-tasting rooms.

Where to Stay in Carmel

Hofsas House Carmel by the Sea
Hofsas House Carmel photo credit: John Cameron

Family-owned and run for three generations, the pet-friendly Hofsas House Hotel is very popular with travel-savvy Europeans. Get practical daily trip advice from the helpful concierge with a large continental breakfast featuring pastries from a local bakery.

Hofsas House Mural by Maxine Albro
Hofsas House Mural photo credit: John Cameron

The first thing guests might notice is the Bavarian themed mural opposite the Hofsas House welcome office. Donna Hofsas commissioned artist Maxine Albro to paint the mural in 1957.

Hofsas House Guest Room
Hofsas House Guest Room photo credit: John Cameron

The Hofsas House has 38 well-designed and comfortable guest rooms with Dutch doors in every room and featuring amenities like a fireplace.

Hofsas House balcony
Hofsas House balcony photo credit: Sherel Purcell

A small heated pool and a dry sauna that’s always warm and a communal rooftop deck for good views over Pebble Beach are special touches found at Hofsas House.

Hofsas House has the only poolside meeting facility in Carmel with classroom seating for up to 24.

The Hofsas House has partnerships with four different golf courses in the area. If you don’t want to pay the big bucks to golf Pebble Beach or Spanish Bay, the back nine at Pacific Grove Golf Links  has great water views. As the starter in the pro shop said,” It’s the same ocean for 300 bucks less. “

Things to do in Carmel

Taste the wines of the Monterey and Carmel Valley all within walking distance of downtown.

Scheid Vineyards Tasting Room
Scheid Vineyards Tasting Room photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Schied Vineyards at San Carlos & 7th Avenue in Carmel offers complimentary small bites to pair with featured wines and new releases on the second Tuesday of every month.

Just down Ocean Avenue at the Carmel Road Tasting Room, sample their flight of Pinot Noirs.

Carmel Road Tasting Room
Carmel Road Tasting Room photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Actor Drew Barrymore works with Carmel Road winemaker Kris Kato to produce a great rose for her signature collection, Barrymore Wines. Both Scheid and Carmel Road offer wine clubs – get a taste of Carmel sent right to your doorstep.

Wine Enthusiast named Carmel one of the top ten wine tasting destinations in the world.

Carmel is the perfect base for exploring the beautiful California coast. Steinbeck’s Cannery Row in historic Monterey is 30 minutes to the north while Point Lobos is just 15 minutes to the south. Big Sur is an hour’s drive south on scenic US 1 .

Lone Cypress photo credit: John Cameron
Lone Cypress photo credit: John Cameron

Take scenic 17-mile drive for a great introduction to the relentless beauty of the northern California coast. Tip: take your receipt for the ten-dollar entrance fee with you and have it credited to your lunch at The Bench at the Pebble Beach Lodge, overlooking beautiful Pebble Beach’s iconic 18th green.

Discover California’s Highway 1

California’s Highway 1 Discovery Route is the perfect road trip where you’ll find cool beach towns connected by a winding two-lane highway hugging the dramatic Pacific coastline. One option is to start in Morro Bay and cruise the central coast north past the Hearst Castle up to the Piedras Blanca Elephant Seal Rookery. And since it’s California, don’t miss wine tasting at some of the boutique wineries that make up the Pacific Coast Wine Trail.

Morro Bay

Morro Bay Harbor
Morro Bay Harbor photo credit: John Cameron

Stay at the Front Street Inn and Spa, located steps from Morro Bay on Embarcardero and you can watch fishing boats from your room. Tourism and commercial fishing are Morro Bay’s main industries. Grab breakfast next door with locals at La Parisienne, known for their croissants.

Windows on The Water, Morro Bay
Windows on The Water, Morro Bay photo credit: John Cameron

Top restaurants in town, both with great views of Morro Bay, include Windows on the Water and The Galley Seafood Grill and Bar. At Windows, try their fresh sand dabs or the locally-sourced Abalone presented in the shell on a bed of seaweed and cucumber salad.

The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar, Morro Bay
The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar photo credit: Sherel Purcell

At The Galley, have the amazing Blackened Pacific Rockfish. They make an excellent clam chowder too.

Things to do in Morro Bay

Central Coast Outdoors, Morro Bay
Central Coast Outdoors photo credit: John Cameron

Paddle around the shallow Morro Bay Estuary with a kayak from Central Coast Outdoors. Craig, the experienced guide, pointed out seals and sea otters and the thriving oyster farm. Enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch on the sand dunes paired with an excellent local zin and craft beers before kayaking back to the dock.

Morro Rock, a 576 foot high volcanic plug that guards the entrance to the harbor, is Morro Bay’s defining feature – it’s visible for miles around.

Farmer's Kites and Surreys, Morro Bay
Farmer’s Kites and Surreys photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Cycle to the Rock on a bike from Farmer’s Kites and Surreys, located on the Embarcadero. Another good bike trail will take you north past the beach around the cloisters, a wetland bird sanctuary.

If you’re a golfer, constant elevation changes and nary a level lie make The Morro Bay Golf Course a short but challenging track with some great views.

Stroll the Embarcadero and drop into Chateau Margene’s tasting room. Micro winery Chateau Margene, one of the ten wineries that comprise the Pacific Coast Wine Trail, produces only Bordeaux-style wines (Cabernet Sauvignons, Cabernet Franc & Meritage blends) and sells direct to customers and wine clubs.

Cayucos

Drive ten minutes north on Highway 1, to neighboring Cayucos and stop into the Cass House Grill for lunch.

Cass House Grill, Cayucos
Cass House Grill photo credit: John Cameron

The Cass House Grill features farm to table dishes and the best lobster roll you’ll find anywhere. Their secret? – the grilled milk bread. Try the chef’s delicious cauliflower empanadas – cauliflower, parmesan, mushroom puree, sherry vinegar and truffle oil.

Just up Ocean Avenue from the Cass House Grill is the famous Brown Butter Cookie Company. Butter browned on the stove gives these cookies a rich, nutty taste.

Brown Butter Cookies
Brown Butter Cookies photo credit: John Cameron

With flavors like citrus, almond, cocoa and espresso, you’ll want to try them all. They also have a second store in Paso Robles.

Harmony

Harmony Cellars
Harmony Cellars photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Nearby, the town of Harmony is home to a boutique winery, Harmony Cellars, another one of the wineries that make up the Pacific Coast Wine Trail. Producing just 7500 cases annually, you won’t find their wine in any BevMo. Try their wonderful Grandpa Barlogio Zinfandel, available only in the tasting room.  Artisans in the glass blowing shop and pottery studio  call Harmony home. It also has the world’s tiniest chapel.

 

Cambria

Cambria makes a perfect stopping point as the Hearst Castle is just 17 minutes away. Located minutes from downtown on Moonstone Beach,  you’re just steps away from  the ocean at The Blue Dolphin Inn.

Moonstone Beach, Cambria
Moonstone Beach, Cambria photo credit: John Cameron

The moonstone gemstone is said to bring good luck and promotes inspiration. See if you can find some of these tiny gemstones as you stroll the beach.

Top restaurants in Cambria include The Black Cat, Robin’s and Linn’s. Linn’s is THE place for a gourmet breakfast.

Linn's Restaurant Cambria
Linn’s Restaurant photo credit: John Cameron

Skip the usual English muffin and order your Eggs Benedict on a bed of polenta. The popular bakery features their famous Ollieberry pies.

At Robin’s, diners are serenaded by frogs in the beautiful indoor courtyard featuring live trumpet flower plants.

Robin's Restaurant, Cambria
Robin’s Restaurant photo credit: John Cameron

Try the spinach salad with pecans, cranberries and feta. Or the cioppino and an Indian style tofu curry with carrots and raisins.

San Simeon

William Randall Hearst chose to build his famous castle overlooking a beautiful stretch of the California Highway 1 Discovery Route near San Simeon.

Indoor Roman Pool at The Hearst Castle, San Simeon
Indoor Roman Pool photo credit: John Cameron

Don’t miss the beautiful Indoor Roman Pool, which consists of a million Murano glass tiles, some with a dazzling layer of gold leaf inside.

Hearst Ranch Winery
Hearst Ranch Winery photo credit: John Cameron

For a relaxed lunch after seeing the Hearst Castle, stop into the historic Sebastian’s Store in San Simeon which features a Hearst Ranch Winery tasting room – your $15.00 tasting fee is refunded with a purchase. Hearst Ranch Winery is another winery on the Pacific Coast Wine Trail.  Try the  tri-tip steak sandwich or a burger made with beef from the Hearst Ranch. A Hearst Ranch Tempranillo  pairs well with a green chili cheeseburger.

 

Our last stop on California’s Highway 1 Discovery Route is the Piedras Blancas Rookery, four miles north of the Hearst Castle.
The Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery spreads over 6 miles of shoreline around Point Piedras Blancas.

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery
Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery photo credit: John Cameron

Before 4 pm, visitors can chat with docents who will explain the life cycle of these huge creatures. Their eyes are ten times more sensitive than ours and their whiskers can detect motion in the water,  helpful in locating prey. The wheelchair accessible viewing areas are open every day of the year and are free.