I don't know that I've ever fallen so hard and so fast for a new place as I did with Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. It's a place I've always been a little curious about, based on the name alone, and I was so excited to see it on our itinerary when Monterey County invited me for a weekend of exploration. There was so much to do I hardly know where to begin, but I'll start with how every day starts: coffee!
We had coffee number one in our corner suite at the Embassy Suites in Seaside, California, which is two blocks from the beachfront. Our room offered views all the way down to Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey. There's a nightly happy hour and daily breakfast—both complimentary! After a cozy morning catching up on work, it was off to Carmel.
Michele and I stumbled upon an adorable coffee shop at the end of a little alleyway called The Carmel Coffee Shop. I can't remember the last time it was warm enough in Seattle to eat on a patio, so we soaked up the California sunshine while we sipped our lattes and enjoyed a lazy breakfast. I definitely want to come here again, as the quiche and coffee cake also caught my eye!
After our snack, we set out to cruise the streets. Carmel is such a picturesque town—walking around, Michele and I felt like we were in The Truman Show. Everything was almost too cute to be real. Our first stop was inside a stunning antique store, Robertson's, where we were completely captivated by eighteenth-century busts, delicate first-editions, and stately jewelry in the most unique boxes. I could have definitely found something to bring home there. Although the prices were steep, the items in-store were truly unique and definitely worth the investment. I would love to come back and bring home a souvenir for my next place.
We also walked through another store called Pilgrim's Way Books where I was surprised to find a copy of the new book I wanted—which I would have bought until I remembered I had zero extra space in my suitcase! Another missed opportunity. Behind the bookstore there is a hidden alleyway and Secret Garden, which are very peaceful and very pretty to walk through. On our way back to the car, we popped into a designer consignment shop where I swooned over vintage Chanel, and gazed through dozens of interesting gallery windows filled with unique works of art.
Hitting the road again, the next highlight of our day—because everything in charming Carmel was a highlight—was the stunning Point Lobos State Reserve. While it took us a few loops to find parking in the place we wanted, the views after a walk out toward the coast were worth it. Monterey County is a really unique mix of the Pacific Northwest and Southern California—a lot of the rocky beaches remind me of places I used to explore around Seattle as a kid, while the sand and surf beaches feel as laid back as Long Beach. But one thing is undeniably Monterey: the distinct shade of ocean blue. There's nothing like it.
After tearing ourselves away from the beach (it's so hard to leave that view), we were pretty excited to hit our next destination: Folktale Winery & Vineyards. I'm not kidding when I say I would be there every Sunday afternoon if I lived in Monterey. It's appropriately named as it feels like you've stepped into a childhood storybook as soon as you walk in. The building itself looks like a castle—turret included—and when you arrive in time to see twilight, it's that much more magical.
Upon entry, we were greeted with a coupe of bubbly and led to a picnic table underneath twinkle lights, where our wine educator Conrad was ready to set us up with a tasting of the Folktale Flight. You can read about all the wines we tasted here on the menu! To go with our flight, we ordered the Folktale Caesar, Papas Bravas, and dreamy Artisan Cheese Board to share. To say the afternoon we spent at Folktale was delightful is just the tip of the iceberg. They even have lawn games available like Corn Hole and Giant Jenga for when things get rolling.
Even the drive up was idyllic. Check out these views!
Believe it or not, there's one more highlight of the day to tack on to this post. Before driving back to our hotel in Monterey, we decided to chase the sunset and drove west until we hit the water. Although the beach was crowded, we snagged a parking spot and as soon as we got out of the car, we realized the reason for the mass of people: this was going to be a sunset to remember.
The entrance to Carmel Beach is perfectly situated so that the setting sun is framed by two trees as you walk in, and the colors speak for themselves. Michele and I found it so special that this many Carmel residents—not only tourists—were out to enjoy the spectacular beauty, even though they get to enjoy it every day. I can't stand crowds, but seeing so many people there to experience what we were experiencing felt like a special connection with California. The more the merrier.
Photography by Michele Equitz
I'm quite pleased with how much we were able to fit into one day around Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Valley, but of course, I already have a wish list for my next visit. The Carmel Mission, a new winery, hiking Garland Ranch...the options go on and on. And let's be real—I wouldn't hate spending an entire day on those beautiful sand and surf beaches. Sounds like the perfect Monterey County weekend.
Before we knew it, we were leaving the Embassy Suites and heading to the airport.
Thank you to See Monterey for sponsoring this post.