TOP 20 things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea (the ULTIMATE list!)

August 6, 2021

Are you looking for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, California? If so, keep reading!

If you’re visiting Carmel-By-The-Sea you might be looking for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea! If that’s the case, keep reading, because we have the ultimate list!

Carmel-By-The-Sea is a stunning little village that’s located on the Pacific Coast, whilst it may seem like a small town, there are actually lots of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.

Though this place isn’t big, it certainly packs a punch! Featuring lush beaches, historic Californian missions, and even a modern art gallery, Carmel-By-The-Sea isn’t an area that you should leave off your bucket list. Carmel-By-The-Sea is beautiful, and you’ll love it.

If you fancy paying the guys in Carmel-By-The-Sea a visit but aren’t sure where to start with your itinerary, then we’ve got your back. We’ve created a great list of the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea so that you can make the most of your trip to one of California’s most popular areas. 

So, without further ado, let’s explore Carmel-By-The-Sea!


Here are our favorite things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea…


Carmel Beach

First on our list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, it’s the beach! Visiting Carmel Beach is one of the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea. Located on California’s Central Coast, this beach is packed with amazing opportunities for water sport, trail walks, and is even dog-friendly!

When you’re walking along the beachfront, be sure to check out the wonderful Monterey cypresses. The nature along the beach in general is well worth taking some time to explore, so be sure you don’t miss out!

Though this beach is stunning at any time of day, we highly recommend heading down in the late afternoon and into the evening so you can catch the breathtaking sunset. Simply grab a towel, settle on the sand, and watch that sun go down! It’s a perfect choice for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.


17 Mile Drive

The 17-mile drive is next on our list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea. This is a beautiful stretch of road that runs through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove. As you might have guessed, the whole stretch runs for 17 miles!

Though this is a short drive, there’s so much beautiful scenery to take in. Covering everything from beaches to Fanshell Overlook where sea lions gather to give birth each year, you certainly won’t be disappointed by your little sightseeing drive from Carmel-By-The-Sea.

Read more California travel inspiration: Top 15 California beach resorts

If you want to catch a glimpse of how the other half lives, then keep an eye out for golf courses and luxury hotels that you’re sure to pass along the way. It’s such a wonderful option for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.


Carmel Mission

Next on our list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, it’s the Carmel Mission. If you’re not sure what a mission is, we actually wrote a guide to the California Missions (so read more there).

Carmel is one of the oldest cities in California, and you might be interested to know that the state itself is home to a bunch of unique missionary spots. We highly recommend visiting the Carmel Mission while you’re in Carmel-By-The-Sea, as not only is it just an awesome piece of architecture, but it is the second mission built by the Franciscan friars back in the day.

Not only is this area packed with great history, but its lovely gardens are also a relaxing place to unwind if you’re visiting the mission at the end of a hectic day of sightseeing. 


Wander around Ocean Avenue, Carmel-By-The-Sea

Another great option for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, is wandering around Ocean Avenue. This is the postcard-perfect part of town, with the quirky little boutiques and stores and cafes.

The fairytale-style houses and stores are what many people instantly associate with Carmel-by-the-sea, so make sure you take the opportunity to full explore them… and take some photos!

Read more California travel inspiration: 12 scenic small towns in California you should visit

If an afternoon of meandering about cute little stores, and sipping independent coffee sounds like it’s your idea of heaven, then make sure you spend some time in this part of Carmel-By-The-Sea! This little town is SO PRETTY, so don’t forget to soak in the views and the atmosphere when putting together your own list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.


Point Lobos State Reserve

Next on our list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, it’s the Point Lobos State Reserve. This is a gorgeous option for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea. Located only ten minutes from Carmel-By-The-Sea is Point Lobos State Reserve.

What we love about this spot is that it’s absolutely packed with incredible trails that are not too challenging for even the most unfit of folks. So, if you’re looking to explore Carmel’s natural beauty, then this is an excellent place to add to your to-do list.

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Along the way, you’ll see everything from stunning wildflowers to the humble California poppy! If you enjoy birdwatching, be sure to bring your binoculars along – you’re likely to spot some great birds on the Bird Island Trail! It’s a perfect choice for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, especially for outdoorsy types.


Monterey Bay Aquarium

Another great option for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. OK, so this option for things to do in Carmel-by-the-sea isn’t precisely in Carmel-By-The-Sea, it’s only a short drive away! Perfect for a day trip or activity!

Not only are there some great marine life and sea life on show here (think sea otters, penguins, interesting fish), but there are interactive activities held throughout the day to keep kids interested. Be sure to head into the Aquarium auditorium at some point during your trip for some movies that teach visitors about the importance of conservation.

If you get hungry during your trip, you can head to Cindy’s Waterfront Restaurant for some great food and even better views! This is a great choice for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, especially for families and kids.


Try and spot a sea otter

Next on our list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, it’s spotting sea otters! We weren’t entirely sure what to call this next option for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea. But basically, there are so many beautiful sea creatures to be admired and spotted along the cost by Carmel-By-The-Sea, including the wonderful native sea otter.

Spending the day by the beach, or on high land with a great view of the sea can be a perfect place to see all these gorgeous creatures, they have so much personality too.

Read more California travel inspiration: Top 10 places for glamping in California


Drive out to Bixby Bridge

Next on our list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, it’s a visit to Bixby Bridge. Chances are, you’ve seen this bridge before in movies or TV shows. It’s one of the most well-known bridges in this part of the country, and it’s no wonder really. Just look at it!

Heading for a short drive out there is one of our favorite things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea – it’s a beautiful view and it’s a chance to soak in those epic road trip views. It takes about 20 minutes to drive from Carmel-By-The-Sea to Bixby Bridge, so it should only be an hour or so round trip. Definitely worth it for the amazing views!


Wine Tasting

One of our top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea is a good, old-fashioned wine tasting! As this area is a great wine destination in California, there are tons of great wine tasting rooms around that offer top-notch tastings to visitors.

If you really want to push the boat out, you can get a Carmel Wine Walk-by-the-Sea passports, which gives you the opportunity to visit up to ten tasting rooms! However, if you’d rather stick to a tried and tested wine tasting spot, we highly recommend Trio Carmel.

Not only can you try some truly amazing wines here, but you even get to try olive oil and balsamic vinegar too. You can’t really argue with a two-for-one deal… This is a great option for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.

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Visit the Treehouse Café

Next on our list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, it’s actually a bar / restaurant. The Treehouse Cafe is a cosy rooftop bar in Carmel-By-The-Sea, and it’s an absolute must for your own list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.

If you want to enjoy good food, in a really pretty and memorable setting, then this place is perfect. There’s just something special about this place, and we think you’ll love it.


Whale watching in Carmel-By-The-Sea

Next on our list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, it’s whale watching. This is a pretty amazing option for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, and it’s one of those ultimate bucket list things too!

You’ll want to make sure you’re visiting Carmel-by-the-sea at the right time of year for whale watching (because they migrate) but if you’re there at the right time, then this is a magical choice for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.


Shopping at The Barnyard

Next on our list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, it’s a spot of shopping! If you’re after a bit of retail therapy, then you’ll want to add The Barnyard to your list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.

Established in 1976, this little shopping village is absolutely packed with high end clothing, accessories, and restaurants. This place screams luxury so be ready to reach into your pocketbook if you’re planning to walk away with more than a piece or two! This is a classic choice for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, and everyone loves a bit of retail therapy.


The Spa at Pebble Beach

Next on our list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, it’s The Spa at Pebble Beach. This luxurious spa is a great place to head to if you fancy some relaxation and pampering. This beautiful spa is one of only 90 spas in the world to receive the coveted Forbes Five-Star Award, so you know it’s going to be beautiful.

Read more California travel inspiration: 20 incredible things to do in Southern California

Spend the entire day there (for some real relaxation) or just pop in for a treatment – it’s up to you! But if spa treatments are something you really enjoy, don’t miss the opportunity to experience this one in Carmel-By-The-Sea.


Tor House and Hawk Tower 

Another fantastic choice for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea is Tor House. This granite structure seems almost out of place in California and looks more like something you’d see in Europe!

If you’re wondering what this structure is, it was the home of the celebrated American poet Robinson Jeffers and he called it Tor House due to the little knoll that was perched on it.

Though it’s no longer lived in, this historical spot is now open to the public for viewing and holds frequent events for literature fans! If you’re looking for educational things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, this is the one for you.


Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant

If you’re looking for great things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, then we highly recommend a visit to Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant. Now, though this is technically just a restaurant on the surface, it offers so much more than just food!

The food selections are obviously delicious (filet mignon, baby back ribs, the works), but the Pacific Ocean views are what keep people coming back to the Mission Ranch Restaurant. If you fancy sitting outside on cooler nights, there are patio heaters that will keep you warm all night long. This is a lovely choice for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.


Westbrook Modern

Are you an art fan? Well then, you’ll want to pay a visit to Westbrook Modern! One of the best things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea for those who love modern American art, it’s certainly worth dedicating an afternoon to. Focusing on Modernism, Post War Abstract Expressionism, and more, you’re sure to see a bunch of art here that you haven’t seen before.

Though modern art isn’t for everyone, we think that this is one of Carmel-By-The-Sea’s strongest cultural offerings, so be sure to check it out!


Golden Bough Playhouse

If you’re looking for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, then you can’t go wrong with catching a performance at the Golden Bough playhouse. It’s a local theater, and whilst their performance might not be on the same scale of Broadway – we know you’ll love it.


Play golf at Pebble Beach

If you love playing golf, then you’ll love this next suggestion for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea. The Pebble Beach Golf Links is one of the best in the country (voted the No. 1 public course in the country) and it’s a beautiful place to play.

Imagine the most wonderful views of the ocean, right next to your golf course, and that’s the right kind of picture to have in your head! They have even hosted the US Open here, so you know it’s high quality and beautiful.

It really is stunning, and you won’t want to miss it if golf is your kind of thing. So definitely add it to your list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.


Brophy’s Tavern

Another great suggestion for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, it’s Brophy’s Tavern. This is a lovely casual dining place, with great vibes and a lovely atmosphere. If you’re looking for somewhere friendly and relaxed to visit for a good meal, then you can’t really go wrong with this recommendation!


Carmel Meadows Trailhead

And last on our list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea, it’s Carmel Meadows Trailhead. If you want to enjoy a beautiful walk / trail in the Carmel-By-The-Sea area, then this is going to be an ideal place to enjoy the scenery and trail! The Carmel Meadows Trailhead is right by the sea, and soaks in some of the most gorgeous local views.


Hopefully this list of things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea has been helpful!

As you’ll have figured out, despite being a little town, there’s actually loads to keep you busy in Carmel-By-The-Sea! There are so many great choice for things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea!

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