From Napa, my party of two headed out on the highway to Carmel. A drive I highly recommend for the diverse scenery…passing Sand City is just one stretch that will take your breath. Eventually, about 85 miles south of San Francisco, you’ll come across a little town tucked neatly into the seaside. Every corner of Carmel exudes what a glamourous (and amorous) getaway should be. We fell in love with the storybook homes, quaint shops and the friendly folks. It’s no wonder the A-List pop up here; Clint Eastwood is the mayor, after all.
Few could resist the charms of silver screen actress Doris Day, and the same can be said for the boutique hotel that she co-owns. The Cypress Inn is a superlative sojourn for those that want to eat, sleep and breathe Carmel. From the cozy guestrooms to the breezy garden courtyard, where my party of two was able to sip afternoon tea, the property has a distinctly Mediterranean vibe. The hotel famously allows dogs; the entire town is pet-friendly, in fact.
Taking cues from the beach that’s only a short walk away, La Playa Hotel offers bright and breezy rooms. Their comfortable cottages are ideal for families or honeymooners looking for a bit more space.
First thing in the morning, nothing beats grabbing a coffee, walking along Carmel Beach, and watching schools of surfers brave the waves.
Once the downtown doors open, art aficionados will discover no end to browsing the many galleries. When it comes to shopping, find everything from Anthropologie to Louis Vuitton at Carmel Plaza, and more luxe labels like Rag & Bone and Haute Hippie at GBG on 7th Avenue. Sweet Pea (yes, that’s the owners name) also stocks quintessentially Californian accessory designers like Chan Luu.
A short drive away is Point Lobos State Reserve, where you can enjoy a picturesque hike and watch sweet harbour seals bask in the sun. While serious golfers will want to hit the green at Pebble Beach, my inclinations lean towards booking a spa treatment. The restorative Red Flower Ritual (75 minutes) at the 22,000 square-foot Spa at Pebble Beach was a wonderful way to end the day.
There’s a whole lot of European inspiration when it comes to eating out in Carmel. Il Fornaio quickly became our essential stop to kick start the day. This authentic Italian bakery has a sun-drenched communal table so we could leisurely read the headlines while indulging in divine pastries. You can always follow the locals who lunch at their favourite slow food Cafe, Carmel Belle. The owners pride themselves on their selection of premium cheeses, and it’s clear why after sampling the open-faced mushroom melt and a salad of ‘house-made mozz and roasted tomato’. These girls also know how to make a very good latte.
After watching an epic sunset on the beach, the sensational antipasti, insalata mista, and grilled Angus skirt steak at Luca is an ideal meal. We also loved the buzzy atmosphere à la Francais, and wood-fired pizza, at La Bicyclette. Their rustic organic soups, served in a cast iron pot, are perfect for two.
Jump in the car for a drive along Highway 1 through Big Sur, where the Pacific Ocean meets the majestic Santa Lucia Mountains. Sweeping views of coastline get even better during a sundown dinner at Post Ranch Inn, where every bite of every course at their Sierra Mar restaurant is absolutely worth going the distance for. Of course, if you are going to indulge in one of the 2,600 vintages on offer (we loved the ROAR Pinot Noir), then make sure you book a driver with that car.