Northern California Coast and Carmel-by-the-Sea

Something about the way the sunlight touches the coast of California makes it seem a little more golden than the rest of the Pacific coastline. There’s no better way to see it than by driving the 101 in either direction, and letting your sense of adventure guide you.

We left the Los Angeles area by way of Malibu in the early afternoon, hoping to arrive near San Luis Obispo before nightfall. To do so meant breezing by quaint surf towns and colourful Santa Barbara. After a night of camping in Morro Bay (more about that in a future blog post), we had hoped to visit the famed Hearst Castle. However, a series of unfortunate events meant we had to skip the castle (again, more about that in a future blog post).

Carmel - Big Sur

The following day we set out as early as we could and found the only Starbucks in Morro Bay before continuing on the 101. I’ve long heard stories about the beauty of driving California’s coastline and exploring Big Sur, known for its craggy cliffs and thrashing sea. I envisioned a sun-soaked highway stretched before us with a cerulean sky overhead. The reality was that Big Sur and the surrounding area was shrouded in cloud.

Carmel - Big Sur

When we reached the village of Big Sur, a light rain started to fall and we were feeling unprepared for any kind of outdoor adventure. And, in truth, following our previous night, I couldn’t wait to get to Carmel-by-the-Sea, check into our hotel, and take a luxuriously hot shower.

Carmel - Big Sur

By a stroke of luck, the sun triumphed by the time we arrived in Carmel. I had booked us into the Clint Eastwood-owned Mission Ranch Hotel. Operating as a dairy farm, the stunning property was set to be turned into condos. In the ’80s, when Dirty Harry was mayor around those parts, he purchased the farm and turned it into a quaint and charming hotel. Guests can stay in former barns, lofts, and out buildings that have been beautifully transformed into havens of slumber.

Carmel - Big Sur

After a quick check-in and time to freshen up, we set out to explore the town of Carmel. Friends of ours visited a few summers before and couldn’t stop raving about its old-world beauty and unique character. Carmel proved to be a really fun town to take a walking tour through, but it wasn’t long before our appetites got the better of us. We stopped in at A. W. Shucks Oyster Bar for dinner. I wanted to indulge in something coastal and my husband had never before tried oysters. I’m still waiting for him to get back to me about what he thought.

Carmel - Big Sur Carmel - Big Sur
Carmel - Big Sur Carmel - Big Sur

Once we finished, we followed the crowds and found an ice cream parlour – the perfect treat on a sunny California evening. Deciding it was still a little bit too soon to return to our hotel, we walked down to Carmel Beach. We arrived just before sunset and dug our toes into the sand. The beach and its waves glittered around us in a way that was almost ethereal.

Mission Ranch Hotel

By the time the sun ducked below the horizon, we found ourselves back at Mission Ranch for a nightcap on the patio overlooking the sheep pasture. I can’t think of a more classic way to spend a night in the Carmel area than exactly how we did. It was the perfect “night off” from our road trip to refuel for the final push up the 101 to San Francisco‚Ķ

Where We Stayed

Accommodation: Mission Ranch Hotel located in the town of Carmel
Facilities: Tennis court, fitness centre, free pastries and coffee, complimentary wifi
Privacy: Spread over 22 acres, it’s easy to find some privacy away from town.
Cost: USD$135-335 per night
Would I Stay Again?: Absolutely! I can’t imagine staying elsewhere in Carmel, but next time I’d shell out extra for one of the more private and quiet detached suites. We were staying in the farmhouse – an older building with paper-thin walls. Our room was situated next to a large, young family, so it made for a very noisy stay.

Disclaimer: I was not paid or asked to write this post. My thoughts, views, and opinions are entirely my own.

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