Our dog-friendly weekend trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea

I was compensated with free lodging and meals for this post, but all opinions are my own.

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California sounds like a magical place from its name alone, and once you’ve visited, you realize the magic is real. Conceived as an artists’ colony in the early 1900s, the town’s character is that of a village in a forest overlooking the beach, and it’s filled with straight-out-of-a-fairytale houses that all have imaginative names. (Fun fact: there are no street numbers in Carmel-by-the-Sea; residents go to the post office to pick up their mail.) The town is vigilant about preserving its beauty—trees cannot be torn down to accommodate new construction, buildings cannot be more than two stories tall, signs must be wood (or wood-like), and as a matter of public safety on its uneven sidewalks, you are required to have a permit to wear heels over 2 inches high (yes, that is an actual law!). It may sound like a lot of regulation, but the result is that Carmel-by-the-Sea is a truly special place filled with people and businesses that feel so devoted the unique character of the town. And what makes Carmel even more dear to my heart is that it’s the most dog-friendly town I’ve ever visited—in fact, all of the visitor maps note which businesses allow dogs!

Carmel is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from San Francisco, which makes it perfect for a weekend trip (although we'd happily spend a week—or longer—there). Here’s what Sean, Zuni, and I did on our visit in November.

Where to stay
Carmel-by-the-Sea is incredibly walkable (just don’t bring heels!), but a central location is key. We stayed at Hofsas House, which is run by the Theis family—the owner's grandmother, Donna Hofsas, opened the Bavarian-themed hotel back in 1947! Hofsas House is centrally located on a street with several other small inns and B&Bs; it’s several blocks away from the main drag, Ocean Boulevard, but positioned so you can walk to everything in minutes. The rooms are very well maintained, super spacious, and furnished with cozy furniture and gas fireplaces. Ours had a large balcony with an ocean view, which was where we ate our continental breakfast every morning (yes, it’s included in the rate); I ended up drinking three cups of coffee one morning because I was enjoying the view so much! Also worth noting: it’s one of the only hotels in Carmel-by-the-Sea that has a pool.

Hofsas House has all of the amenities you’d expect—everything from a blow-dryer and ironing board to toiletries and guidebooks—but it’s the people who made our stay extra special. Carrie, the owner, drew us a very detailed map of how to get to the beach via the back entrance, so that Zuni could run around on the more secluded part. Zuni also got a special welcome treat, including dog shampoo (which we definitely needed after said trip to the beach). We all enjoyed our stay here and will definitely be back!

What to do
Of all the beautiful scenery in Carmel, the white-sand beach is probably the most gorgeous. It was definitely Zuni’s favorite part, too—she ran around, ate some seaweed, made friends, rolled in the sand, and pretty much had the time of her life. Dogs can be off-leash on the beach, and if yours is as free-spirited as ours is, I’d recommend entering at the 4th Avenue entrance so you avoid the crowds around the main Ocean Avenue parking lot. Oh, and yes, that’s the famous Pebble Beach golf course in the background!

When it comes to wine, California is most known for its Napa and Sonoma Country regions, but there are a bunch of wine producers in Monterey County, and the cool climate is ideal for growing pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. And since Carmel is so walkable, that makes it a great place for tasting rooms! We visited two on the recommendation of Carrie. Our first stop was Scheid, which is the biggest producer in the region and grows a variety of grapes. Their vermentino was extra-delicious! Our second stop was Blair, which is in the Carmel Plaza shopping center. Not only do they make a deliciously unoaked Chardonnay, their pinots are all amazing too, and our pourer, Annelise, was super friendly. There are several other tasting rooms in this center—Wrath and Hahn among them—if you really want to maximize your wine tasting per square foot. And since none of these locations serve food, they’re all dog-friendly!

This blog is called Cheryl Shops after all, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the shopping in Carmel, which is unexpectedly fabulous. There are a gazillion fine art galleries if that’s your thing, and there are a ton of jewelry shops (I joke that those are for the women whose husbands are playing golf all weekend). But there is also some serious luxury shopping in Carmel: Bottega Veneta (!!!), Tiffany, and Coach are all on the main drag, and there’s a branch of the Aspen-based Cos Bar (it’s like a super-fancy Sephora). I also loved nearly everything in Paloosh on Ocean. For the more mainstream, there’s a Kate Spade and an Anthropologie in the Plaza.

What really gives Carmel character, of course, are its specialty shops. If you love cheese (or even if you like it just a little), you must visit The Cheese Shop in the plaza. Their brie was hands down the creamiest, most mild, most delicious brie I’ve ever had. The Carmel Honey Company, just across the way, was started by a teenager(!). And speaking of sweets, I love Lula’s Chocolates for a more high-end experience and Cottage of Sweets for a more traditional sweet shop.

Oh, and Zuni shopped too—this is a dog-friendly town, so of course there are multiple dog-oriented boutiques. She got a fancy new leash at Diggidy Dog and also took a spin through The Dog House in the Plaza.

Where to eat
Since the weather in Carmel is generally mild, a large number of restaurants have outdoor seating and are thus dog-friendly. Even though we’ve been to Carmel-by-the-Sea several times before, all but one of the restaurants we ate at were new to us, and we still have a bunch of dog-friendly places to try next time. Have I mentioned how much I love Carmel?

Friday night, we ate at Forge in the Forest, which features Californian cuisine and has a magical outdoor patio area with heat lamps (which we didn’t even need because it was so unseasonably warm). I had a very satisfying salad with seared scallops and an indulgently delicious chocolate mousse cake.

Saturday night, we ventured to Pacific Grove, a quick 10-minute drive, to Beach House at Lovers Point, which is right on the water (although we missed the sunset). We feasted on super-fresh local seafood, starting with Monterey calamari, then with the Corvina sea bass. The portions are very generous, and everything was seasoned perfectly—my entrĂ©e had sauce that was so delicious, I was literally sopping up every last bit with bread (which was warm and obviously freshly baked). I love that their wine list is sourced from local producers, too. This is obviously a special restaurant for a lot of locals—many of the tables nearby were celebrating birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and other special events. And yes, dogs are allowed on the patio!

For brunch, we went back to Stationaery, which we had discovered on our last trip to Carmel. It’s obviously popular with locals—there were lots of hip millennial parents with little kids and cute dogs. Their chilaquiles are incredible.

I also highly recommend the 5th Avenue Deli, especially if you’re going to do a picnic on the beach. You can make your own sandwich or pick from their menu (I love the club sandwich!), plus they have drinks, desserts, and local wine too.

Village Corner is open all day but I definitely recommend having breakfast there; and we didn’t go there this time, but I love Il Tegamino, which is hard to find, but worth it for hearty Italian food. I also love La Bicyclette, but it’s not dog friendly, so we skipped it on this trip. Mission Ranch is perfect for watching the sunset—and the sheep herd that’s kept on premises—but note that dogs aren’t allowed there either due to said sheep (which we found out the hard way).

What else you should know
If I had a million dollars (or $10 million), I would totally buy a weekend home here. Carmel-by-the-Sea is one of the most charming, magical, special places in California (if not the world), and I find it so relaxing and peaceful yet urbane and cultured too. The people are so friendly and take great pride in their town, and the landscape is just gorgeous. Plus, the fact that we were able to take Zuni nearly everywhere was so convenient. We usually go to Carmel every August, but this time, we had a totally different experience without the chaos of Car Week. Plus, the weather was incredible. It’s a little off the beaten path, but it’s well worth the drive. You should go—bring your dog, and tell them I sent you!


Claire Justine said...

This looks like a perfect holiday Cheryl. You captured some beautiful photos here. Your last photo of your dog is adorable :) :) Thanks for sharing at The Weekly Link-Up.

mummabstylish said...

Fun times Cheryl - looks like you had super fun. Jacqui

Mica said...

Your pup is so cute! i'm glad you and Zuni had fun there - it does sound like the perfect place for a weekend getaway if you have a dog!

Thanks so much for joining the #WeekdayWearLinkup! A new link up is live on my blog now, I'd love you to join again!

Hope that you had a great weekend :) It was a hot one here, summer has definitely arrived!

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Tarequl said...

This looks like a perfect holiday Cheryl!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

customized gifts for him said...

Fun times Cheryl - looks like you had super fun. Jacqui
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