The 15 Best Things To Do In Carmel-By-The-Sea (2024)

Discovering Hidden Gems Affiliate Link Disclosure

Want to know all the best things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea? We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know!

Best Things To Do In Carmel-By-The-Sea

As part of our week-long San Francisco Christmas getaway, we decided to take a couple days to drive up there from Orange County and stop to visit a few places on our bucket list.

I had read an article that ranked Carmel-By-The-Sea as the #3 Christmas town in the US, so we just had to stop there.

1. Drive The Scenic Route Through Carmel Valley

We took the scenic route in through Carmel Valley, which I highly recommend. The highlights of that drive are featured in the video above.

The Carmel Valley portion of the drive had lots of hills, tight turns, and narrow roads, but no one else was really out there.

We saw a few farms, parks, and wineries.

Eventually we came across a small village with some wine tasting rooms, restaurants, and small resorts.

We’d love to go back and explore that area.

At the end of the road is Carmel-By-The-Sea.

Carmel Valley Scenic Drive

2. Register For The Carmel-By-The-Sea Wine Walk

The biggest draw for us is this wine walk.

There are tons of tasting rooms all over town and many participate in this free wine walk.

By signing up, you’ll get a bonus at each participating wine tasting room.

Each place does its own thing.

For example, some do an extra pour of another wine that’s not on the tasting menu, usually a more exclusive wine, like a reserve wine.

Others do buy one get one tastings, discounts on bottles, and really anything else you can think of.

There are too many to do in 1 day, so we just started with the first one we came across and hopped around to the next closest tasting rooms throughout the day. We made it to a total of 3 tasting rooms, which is usually our max for one day anywhere we go wine tasting.

One thing we love to do at wine tastings is find our favorite wine and take home a bottle for later.

Every once in awhile we come across a winery where none of the wines particularly impressed us enough to take any home.

But we also get some where we’ll end up buying 3 different wines.

3. Sample The Wines At Hahn Wines

We like to share just one tasting so that we can visit as many places as possible without drinking too much.

So the first two wines of this flight were white wines, which we usually don’t care much for.

This one had a Noir Blanc and a Chardonnay.

Then we moved onto the red wines.

The first was the 2018 Lucienne Pinot Noir Hook Vineyard, which is one of their more exclusive collections.

It scored 93 points with Wine Enthusiast and we bought a bottle.

We also tried a Cuvee and a Syrah.

As the bonus with the wine walk, we also got a taste of their regular Pinot Noir, which we also bought.

4. Blair Estate Wines

In the same plaza is the Blair Estate Wines tasting room.

This one was a pretty even split of whites and reds.

It started with a “Rose of Pinot Noir”, then Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.

We actually bought a bottle of the Pinot Gris.

I don’t remember what all the red wines were, but we ended up buying a bottle of their regular Pinot Noir and their Reserve Collection Pinot Noir.

Did you know Pinot Noir is JP’s favorite type of wine?

He was definitely in heaven here!

5. Kori Wines

Across the street is Kori Wines.

This was recommended to us by the host at the last place.

From here we just bought one bottle of Pinot Noir.

This tasting was mostly whites – Blanc de Blancs, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Rose.

Then finished with Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah.

Save hundreds in tasting fees on your next wine tasting trip with Priority Wine Pass.

Hundreds of world class wineries from all regions of California have partnered to give you exclusive offers like 2 for 1 tastings, winery tours, bottle discounts, and more.

?? Click Here To Get Your Priority Wine Pass For $20 Off Today With Discount Code HIDDENGEMS Today!

6. Sample Cheese At The Cheese Shop

After our 2nd wine tasting, we stopped in at this cheese shop.

It’s in the same plaza as the first 2 wine tasting rooms.

When it comes to “fancy” cheeses like these, I LOVE the dry, crumbly stuff.

JP does not.

He found himself a spicy cheese though that he enjoyed.

We sampled a few different cheeses that the guy suggested and then took home small slices of our favorites.

We thought it was going to be like $30 for all the cheese, but it was only about $12!

The cheeses I picked out were the Prima Donna Forte and Pradera.

JP had the Sriracha Gouda.

7. Enjoy A Nice Dinner At Mission Bistro

This restaurant is right around the corner from Kori Wines.

We had scoped out a few that sounded good, so this was already on our radar, but our host at Kori Wines mentioned it and actually walked us over.

It was just barely dinner time, so we were some of the first ones in there.

It was very nicely decorated for Christmas.

For it being a smaller place, they had a good variety of menu options.

JP went with the Steak Fajitas and we built some yummy tacos from all the sides that come with it.

I was craving something cozy and meaty, so I went with the Bolognese pasta and it really hit the spot after a day of wine tasting.

Then for dessert we tried their Bread Pudding which is topped with a brandy caramel sauce!

8. Carmel-By-The-Sea Shopping

After dinner we realized we had only seen one corner of the town, so we decided to stroll up and down the main street to do a little sightseeing and shopping.

Many places were already closed for the night, but the gift shop type stores were still open and we were able to look at all the Christmas lights and plan for where to go on a future visit.

We found the perfect Christmas ornament to add to our travel ornament collection!

9. Take A Self Guided Audio Driving Tour Of The 17 Mile Drive

The tour takes less than an hour, but you can explore at your own pace as the app syncs audio with smartphone GPS systems.

You’ll find hidden gems, pristine beaches, and Mission Carmel.

? Click Here To Download Your Self Guided Audio Driving Tour Of The 17 Mile Drive Today!

10. Mission Carmel

Wednesdays through Sundays you can visit Mission Carmel and explore the museum, grounds, and gift shop.

The basilica is still an active parish, so there are times where the church may be closed for public viewing for weddings, masses, or other special events, but the rest of the mission will remain open.

Mission Carmel is known as the “Father of the California Missions”.

The Mission was established in the 1770s in Monterey, but was shortly after moved to its current location in Carmel.

By the 1850s it was essentially abandoned and fell into disrepair, which is when the church successfully took back over the land and designated the Mission as a historic landmark and it has been well preserved since.

11. Enjoy a 2.5 Hour E-Bike Tour Along The 17 Mile Drive

Another great way to explore the 17 Mile Drive is by e-bike.

You’ll get to spend more time here, get some exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and have a guide with you to take care of all the little things.

? Click Here To Book Your 2.5 Hour 17 Mile Drive E-Bike Tour Today!

12. Carmel Small Group Walking Food & Cultural Tour

Sample delicious chocolates, pasta, olive oils, wines, and farm-to-table preparations at popular local restaurants and boutique shops on this 3 hour small group tour.

The tour meets in the courtyard in front of the main entrance to Carmel’s Sunset Cultural Center and ends usually a couple of blocks away from the starting point.

? Click Here To Book Your Small Group Walking Food & Cultural Tour Today!

13. Take a 2 Hour Guided Walking Tour Of Carmel-By-The-Sea

A great way to scope out the lay of the land in a new town is a short guided tour.

They’ll tell you all the best places to go and you’ll get acquainted with the area so that you can confidently explore it on your own.

It’s also a great way to learn fun stories about the history and culture of places you’re visiting.

? Click Here To Book Your 2 Hour Guided Walking Tour Of Carmel Today!

14. Learn To Make Macarons With A Master Chef

This 90 minute small class teaches you how to make macarons at home with only 4 ingredients.

It’s a fun experience where you can learn tips and tricks to make macarons as good as the ones you’ll find in the bakeries.

? Click Here To Book Your Macaron Making Experience With A Master Chef Today!

15. Take A Self Guided Walking Tour To Carmel-By-The-Sea’s Fairytale Houses

There are 11 fairytale cottages that line the hilly streets of Carmel-By-The-Sea.

On this self-guided audio tour, you’ll escape the crowds and explore the houses at your pace, led by a knowledgeable guide right in your pocket.

It usually takes anywhere from 30-60 minutes, but you can take as much or as little time as you’d like.

? Click Here To Download Your Self Guided Walking Tour To Carmel’s Fairytale Houses Today!

Where to Stay When Visiting Carmel-By-The-Sea

Carmel is a cute seaside town with a variety of lodging options for every budget and style.

✅ Wayside Inn

Wayside Inn is right in the middle of Downtown Carmel with all the shops, restaurants, and wine tasting rooms at your doorstep.

I know for me, when I hear “Inn” I think more of a motel style place, but inns in many of California’s coastal towns are actually nice boutique hotels.

? Click Here To Book Your Stay At Wayside Inn Today!

✅ Hampton Inn & Suites Salinas

If you want to save a little money or stay a little bit outside of town, Salinas is a great nearby town with some cool things to do like the John Steinbeck Museum.

The Hampton Inn in Salinas is a great home base when visiting the Carmel area and you’ll always get free breakfast.

? Click Here To Book Your Hampton Inn & Suites Salinas Stay Today!

More Fun Things To Do Near Carmel-By-The-Sea

Carmel-By-The-Sea is nearby a lot of other iconic California coastal towns that you can pair together for a road trip or weekend getaway.

✔ Monterey To Southern California PCH Road Trip

Driving PCH between Monterey and San Diego takes you through so many different landscapes and scenic views.

You can drive it all in one day just taking in the views or spread it out over days to stop at each town.

✔ Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a classic seaside amusement park with roller coasters, carnival rides, and the best carnival foods.

It’s a fun day trip activity in Santa Cruz that I highly recommend at least once in your life.

Conclusion: Best Things To Do In Carmel-By-The-Sea

Carmel-By-The-Sea is a charming seaside town with something to offer everyone.

Whether you’re looking for art, history, nature, or just a relaxing beach vacation, you’ll find so many great things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea.

Pin This For Later!

Carmel-By-The-Sea and Salinas Weekend Getaway Itinerary