California road trip: Carmel, Monterey Bay and a trip through Big Sur

Hello! I’m back today with another post about our California road trip – an adventure we went this time last year (the time since has flown by!). Last month I talked about San Francisco; from there we headed to Yosemite and today I’m talking about the time we spent in Carmel – which includes a day trip to Monterey Bay and our drive through Big Sur down Route 1.

It’s a jam packed post, but I’ve broken it down into where we stayed, what we did, where we ate and our overall impression – which I hope is useful to you if you’re planning a trip and/or daydreaming about visiting Carmel, Monterey Bay and the surrounding area. I’ve also added in various photos from our time there.


California road trip: Carmel, Monterey Bay and a trip through Big Sur. Top tips on where we stayed, where we ate, what we did and more! Post via This Little Space of Mine


Where we stayed

La Playa Carmel. I loved this hotel. I loved it so much that I wrote a list of reasons why I loved it in our travel journey. They were:

  • Breakfast was included (and boy was it tasty!)
  • We had a great view out of our window – we could see the beach
  • The hotel offered free fresh lemonade in the afternoon
  • We had a comfy bed and I slept really well
  • They offer milk and cookies for guests in the early evening (even now that memory makes me so happy)
  • We stayed in a room that had a lovely light in the morning when we woke
  • There was an outdoor terrace where we sat, drank and read our books
Where we ate
  • Lunch: PB Market. PB Market was a general store in Monterey Bay, so not a sit down place, but we popped in, bought loads of snacks and ordered a fresh panini and then sat outside on a picnic bench and had lunch in the gorgeous spring sunshine.
  • Lunch: Big Sur Bakery. On check out in Carmel the team recommended stopping here, as we passed it on our way down to San Simeon. It’s quite a popular little spot and we had a strawberry scone and some iced lemonade here. It was a really warm day so made for the perfect pit stop for us.
  • Dinner: Little Napoli. This was our first meal in Carmel and we opted for pizza; I remember having a really tasty garlic bread for starter too. I liked this place, it had an authentic feel and I loved that they had a signed picture of The Soprano’s cast in the restrooms.
  • Dinner: The Tree House Cafe. Oh we loved this place! While they had a great outdoor space to eat, it was a little chilly so we ate inside. We had the most delicious meal (and wine!) and the whole atmosphere of this restaurant was perfect. The staff couldn’t have done more for us so I highly recommend The Tree House Cafe.


California road trip: Carmel, Monterey Bay and a trip through Big Sur. Top tips on where we stayed, where we ate, what we did and more! Post via This Little Space of Mine


What we did
  • Visited Monterey Bay. There’s a 17 mile drive around the bay and Pebble Beach which we took advantage of. We had to pay a little bit to do so (sorry, I can’t remember how much it was!) and then we followed the route and stopped at regular points to have a walk around. It was an incredibly beautiful area and the views were fantastic.
  • Found a knitting shop, named Knitting by the Sea. When researching Carmel I know by the fact that the shops were quite quaint that there just had to be some kind of craft shop. Knitting by the Sea was a great find, a fab knitting shop and we met the owner and the new addition to the shop… a cat called Boomer. Carmel seems to be very popular with dogs and dog owners, so it was nice to see a cat. Do check out their Facebook page for regular Boomer updates; this is the message I left after we visited.
  • Watched the sun go down on Carmel Beach. On our first night in Carmel we popped to the beach just in good time… a really beautiful moment watching the sun set on the pacific ocean.
  • Looked around the shops and explored the neighbourhood. It’s fair to say when we first arrived we thought the place was a little tacky, but the more time we spent in Carmel the more we were proved wrong. Carmel and the surrounding area was a joy to spend time in – a really good rest point before we headed on to LA.


California road trip: Carmel, Monterey Bay and a trip through Big Sur. Top tips on where we stayed, where we ate, what we did and more! Post via This Little Space of Mine


Driving through Big Sur down Route 1

I mentioned Big Sur Bakery earlier, where we stopped for lunch. This was on our route from Carmel to San Simeon, where we stayed the night and visited Hearst Castle. A note on Hurst Castle; while I appreciate that for some it’s a great tourist spot, for us it was just that. A tourist trap that we didn’t really enjoy. We experienced quite a rude member of staff, who mocked our accent, and felt that the place didn’t have enough history.

The route from Carmel to San Simeon was a fantastic experience, not just because I drove some of it(!) but the views were breathtaking – greenery and hills on one side and the ocean on the other. There are plenty of points to stop and take in the view and take photos, and the route felt safe and enjoyable. The blue skies of the day made it even better and I’m sitting here typing wanting to take that drive again. Just before our stop in San Simeon we stopped to see all the Elephant Seals along the beach; never in my life have I seen so many seals! We saw more later on in our trip, in La Jolla, but more on that another time.


California road trip: Carmel, Monterey Bay and a trip through Big Sur. Top tips on where we stayed, where we ate, what we did and more! Post via This Little Space of Mine


Overall impression

We loved spending time in this part of California, by this point we were in full swing holiday mood and had settled into the trip. The weather was beautiful, we had some great meals and we were in beautiful surroundings. If you’re planning a trip to California I would always encourage a stop here.


California road trip: Carmel, Monterey Bay and a trip through Big Sur. Top tips on where we stayed, where we ate, what we did and more! Post via This Little Space of Mine


Other places we visited on our road trip

More posts coming soon (I’ll update this page as soon as a new post goes live). If you fancy a look, here’s the map of where we visited on our trip.

If you’re planning a trip to this part of California, I hope this post is really useful for you. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have too, so drop me a comment below or tweet me and I’ll be pleased to help. Before we went to California I also created a Pinterest board, with lots of ideas of places to visit – so be sure to check that out.

Follow Leanne’s board California dreamin’ on Pinterest.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a good day.

Leanne x

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