Carmel Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Carmel

Carmel-by-the-Sea, frequently referred to as Carmel, was founded as a mission in 1770 by Franciscan priests. Though the area was settled in small numbers before that date, it was fully colonized by priests Junipero Serra and Juan Crespi. Along with being the site of the mission, the city was capital of California until 1849.

Eventually, Carmel became a haven for artists who formed a colony in the small town. Those who appreciate the arts and culture found the beachside community to be the perfect spot to gather and develop their crafts. Vestiges of the 20th century art community can still be found in places like the Harrison Memorial Library, Fairy Tale Cottages and the Sunset Center.

Carmel continues to be a place that invites visitors who wish to spend their days in a beautiful and serene city. Tourists can experience the history of Carmel Mission, spend a day shopping at Carmel Plaza, and then round off a getaway by relaxing on the pristine, sandy Carmel Beach at the end of Ocean Avenue. Some of the natural areas are protected in order to preserve the wildlife on the land and in the sea. The beauty of Carmel-by-the-Sea is something that must be experienced to be believed.

Take this self-guided tour of Carmel to see the most notable and beautiful places in the city.
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Carmel Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Carmel Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Carmel (See other walking tours in Carmel)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.8 Km or 3 Miles
Author: JohnB
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Carmel Plaza
  • Ocean Avenue
  • Harrison Memorial Library
  • Fairy Tale Cottages (The Tuck Box)
  • Sunset Center
  • Carmel Mission
  • Tor House and Hawk Tower
  • Scenic Road Walkway
  • Carmel Beach
Carmel Plaza

1) Carmel Plaza

Carmel Plaza is an outdoor shopping center at the corners of Ocean Avenue and Junipero Street. The plaza opened in 1960 as a luxury shopping center with high-end department store I. Magnin as its flagship. Carmel Plaza was designed by architect Olof Dahlstrand.

A number of shops are now accessible through Carmel Plaza. Visitors can explore such retail spaces as Anthropologie, Cole Haan, Kate Spade and Tiffany & Co. They will also find restaurants that serve seafood, pastries and local favorites. Wine tasting rooms and a taphouse are also onsite for those who want to kick back and relax in style.

Special events often take place at Carmel Plaza. Live summer music is popular with summer visitors. The plaza has a traditional holiday tree lighting ceremony each December as well. If you happen to be visiting at the right time, you can enjoy fitness classes in the square. If not, you can still focus on wellness by visiting a local spa.
Ocean Avenue

2) Ocean Avenue (must see)

Ocean Avenue is a favorite locations for visitors to Carmel. The avenue is ideal for walking as it is a one-mile stretch of interesting shops and pleasant scenery in an area that is known for beautiful weather throughout the year. Best of all, at the end of the journey, the lucky visitor is welcomed by a sandy beach.

Most visitors start their trek at Junipero Street. They will see Devendorf Park, which is a small but pleasant public park with plenty of shade and public restrooms. The park was named after Frank Devendorf, who is known as the Father of Carmel. A bronze bust of Frank Devendorf can be found in the park.

Along the walk, tourists can stop to shop, have a class of wine or simply enjoy the atmosphere. They will then find themselves in a residential area that is cozy and secure. Of course, the prize of Ocean Avenue is the sandy, white beach on the bay. Just steps away from Pescadero Canyon, Carmel Beach is a must for any visitor to the city.
Harrison Memorial Library

3) Harrison Memorial Library

Harrison Memorial Library is a public library located on Ocean Avenue in Carmel. The library is in a historic building designed by architect Bernard Maybeck in 1928. It was financed by Ella Reid Harrison in honor of her husband, California Supreme Court Justice Ralph Chandler Harrison.

The library is unique in that it does not rely on public funding for materials or programs. Private gifts, including a society called the Friends of the Harrison Memorial Library, provide funding that pays for books and supplies.

Visitors to the library can appreciate the architecture of the building, which represents Maybeck's signature Arts and Crafts style. They can also rest on one of the benches outside of the library, which have ample shade and easy access to some of the city's best local eateries and upscale retail attractions.
Fairy Tale Cottages (The Tuck Box)

4) Fairy Tale Cottages (The Tuck Box) (must see)

Fairy Tale Cottages are a series of homes that were designed by Hugh Comstock. Each has the appearance of a fairy tale cottage brought to life. They have uneven rooflines, stone chimneys, ornate metalwork and English-style gardens. The homes are located in the Comstock Historical Hill District.

Comstock began building the homes in 1924. The first was a house for he and his wife, Mayotta Browne, that he called Gretel. The second, a home called Hansel, was built to showcase the cloth Otsy-Totsy dolls his wife made. Soon thereafter, Comstock began designing commercial buildings in the same style. The first of these was The Tuck Box.

Today, The Tuck Box is a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. Visitors can also buy products to take home as souvenirs. The Tuck Box sells jams, tea, pastry mixes and cereal in unique packaging.

The Tuck Box is located on Dolores Street. It is open seven days per week from 7:30 am through early afternoon.
Sunset Center

5) Sunset Center

The Sunset Center is a performing arts center that features festivals and live performances. The building was originally a public school called the Sunset School. It was built in the Late Gothic Revival architectural style by John J. Donovan in 1906.

The public school needed to expand and reinforce the building against earthquake damage. Instead of incurring the expense, the building was sold to the city of Carmel in 1964. That was when it began use as a theatre. It was significantly renovated over the years, including a $20 million theatre upgrade in the early 21st century.

Visitors to Carmel may purchase tickets to performance via the Sunset Center website. They could also stop by the Center for Photographic Art, which is likewise located in the center. Those who simply want to view the space may walk by the facility. It is located on San Carlos Street, about two blocks south of Ocean Avenue.
Carmel Mission

6) Carmel Mission (must see)

Carmel Mission is a restored Roman Catholic mission church in Carmel Valley. Founded in 1770, the mission was founded by Franciscan missionaries. It was relocated to its present location the following year. Its full name, Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo, is named for Archbishop Carlo Borromeo and the Carmel River.

There is much controversy surrounding the early days of the mission. Franciscans converted Native Americans to improve their baptismal rates. It is thought that about 900 tribal members were baptized and then forced into labor on the mission grounds during the 18th and 19th centuries. They were starved, tortured and left to die from diseases. This practice is thought to have ceased around 1833 when the church was secularized.

The mission was abandoned and fell into disrepair in the mid-19th century. The roof collapsed in 1852 and the mission was left in ruins. The Roman Catholic church took control of the land once again and rebuilt the mission, and then added to it over the course of several decades. It is said to be one of the most authentically restored missions in California. The mission was designated as a National Historic Landmark on October 9, 1960. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.

Today, the mission is used as a place of worship and gatherings. Concerts, lectures and art exhibits take place at the mission. Visitors are welcome to tour the museum, find souvenirs in the gift shop and tour the mission itself. They can also attend mass along with the local congregation.

The museum, gift shop and grounds are open Wednesday and Thursday from 10 AM to 4 PM, Friday and Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM and Sunday from 12:30 PM to 5 PM. Those wishing to attend mass as the Carmel Mission should consult the website as mass times are subject to change.
Tor House and Hawk Tower

7) Tor House and Hawk Tower (must see)

Tor House and Hawk Tower were the home of poet Robinson Jeffers and family from 1919 to 1999.

The two structures, often referred to jointly as Tor House, are generally believed to have played a crucial role in the development of Robinson Jeffers as a poet, and have inspired many a visitor; for example, Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog:

"Tor House is a poem-like masterpiece. It may express more direct intelligence per square inch than any other house in America."

The Jeffers family moved into Tor House in August 1919—after Robinson Jeffers had worked as an apprentice in its construction—and lived there for the remainder of their lives. Donnan Jeffers, one of the couple's two sons, lived with his family in the neighboring east wing of the house. They remained there until Donnan and his wife Lee died.

Jeffers named it Tor House after the type of ground on which the house was situated, a granite outcrop that might have been known as a "tor" in southwest England. He described the land he chose as the site for the house as being like a "prow and plunging cutwater" of a ship. The Carmel area's influence in Robinson Jeffers' work becomes apparent in his poems such as his work "The Purse Seine", a poem about the local fishing industry.

Jeffers' routine was to work on his poetry in the attic in the morning and to work on his building projects, such as Hawk Tower and expanding Tor House, in the afternoon.

After completing a stone garage and wall on his own, Jeffers started work on a tower that would take him four years to complete. He began construction in 1920 at the behest of his wife Una. The stonework for the tower was completed in late 1924. The woodwork was completed by a paid carpenter in 1925. Jeffers named the tower Hawk Tower, purportedly after a hawk that appeared often while he was building the tower, but stopped appearing after he finished construction. He appeared to adopt the hawk as his symbol at the time, placing Una's symbol (a unicorn) above her second-floor door and a hawk above the door to his third-floor lookout.

It was while Jeffers was engaged in building Hawk Tower between 1920 and 1924 that Jeffers is thought to have discovered his voice as a poet. He compiled and printed a limited run of the book Tamar and Other Poems well into the final year of tower stonework. He was not able to find a major publisher for the book until several editors from the Book Club of California discovered him.

Opening Hours: Friday-Saturday: 10 am - 4 pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Scenic Road Walkway

8) Scenic Road Walkway (must see)

People visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea are able to take a scenic drive along the bay. Those who prefer walking have an even better view as they can experience the accompanying walkway. They can enjoy the views at their own pace as they walk from the Carmel Beach entrance on Ocean Avenue to Carmel River State Beach, just over one mile away.

The walking path starts along the beautiful, sandy beach on one side and rocky, tree lined cliffs on the other. Sights along the way include the Clinton Walker House - Frank Lloyd Wright historical landmark, Carmel Point and the unique Butterfly House.

The Scenic Road Walkway ends at the massive Carmel River State Beach. This mile-long beach is home to a bird sanctuary. Therefore, there are plenty of opportunities for birdwatching. Those who are lucky might spot a whale, though they are usually found a bit further out via a whale-watching excursion.
Carmel Beach

9) Carmel Beach (must see)

Carmel Beach is one of the most visited and most photographed beaches in California's Central Coast. The one-mile-long beach is covered in soft, white sand with crashing waves and lines of cypress trees.

The water at Carmel Beach is not for the faint of heart. The water remains a cold 60 degrees of Fahrenheit even during the warmest months. It is also prone to sudden changes in waves. Warning signs are posted stating that climbing on rocks and wading are both dangerous due to the life-threatening currents. Still, it is worth letting children and pets play in the sand while adults enjoy the spectacular views.

There is a scenic walking path between Carmel Beach and Carmel River Beach that offers even more beautiful views. In the evenings, visitors are welcome to build beach fires in supplied fire pits, though strict rules are enforced.

Visitors are welcome at Carmel Beach between the hours of 6 am and 10 pm.

Walking Tours in Carmel, California

Create Your Own Walk in Carmel

Create Your Own Walk in Carmel

Creating your own self-guided walk in Carmel is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Wine Tasting Walk

Wine Tasting Walk

While it takes no more than a dozen minutes to stroll from one corner of Carmel to the other, it is quite easy to get lost. There are no street numbers in Carmel but the wine bars and bottle shops are plentiful, and the tasting rooms are even more so – enough to keep visitors busy for days!

This charming city is indeed a bona fide wine tasting destination at its best! Regardless of your...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.7 Km or 0.4 Miles
Historical Buildings Walking Tour

Historical Buildings Walking Tour

Back in the early 1900s, little about Carmel-by-the-Sea rivaled the appeal of the magnificent ocean front. What is seen now as a quaint, European-like town on the coast of Central California, started off at the turn of the last century with the planting of 100 pine trees right down Main Street – today's Ocean Avenue. This was followed by the arrival of the young architect, Michael J....  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.8 Km or 0.5 Miles