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Walnut Creek Magazine

Falling for the quintessential charm of Carmel on California’s Central Coast

Mar 25, 2016 04:26PM ● By Pam Kessler

With storybook architecture, perennial morning mist, and more fireplaces per capita than anywhere on the planet (or so it would seem), Carmel is one of Northern California’s most charming escapes. You're probably already familiar with its seaside splendor and famed nearby aquarium, so here are some other stylish spots where you can eat and drink and play golf, then cozy up next to a rustic hearth come nightfall.

The drive down to the Monterey Peninsula is only two hours from Walnut Creek. If you cut-over to Highway One for a portion of the trip, you will pass through Moss Landing where the hidden, yet super popular Phil’s Fish Market is located. Tucked away in an industrial area, Phil’s is the real deal for seafood. Open seven days a week, clam chowder and cioppino reign supreme on the menu, attracting a loyal following of locals and visitors alike. Be prepared to wait in line. (

 From Moss Landing the road winds past the rolling sand dunes of Seaside and into the Monterey Peninsula. If your pooch is a long for the ride, stop at Carmel-by-the-Sea's iconic Cypress Inn for Yappy Hour. The 1929 landmark property, co-owned by legendary Hollywood actress Doris Day, is renowned for its leash-free policy and artisan cocktails. Renovated in 2014, contemporary rooms feature sunken tubs, fireplaces and custom wrought iron beds. Ask about their Pillow Talk package complete with oysters and chocolate truffles. (

Venture 12-miles down Carmel Valley Road into the heart of the Santa Lucia Mountains. Quaint and picturesque Carmel Valley was recently ranked a top 10 global wine destination by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. The area is graced with secluded redwood canyons, chaparral-laden slopes, ancient stands of pine, and plenty of sunshine. Actor Clint Eastwood lives in Carmel Valley where he also owns Tehama Ranch — a 2,040-acre swath of rolling hills and rugged canyons high above Monterey Bay converted into an invitation-only, private golf club. 

 It’s also home to destination resorts like the Quail Lodge & Golf Club which in 2013 underwent a $28 million renovation unveiling rich updates to the historic property. Nestled on 850-acres of lush fairways, fragrant meadows and sparkling lakes, its plush suites are the perfect place to relax after a day on the newly modernized 18-hole golf course. Starting at $185 per night, the Winter Escapes package includes complimentary continental breakfast, Wi-Fi and parking. (

A short distance down the road from Quail Lodge is The Refuge — a secluded soaking spa with thermal pools, saunas, steam rooms and zero-gravity recliners. This is the place to indulge in a “refuge” from life soaking in silence by glowing fire pits and spectacular hillsides. (

 Meander through the charming streets of Carmel Valley lined with wine tasting rooms, shops and eateries. For dinner it’s the Valley Kitchen located at the sophisticated Carmel Valley Ranch where the seasonal menu features fresh ingredients from the resort’s on-site garden and surrounding local areas. (

If there’s still time, take your dog on a hike at Garland Ranch Regional Park. Located 5.2 miles east of Quail Lodge, dogs are welcome on leash at the 4,500 acre park where trails meander through beautiful Carmel Valley open space. Hit the deck at Edgar’s on the course at Quail Lodge for a burger before hitting the road and heading home.

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