For many individuals, their first time visiting California's Carmel Coast proves a spiritual experience.
Stretching along the Pacific Ocean from the Carmel Highlands in the south to Del Month and Seaside to the north and incorporating the inland Carmel Valley, the landscape is spectacular and diverse. The raw beauty of lush interior hillsides, jagged oceanside cliffs, and expansive beaches perfect for a morning or afternoon stroll is unlike few places anywhere in the country.
Including the famed Monterey Peninsula, the area as a whole is a majestic seaside escape. It's remote—45 minutes to Santa Cruz, an hour to San Jose, two hours to San Francisco—without being isolated. The population of Monterey County includes nearly half a million residents, with nearby Salinas, California home to more than 160,000 people.
There's little doubt as to its allure as a place to vacation. An area to spend a week or two and let go of the realities of your daily grind.
Many people ponder when their time along the Carmel Coast comes to an end: how to make this gorgeous blending of land and sea their permanent home?
If you've asked yourself the same question, it's worth discovering a bit more about the area than what the resort brochure has to offer. Below, we take a look at five key facets of life in and around Carmel and Monterey, as well as in the Carmel Valley, to help determine if the Carmel Coast is right for you.
A Little History
Life in Carmel and Monterey dates back to the 1500s when Native Americans flourished in the region. Later, European settlers would make claims on the territory, establishing missions starting in the 1770s. Over the course of the next century, Spanish and Mexican flags flew over the Carmel Coast until the region, and California as a whole was permanently claimed under the mantle of the United States.
What many now recognize as the soul of the Monterey Peninsula region took shape in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Displaced by the devastation, many artists - musicians, painters, writers - flocked to the area for its inexpensive lots and already burgeoning arts scene, especially the artistic enclave of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Modern-day Carmel is a magnet for tourism and those seeking a decidedly upscale, seaside lifestyle. Though a pricier area than many of California's other coastal regions, its vibrancy and close-knit community spirit is a huge draw, particularly for retirees and those with families who can work remotely.
A Natural Wonder
To consider the Carmel Coast, Monterey Peninsula, and the Carmel Valley an outdoor enthusiasts' dream locale would be an understatement. From the twin bays of Carmel and Monterey to the dramatic cliffs that both disappear into the sea and frame the region's many beaches to the interior expanse of lush green hills, the geography offers a little something for everyone.
In addition to the cliffs-meet-ocean spectacle, there's an array of other natural habitats. These include the Del Monte Forest, the Carmel River meandering in from the Santa Lucia Mountains, Big Sur further to the south, a collection of seaside dunes, and numerous marine protected areas—six in all—that preserve the region's sea- and wildlife.
One of Monterey's most notable features is the vaunted 17-Mile Drive, a scenic loop that passes through and along some of the peninsula's most stunning natural (and man-made) landscapes. The peninsula itself gives way to the Carmel Valley in the east, a more sparsely populated region that affords residents a more bucolic, inland valley lifestyle.
The region's real estate scene is just as captivating as its natural spectacles. You could call it luxurious, and opulent, and the absolute height of extravagance, but even those descriptions wouldn't seem to do it justice.
If you possess deep pockets and an appetite for statement-making residences set on breathtaking seaside lots, you'll appreciate the grandeur of the peninsula. In particular, homes in Pebble Beach on the peninsula's southern coast. It's not out of the ordinary for the most sensational properties to stretch north of the $20 million mark. These homes are palatial estates overlooking both Pebble Beach Golf Course and the Pacific Ocean. The most awe-inspiring homes feature unique architectural details, abundant space for entertaining, and a lifestyle that exceeds even the most vivid imaginations.
However, contrary to popular belief, not every community comes with stratospheric prices. One of the most underrated aspects of life in and around the Carmel Coast is its immense livability. In contrast to Pebble Beach's opulence, Pacific Grove on the north end of the peninsula features quaint cottage living, with high walkability to a number of the town's best shops and restaurants as well as parks and green spaces along Monterey Bay.
Carmel-by-the-Sea features a range of housing options. There are multi-million dollar homes a few steps from the gorgeous white sands of Carmel Beach or smaller cottage homes further from the shore. Opportunity is plentiful further inland near Carmel Valley Village and Tierra Grande for those with an affinity for space, expansive valley views, and charming architectural details.
There are homes fit for any lifestyle and practically any budget. It's just a matter of choosing the one that fits yours.
Must Love Golf
It's not a prerequisite for living in and around Carmel and Monterey, but your individual experience will be considerably more enjoyable if you love golf. Home to the celebrated Pebble Beach Golf Links and the private Dr. Alister MacKenzie masterpiece Cypress Point, golf in this part of the world is truly something special.
But while those two gems generate many of the headlines (Pebble Beach has played host to six U.S. Opens after all), the peninsula as a whole boasts many other standout golfing experiences, both public and private.
In all, there are 25 18-hole golf courses within a flushed 3-iron of 17-mile Drive. Some highlights include the Del Monte Golf Course in Monterey, Carmel Valley Ranch, and Quail Lodge Golf Club both Carmel, the two courses of vastly underrated Bayonet in Seaside, and the more notable Spyglass Hill Golf Club, Links at Spanish Bay, and Poppy Hills Golf Club in Pebble Beach.
The collective quality of golf in the Monterey region is truly unparalleled. Should you move here, it's one of the greatest benefits to calling the area home.
An Artist's Heart
As noted earlier, Carmel, Monterey, and the surrounding communities have long drawn their fair share of creative types. John Steinbeck lived in Pacific Grove for many years. Monterey hosted many painters, including Armin Hansen. Carmel drew the likes of photographer Ansel Adams, cartoonist Hank Ketcham, writers Upton Sinclair, Sinclair Lewis, Beverly Cleary, and actor and arguably its most famous resident, Clint Eastwood.
Art lovers, and those with just a passing interest, marvel at the depth and variety of the visual and written mediums on display. Carmel is a particular treat with approximately 100 art galleries within one square mile of each other in the heart of the city. It's also home to the Monterey County Symphony, the Carmel Art Walk, the Pacific Repertory Theatre, and the Carmel Mission Basilica.
Not to be outdone, Monterey features the Monterey Museum of Art, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the famed Cannery Row, which houses several local art galleries. The entire area is a treasure trove of cultural creativity that would make many big cities envious.
Is the Carmel Coast Right for You?
Much of what's listed above is simply scratching the surface of this genuinely unique area of the country.
Indeed, the shopping and dining scene is worth a mention. The former is a collection of unique, locally-owned shops and boutiques co-mingled with national brands that ascribe to the local aesthetics. The latter is a broad offering of fresh Pacific Ocean seafood and locally sourced farm-to-table fare.
The area is also notable for its outstanding schools. Carmel High School is a top ten public high school in California. Carmel Middle School earns the same distinction for grades six through eight. And for those seeking private education, there's an abundance of highly-touted institutions from which to choose.
But the real measure of whether the Carmel and Monterey regions will prove an ideal landing spot is if you're ready to take on a slower, more relaxed approach to life. There's no big city bustle here or even endless suburban sprawl. It's the sea and the land and an incredibly high standard of luxury living. If you can accept that, you and the Carmel Coast will prove the perfect match.
Ready to explore the best of Carmel real estate? Contact Carmel Coast Realty today to start your home buying journey. From Monterey Peninsula real estate to Carmel Valley homes for sale, allow our team's years of experience and expertise to be your guide to the Carmel Coast luxury real estate market.