Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur

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in Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur

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Set on the Monterey Peninsula where the Del Monte Forest meets the Pacific Ocean, Pebble Beach is an idyllic haven. It is a place of sweeping beaches and aquamarine waters, of sea lions, sea otters, pods of migrating whales, and low-flying pelicans scanning the water for anchovies and squid. The cool Pacific air keeps temperatures so delightfully moderate that golfers can wear slacks and sweater vests all year long. 

Nearby, Carmel-by-the-Sea provides a wonderful escape for much of the year. The pedestrian-friendly central shopping and dining district along Ocean Avenue comprises no more than 10 square blocks; the coastal hamlet atmosphere remains enchanting; and the beach is sublime. 

The breathtaking stretch of California coastline south of Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea that leads down to Big Sur is home to a towering, redwood-covered mountain range that drops dramatically to the Pacific along a gorgeous stretch of Highway 1, one of the world's most deservedly celebrated scenic highways. 

Big Sur's population is sparse, and the area still retains the rugged qualities that long ago lent it artisan/bohemian allure, attracting literary iconoclasts such as Henry Miller, Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac. In the mid-20th century, Miller may have found in Big Sur an antithesis to the "air-conditioned nightmare" of modern life; today, though, modern comforts are readily available. A host of state parks in the area offers ample opportunity for exploring on foot, by bike or by horseback. The Esalen Institute, founded in the 1960s as an alternative-education mecca, continues to cultivate well-being with its hot springs, massage offerings, meditation workshops and myriad other avenues for self-exploration.

Editor Tips

The Lone Cypress

At Pebble Beach, I seldom pass up the opportunity to take a spin around 17-Mile Drive, a scenic loop that first runs inland, then along the coast, before heading up into the hills. Scenic viewpoints, some of which are more than 600 feet above sea level, provide a succession of astonishing vistas. The most iconic attraction is the Lone Cypress, a Monterey cypress tree that is the official symbol of Pebble Beach.

Golf at Del Monte

A golfer would be remiss if he or she did not visit the least-famous piece of the Pebble Beach portfolio, the Del Monte Golf Course (1300 Sylvan Road, Monterey, Tel. [831] 373-2700). It is the oldest continuously operating course west of the Mississippi, and perhaps the most compelling argument for including it in an itinerary is that many of the caddies at the Pebble Beach Company play their golf here.

Non-Golf Activities

Aside from golf, Pebble Beach serves as a venue for notable events. Every spring, Pebble Beach Food & Wine, a four-day celebration, features notable chefs and more than 250 vintners. Open to the public, it offers cooking demonstrations, wine and spirits tastings, and gourmet dinners. Also, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (August 18, 2019; Tel. [831] 622-1700) is more than 60 years old and is widely regarded as the best display of historic and unique automobiles in the world.

The Carmel Art Association Gallery

A local treasure that I recommend visiting is the Carmel Art Association Gallery (Dolores Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, Tel. [831] 624-6176). Founded in 1927, this gallery is the oldest in Carmel and is dedicated solely to presenting the work of artists living on the Monterey Peninsula. This welcoming space also hosts a variety of films, concerts and guest lectures.

A Stellar Restaurant in Carmel

The 38-year-old restaurant Anton & Michel (Mission Street between Ocean and Seventh Avenues, Carmel. Tel. [831] 624-2406) continues to gather plaudits as one of the finest on the Monterey Peninsula. Proprietor Tony Salameh offers favorites such as a beef brochette Cobb salad, Hawaiian tuna tartare, Moroccan-spice barramundi and prime New York steak.