Nothing speaks romance, art and culture more than the picturesque Californian Sea side town of Carmel-By-The-Sea. Rated a top 10 destination in the US, the small town of Carmel is located on California’s Monterey Peninsular, a short 2 hour drive from San Francisco along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway. Half the fun of visiting Carmel-By-The-Sea is getting there.

Mission Ranch Hotel Carmel California

If leaving from San Francisco, leave early as there is a lot to see on the way. Heading Southwest on the Cabrillo Highway will take you along the Coast road to what should be your first stop, Half Moon Bay.

Mavericks California

Half Moon Bay is an easy 45 min coastal drive from San Francisco. There are lots of scenic viewpoints to stop at along the way, but the reason most people flock to Half Moon Bay is for the famous Surf spot Mavericks, where the waves routinely crest at between 8 and 18m high.

surfing Mavericks

Getting a look at the big waves is not an easy task as you need to take an uneasy walk around the cliff edge. We did this during massive winds which proved too difficult and had to turn back.

The walk to view Mavericks

Leaving Half Moon Bay, next stop Santa Cruz where you can opt to visit the Natural Bridges State Park or the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for some old fashioned fun. Ride the historic 92 year old wooden roller coaster and grab your authentic Santa Cruz singlet.

Santa Cruz Roller Coaster

This is a good spot to stop for lunch. We visited Aldo’s Harbour Restaurant and had amazing Clam Chowder in Bread Rolls.

Clam Chowder

Just short of reaching Carmel you have a choice to continue along the highway or take the 17 Mile Drive, a winding road that leads through exclusive neighbourhoods and magnificent coastal views to the beautiful Pebble Beach. Exit the scenic drive at the Carmel Gate and you have made it to the quaint little town of Carmel with beautiful fairy-tale cottages, arty tea houses, boutique shops and plenty of BnB’s to choose from. Our choice, the luxurious Mission Ranch.

The Mission Ranch was saved by Clint Eastwood and restored to its original beauty. A stay at the Ranch is an unforgettable, and expensive, experience. We took cover there during a fierce storm but was comforted by the open fire place, spa bath and comfortable California King bed. In the morning, after the storm passed, we were able to truly appreciate the magic of our surrounds. The grazing sheep and roaming deer amongst the cottages, and the smell of the ocean greeted us on our walk to the barn for breakfast.

The Mission Ranch, is in itself a bucket list destination. We give it a 9/10.

The Sitting area at The Mission Ranch