Carmel gained its claim to fame when superstar actor/director Clint Eastwood was its mayor from 1986 to 1988. Of course it is also well known among Northern California visitors as the picture perfect tourist stop—and it is. Charming, friendly and safe the town boasts quaint and luxurious lodgings plus 40 inviting piazzas tucked around the village many built 100 years ago.
If you’re into courtyards, next time you’re in the area check these out:
- Pine Inn– designed and built by M.J. Murphy it opened July 4, 1903 and quickly became the central hotel for Carmel. Accessible from Ocean Avenue or Mission Street, there has long been a fine selection of shops on the terrace, including Fourtané Jewelers since 1950.
- Su Vecino–the name reflects the neighborly community of Carmel and grew up around the terrace of Su Vecino’s Mexican restaurant that opened in the 1950s. Much later, the restaurant was home to the serape worn by Clint Eastwood (Carmel mayor, 1986-88) in the famous 1966 film, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Another local favorite, Jack London’s Bar & Grill relocated from San Carlos Square to this spot in 2001. Author of “The Call of the Wild,” London often visited his bohemian friends in early Carmel.
- Eastwood Building–Clint constructed the redwood-sided building in the mid-1980s, with the courtyard looking down upon the Hog’s Breath Inn (a restaurant he opened in 1992 along with Walter Becker). Today, the passageway offers a nice view down to the Hog’s Breath patio.
- Jordon Center (The McFarland Center)–built in 1977 on the site of an early service station, this courtyard was inspired by English Tudor architecture (1485-1603), this collection of shops and businesses offer another angled shortcut from Mission Street to Sixth Avenue directly across from the fire station. Grasing’s Coastal Cuisine restaurant, on the corner, has an award-winning reputation as well as a cozy pet-friendly patio.
- Court of the Golden Bough–hailed as “A Bit of Old Europe,” this courtyard is considered Carmel’s first shopping center. Former Los Angeles attorney, Edward Kuster, fulfilled a dream when in 1923 he built the Theatre of the Golden Bough. In 1923, Kuster moved a unique, curlicue-roofed building from Ocean and Monte Verde (well known today as The Cottage of Sweets store) to be a fanciful ticket booth for his new Golden Bough Playhouse. Meandering through the winding passageways and stairs here may serve as a reminder of an early scene from Eastwood’s 1971 film, “Play Misty for Me.”
- Doud Arcade–the arcade provides an interesting stroll from its Ocean Avenue entrance to San Carlos Street. Originally it housed local craft studios and small shops. The artisan feeling remains today, especially in the central interior courtyard with its red tile floor.
- Hampton Court–situated in this intriguing modern interpretation of a half-timber Tudor street with stunning handcrafted finishes is the jewelry, art, and real estate of Carmel on display at Nancy Dodds Gallery and Alan Bienenfeld Fine Jewelry. Don’t miss the brick stairs leading to a small balcony where a great view of interesting Carmel rooftops awaits.
- Carmel Square– with its white buildings and blue trim, offers a feel of old European country cottages. Home to a local watering hole, stores and galleries – stained glass and photography – the court ends at Wells Fargo Bank’s parking lot where stairs lead to the Court of Fountains.
- Court of the Fountains–sits on the former site of the Loma Prieta lumberyard filled with vibrant roses. It is one of Carmel’s most impressive commercial experiences. The brick buildings and courtyard with the copper-roofed gazebo were built in the early 1960s and the fountains are a beautiful addition to one of Carmel’s finest restaurants – Anton & Michel – offering an elegant and romantic setting and delicious cuisine since 1980. Not to be missed: the arched doorway and stairs leading to Seventh Avenue, as well as the small passageway to Carmel Square.
If you live in the Los Angeles area you can drive to Carmel, but be sure to break it up with stops along the way. Of course you can also get there by plane to Monterey Regional Airport (MRY) which is just a 10-minute drive. Convenient direct flights are available to and from San Francisco (SFO, United Express), Los Angeles (LAX, American Eagle/United Express), Las Vegas (LAS, Allegiant Air), and Phoenix (PHX, U.S. Airways), as well as newly added San Diego (SAN, Alaska Airlines). Moreover, San Jose International Airport (SJC) is an easy 75-mile drive from the north. For more information, visit CarmelCalifornia.com.