Wandering through the tree-lined streets of Carmel, you’re guaranteed to walk past numerous charming inns, each giving you a glimpse into the rich history of the quirky seaside town.
I’ve always wanted to take a sneak peek inside an inn or two, and at the end of 2016, I had the chance to peek as much as my heart desired.
The Carmel Heritage Society held their 18th annual Inns of Distinction Tour on a quiet Sunday in early December.
The three-hour walking tour of Carmel’s inns was $40 a ticket – $35 for heritage members – and included a commemorative wine glass, entrance to seven inns and wine tasting and appetisers at each stop.
We didn’t waste any time in seeing our first rooms as we made our way down the inn’s old brick driveway, wines in hand.
The rooms were filled with light from their louvered windows and you could feel the warmth from the in-room fireplace. I instantly wanted to jump into the large plush feather beds and slip in to the crisp white linen.
Rooms can start at about $300 a night which includes in-room breakfast, valet service and evening wine and appetisers.
A minute’s walk and we were at our next destination, The Hideaway.
As soon as we arrived we were welcomed to an open-spaced stone courtyard with cosy fire pits and luxury outdoor seating. The rooms of The Hideaway encompass the courtyard, giving the inn a relaxed social atmosphere.
The lounge room – where you can enjoy nightly wine and cheese nights – was warmed by a crackling fireplace and had an inviting friendly ambience, I can definitely see myself joining in on the occasional wine night.
The 24-room boutique inn re-opened in early 2016 after it underwent a complete rebrand and redesign.
They’ve fitted out their country European style rooms with fireplaces, marble-topped tables, luxury leather furnishings and wooden sliding barn doors that opens to the minimalist white bathrooms.
Rooms can start at $200 a night and includes a European breakfast and evening wine and cheese tastings.
I’ve often walked past the Cypress Inn and stopped to admire the Charlie Chaplin mural by Mr. Brainwash – a French-born street artist linked to Banksy. Finally, I was about to take an inside look at this quirky inn.
Dubbed one of the most dog-friendly hotels in the world thanks to its co-owner, Hollywood star Doris Day, the Cypress Inn was bursting with dogs of all shapes and sizes.
While marvelling at how many fur-friends were casually walking past, we tasted some sweet and savoury bites from the inn’s restaurant – Terry’s Lounge – and a sip of Cabernet Sauvignon from organic winery Heller Estate.
The rooms immediately transported us to the Mediterranean with vibrant colours and textures, tiled flooring and ceiling fans. The half-moon transom windows welcomed light into the space and complimented the wooden and burnt orange furnishings.
Rooms can start at about $200 a night and includes breakfast, newspaper delivery, cream sherry, fruit and snacks, filtered water and WiFi. Plus, you’ll be surrounded by furry friends your whole stay.
I instantly fell in love with their outdoor setting – gazebo’s strewn with fairy lights and nautical themed decor. The giant glass fire pit was also an instant favourite, especially on an overcast day.
With only a six-minute walk to the beach, the intimate inn consists of two cottages and four spacious guest rooms all with luxury bath amenities and private entrances. Each room is coastal in design with white and blue bedding, sand coloured furnishings, navy blue curtains and louvered windows. The inn also boasts unique artwork in each room.
Prices can start from $155 and include parking, breakfast, WiFi and wine and cheese tastings. Pets welcome.
Next stop was Candle Light Inn. We sat by their outdoor fire pit and enjoyed a tasting of artisan wines from Cima Collina (one of my favourite local wineries) paired with bruschetta from The Grill on Ocean.
Most of the rooms are equipped with fireplaces, jetted tubs and full kitchens. The fireplaces are surrounded by red brick, giving the rooms a warm homely feel. The spaces seem a bit outdated but the inn redeems itself with free parking and it’s close proximity to the heart of Carmel.
Rooms can start from $160 and include parking, WiFi, continental breakfast and newspaper delivery.
The recently transformed Hotel Carmel has been on our ‘inns-to-see list’ for a while.
On arrival we were ushered into their charming lobby/lounge area, and I must say, it was striking. I love a place that puts effort into interior decorating to create a unique and inviting space. After collecting our glasses of Albatross Ridge wine, we wandered around the room taking visual notes on how to design a charismatic and individualistic living are.
The lounge room also boasts a wall filled with a personal collection of cassette tapes were you’re encouraged to choose a tape, put your feet up and enjoy the music.
After scoffing our faces with sweet treats we had a quick look in two of the 27 rooms on offer. The guest rooms were modern with welcomed remnants of their original design. The furniture has been thoughtfully arranged to create a warm relaxing space.
If you get one of the rooms without a fireplace, their garden courtyard offers a superb alternative fire pit for you to enjoy during wine night.
Rooms can start at $200 and include WiFi, parking and nightly wine tastings.
We left the best ‘til last – Horizon Inn. We made it just in time to grab the final sips of wine from J. Lohr Vineyards, snap up some French goodies prepared by L’Escargot and witness a stunning sunset.
Horizon Inn is tucked away in a quiet section of 3rd and Junipero street, perfect location to escape the foot traffic during peak season.
When we arrived we were told by staff to quickly check out the rooms so we could catch the sunset from the balconies.
It was the perfect way to end the inns tour. On a veranda in Carmel, with a glass of wine, soaking up the pink, orange and yellow hues of the sunset over Carmel Beach.
We loved the room so much we asked for the room number so we can request it in the future (room 114 – you won’t regret it).
Rooms can start at $135 and includes parking, breakfast WiFi, ocean views and outdoor spa use.
I really enjoyed poking around Carmel’s inns on a Sunday afternoon, tasting wine from local vineyards and sampling a few appetisers from surrounding restaurants.
It was helpful to get an inside look of what’s on offer in Carmel for future staycation ideas and advice for visiting friends.
You won’t go wrong with any inn you choose in Carmel as each hidden gem will give you a unique experience.
One final suggestion, book in advance! These inns fill up fast, especially during the summer months.
If you missed out on the tour last year, I highly recommend booking a ticket for this year’s 19th Inns of Distinction tour when tickets go on sale. They always have new inns to look through so each year is a one-off exclusive tour.