Feel the sea breeze with a camping trip to this artsy town on Carmel Bay.
Just north of Carmel, the Monterey Peninsula is ideal for taking in coastal scenery, with numerous viewpoints that look out over the sea—not to mention a ton of golf courses. Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium to learn about (and view) coastal creatures ranging from sea otters to sharks.
South of Monterey on the California coast, Carmel-by-the-Sea—usually simply shortened to Carmel—has long been celebrated for its coastal scenery, architecture, and thriving arts community. One of the pet-friendly city’s biggest draws is the 18th-century Mission San Carlos de Borromeo, but the area is equally great for taking hikes and strolls, particularly at nearby Carmel River State Beach and at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. While camping in area state parks is limited, you'll find loads of fantastic options in the surrounds, both at waterside campgrounds along the Carmel River and on privately owned land.
If you want to do some serious hiking or backcountry camping, head north up Highway 1 to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Here you'll find a mix of county parks and wilderness areas, plus plenty of high-elevation viewpoints.
The weather in Carmel is mild throughout the year, with cool, somewhat rainy winters and mild, dry summers. The months of June through August see the most crowds, but weather in early fall is usually just as warm, with little chance of rainfall. If you hope to see migrating whales, your best bet is to come from January through March, when pods of gray and killer whales pass through the area.