Carmel Beach

Beautiful Carmel Beach Says Yes to Dogs, Booze, and Bonfires


Walking along Carmel Beach California

Like it or not, most California beaches are associated with the word “no.” No bonfires. No pets. No alcohol. Why don’t they just post a sign that says “No fun!” and be done with it?!

Before you start muttering about stinkin’ rules and killjoy regulations, let us introduce you to a beach that says “yes.” Yes to dogs, yes to bonfires, yes to that special bottle of Cab you bought to toast the sunset from your beach chair.

Carmel Beach is that place. Ranked as one of the nation’s cleanest and most beautiful beaches, Carmel Beach, managed by the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea, is the perfect place to turn Fido loose (yes, that’s loose as in NO LEASH!) while you engage him in a game of Frisbee or stroll between aquamarine waves and cypress-studded bluffs. When the sun gets ready to set, join the locals for the evening show. Spread a blanket on the sand, build a fire, unpack a picnic dinner, and pop open a bottle of wine or Champagne. Ahhh, a little slice of heaven.

Sound too good to be true? Well, we don’t lie. Find out for yourself what makes Carmel Beach one of the top all-time favorites among Northern California beach lovers, and make plans today to share this special destination with that special someone in your life.

Here, we outline everything you need to know before you go.

Where the Heck IS Carmel Beach?

Carmel (a.k.a. Carmel-by-the-Sea) is a quiet California coastal city on the Monterey Peninsula 26 miles north of Big Sur and about 120 miles south of San Francisco. Known for its natural beauty, artsy history, and famous former mayor – movie star Clint Eastwood – Carmel resembles a charming European village with gingerbread storefronts, cozy bed-and-breakfast inns, high-end shopping boutiques, and more art galleries per square foot than … well, just about anywhere.

Carmel Beach is located just a few blocks from downtown at the foot of Ocean Avenue, west of Highway 1. There’s free parking at the end of the street, but you can also park for free along Scenic Road until midnight.

Will Carmel Beach Cost Money?

Nope. You heard right, you don’t have to pay any parking or entrance fees to visit Carmel Beach. Some of the best things in life really ARE free!

Best Time to Visit Carmel Beach

Any time is a good time to visit Carmel Beach, but keep in mind that many mornings can be foggy, and the ocean is always chilly. September and October are the warmest, clearest months.

Is Carmel Beach Going to the Dogs? Yep!

Many California beaches don’t allow dogs at all. Among those that do, dogs have to be controlled on a leash at all times. Not just any leash, but a leash that’s 6 feet long or less.

Not at Carmel Beach. Here, Rex and Fido are allowed to frolic free on the white sand as fast as their furry paws will carry them.

Everyone in Carmel-by-the-Sea, it seems, either has a dog or is crazy about canines. How else do you explain thoughtful downtown merchants who set out bowls of fresh water for thirsty “customers” along the “dog route?” Or restaurateurs who smile when they have to step around your dozing pooch to serve you coffee at an outdoor café?

While every dog and his owner enjoys this kind of freedom, bear in mind that Carmel Beach is a popular public place, and not all dogs are suited to such an environment. If you can’t trust your four-legged friend to behave around strangers or other dogs, please do everyone a favor and leave him home!

Bonfires on Carmel Beach: What You Need to Know

This information comes courtesy of the City of Carmel.

  • All fires must be extinguished by 10 p.m.
  • Fires are permitted only south of 10th Avenue.
  • No fires larger than 3’ x 3’ x 3’.
  • All fires must be at least 25 feet from the slopes.
  • Do not burn trash or any wood containing nails or sharp objects.
  • Extinguish fires with water, not sand. Leave the coals open and visible to pedestrians.

How to Drink Responsibly on Carmel Beach

Enjoying an alcoholic drink is part of the ambience of Carmel Beach, but it takes only one irresponsible drinker to spoil it for everyone. Alcohol is allowed only on the beach – not on the roadway or pathway – and only until 10 p.m. No smoking is allowed on the scenic pathway, access to the beach, or on Carmel Beach proper.

Visiting Carmel Beach: A Few Other Reminders

Only use stairways or designated points for beach access.  No foot traffic is allowed on beach bluffs. Do not throw items such as firewood, chairs, barbecues, etc. down or over the beach bluffs.

You’ve Done Carmel Beach. Now What?

No doubt about it, Carmel Beach is what “California dreaming” is all about. But don’t miss out on other opportunities to explore the fascinating town of Carmel-by-the Sea. Check out our list of Top Things to Do in Carmel.

Stop First at the Carmel Visitors Center

It’s located on San Carlos between Fifth and Sixth, 1½ blocks north of Ocean Avenue. Call (800) 550-4333 or visit

Flex your credit card

Ocean Avenue is the main thoroughfare on which to satisfy your retail cravings. Fashion, jewelry, antiques, gifts, home décor, and more are yours to discover as you meander among charming courtyards, flowering window boxes, secret passageways, and whimsically designed buildings.

Immerse yourself in history

Visit Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, founded in 1771 as one of 21 Spanish missions built along the coast by Father Junipero Serra (who, by the way, is buried here). In December, the San Francisco-based a capella musical group Chanticleer holds some of its Christmas holiday concerts in the old mission, which is located at 3080 Rio Road. Call (831) 624-1271 for more info.

Attend an event

Carmel is rich in annual traditions. The annual Carmel Art Festival, Carmel Bach Festival, Carmel Art and Film Festival, and the Carmel Shakespeare Festival are just a few highlights. And don’t forget the nearby Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Golf Tournament. It’s one of the hottest things going in February.


Carmel is known as a celebrity hideout, and a mecca for artists, writers, photographers, actors, and playwrights. Actors Clint Eastwood and Brad Pitt have homes here, as does writer James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential). You never know whom you might see at the next bistro table!

Get in your car

Take a drive along the world-famous 17-mile drive to Pebble Beach, making sure to stop and photograph the Lone Cypress, believed to be between 200 and 300 years old. Unwind at The Lodge at Pebble Beach for a cocktail or dinner.

Grab a picnic to go

Bruno’s (corner of Junipero and Sixth) and Nielsen Bros. (San Carlos and Seventh) markets are THE places to get incredible deli sandwiches (must-try: the tri-tip sandwich at Bruno’s), wine, and cheese.

Lace up your hiking boots

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, 3 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, has walking trails that skirt the shore and lead to hidden coves. Watch for sea lions, seals, sea otters, migrating gray whales (December through May), and thousands of shore birds.

Hit your sweet spot

If you’re a sugar addict, you owe it to yourself to pay a call on the Cottage of Sweets (Ocean Avenue between Monte Verde and Lincoln), voted America’s No. 1 candy shop in a 2009 USA Today poll. You’ll feel like you’re stepping into a fairytale dwelling, and you won’t believe the selection of fudge, locally made chocolates, British candies, gummies, and 50 different types of licorices from all over the world.

Wine and dine

The Hog’s Breath Inn (once owned by actor/Carmel Mayor Clint Eastwood), Casanova (known as Carmel’s most romantic restaurant), Anton & Michel, Bouchee, Cantinetta Luca, Grasing’s, L’Auberge, and Kurt’s Carmel Chop House are all great choices for a memorable meal. For a good, no-frills “dive bar” experience, look no further than Sade’s Bar, where smoking is allowed and the bartender plays music from his own iPod.

Take a Carmel walking tour

Carmel Walks ( offers a two-hour guided walking tour through secret pathways, hidden courtyards, award-winning gardens, and near enchanting fairytale cottages. Learn about the homes, haunts, and history of famous artists, writers, and movie stars who have called Carmel home, and about the customs that make Carmel unique. Tours are offered every Saturday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday at 10 a.m. For reservations, call (831) 642-2700. Tours meet in the courtyard of the Pine Inn on Lincoln Street at Ocean Avenue.

Wait a Minute … What’s Missing Here?

As you’ve seen, Carmel definitely is unique for what it has. But did you know it’s just as unique for what it DOESN’T have?

Here’s a list of just a few things that are missing from this quirky town – all thanks to a passionate citizenry that fought to keep their community quaint.

  • Street addresses. Did you notice that when we gave the location of certain destinations above, none of them contained a proper street address? That’s because Carmel-by-the-Sea doesn’t have any! Residents have to drive or walk to the post office to collect their mail and get a chance to visit with their neighbors.
  • Sidewalks
  • Street lights
  • Neon signs
  • Parking meters
  • Fast-food joints
  • The wearing of high heels (To do so requires a license, although no one can actually remember the last time the law was enforced)
  • A jail
  • A cemetery (with the exception of the only official grave within the city limits, which belongs to the town dog, Pal)

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