The Dog Who Went To: Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA
By Jane Turner
Jane Turner is the author and illustrator of The Dog Who Went to Main Street, a children’s book celebrating adventure, a perfectly imperfect dog, and Main Streets everywhere. Jane travels frequently with her Shih Tzu mix, Dozer, and shares their favorite dog-happy destinations with our readers. Dozer is a rescue, a therapy dog, happens to be totally blind, and is always ready to go.
Carmel-by-the-Sea has always been one of our family's favorite destinations. But one family member just visited it for the first time--Dozer.
Chances are it won't be the last. Dozer fell in love with Carmel-by-the-Sea and it's easy to see why. Dogs are everywhere here.
Its roots as a community of artists drawn by the mountains and sea, misty mornings and sunny afternoons, still feed the spirit of current-day Carmel. Almost as plentiful as dogs, galleries are scattered throughout the town’s cobblestone passageways. You’ll find up-and-comer art along with iconic images from legendary photographers Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. Both lived and worked here… confirmation of the natural aesthetic power of Carmel.
The vibe: Maybe it’s Carmel’s heritage as home to one of California’s earliest Spanish missions, but there’s a sense in the air that this spot was unusually blessed by nature and we are blessed to be here. Our point of entry no doubt hastened our adoption of the Carmel state of grace. Dozer and I drove in through Big Sur via the magnificent rollercoaster that is Highway 1 and “landed” in the elegant comfort of the Cypress Inn. Just having Dozer on my arm elevated check-in to something more like a welcome home.
“It’s a dog’s world” cred: Always taking dogs seriously (but never itself), Carmel installed the Fountain of Woof (pictured below) in the plaza that houses the likes of Tiffany and Louis Vuitton. Dogs gather at the fountain to get a slurp of fresh water as their humans shop.
Even Carmel’s godliness embraces dogliness. We loved the name of the mission-style chapel across from our inn – Church of the Wayfarer – and asked if wayfaring dogs were welcomed in services. The immediate, emphatic answer: “Of course!”
Walking the walks, sniffing the surf
• Village walks. You and your well-behaved pup can explore shops, cafes, and storybook architecture on your own or with one of many guided walks. You name it – history, wine, secret gardens – there’s a walk and talk for it.
• Carmel Beach. Just down Ocean Avenue is the white sand of Carmel Beach and the greatest collection of lively, well-mannered playmates Dozer has found anywhere. Everyone from surfers to dogs is unleashed to experience this stunning intersection of water, land, and sky. Sunsets are a daily event, and with bonfires allowed, the spirited beach life goes into the evening. No restrictions by season or time of day for dogs.
Dining with Dogs: a few favorite Dozer hang-outs
• Little Napoli. At the tucked-away courtyard of this bistro/wine bar, we felt transported to a small Italian village. (Pretty cool for Dozer who only travels domestically.)
• PortaBella. Grab a front row seat for watching the foot and paw traffic at the flower-filled patio. If the weather is dicey, there’s a dog-friendly room inside.
• Cypress Inn. Three great options, two of them indoors.
The Garden Courtyard is a magical spot for dinner where we were warmed by an outdoor fireplace and the presence of new friends Tina the Doberman and Sophie the Shih Tzu. Dozer ordered organic chicken from the Inn’s kitchen that leans toward the local. We moved inside for dessert in the high-ceilinged Living Room where Dozer snoozed by the fire. Your best friend can also join you for lunch or dinner in the sophisticated, club-like Terry’s Lounge. And the Signature Tea happens every afternoon for civilized dogs and their companions.
Where to stay
• Cypress Inn. In this town that tops any list of dogcentric American towns, Cypress Inn is the original and quintessential dog-loving inn. The spiritual force and co-owner is animal advocate Doris Day, whose love of dogs and sense of style is reflected everywhere. Each room is unique in the recently renovated 1929 landmark with its Spanish tile roof, verandas and sea-view tower; ours had a courtyard and our own entrance to Lincoln Avenue (convenient for Dozer-walking). Breakfast here is a delicious celebration with dogs of every description eating, meeting, and greeting. We started every day laughing – and is there any better reason to travel with dogs?
• Other dog-friendly choices include The Vagabond House and Forest Lodge and renowned golfers’ haven The Lodge at Pebble Beach.
Dozer is already missing the freedom of Carmel Beach. If you go, have an off-leash run for us!
Photo Credits: Starting with top right, Dozer and newfound friend at the beach; Dozer at the Fountain of Woof; Dozer having lunch at Little Napoli; Lounging with Sophie in the Cypress Inn's Living Room. Photos by Jane Turner.