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Inside Carmel-by-the-Sea, the California beach town that celebrities love right now

Simon Calder’s Travel

It goes without saying that where Taylor Swift goes, crowds follow – and this time the spotlight’s on coastal California.

Carmel-by-the-Sea (usually referred to as just Carmel), a small beach city in Monterey County, is a one-square-mile holiday town famed for its quaint nature and fairytale image.

Situated between San Francisco (roughly a two-hour drive) and Los Angles (around five-and-a-half hours by road), the town is a popular weekend break for residents of both cities, as well as a favourite stop for travellers driving the Pacific Coast Highway. Despite its small size, Carmel has a disproportionate number of good restaurants and a variety of boutique hotels with pretty thatched roofs and coastal views.

Given that actor Clint Eastwood was the city’s former mayor in 1986, it’s no surprise Carmel is beloved by celebrities, with A-listers including Taylor SwiftTravis KelceBradley Cooper and Gigi Hadid recently spotted strolling the beach city.

When to visit 

The shoulder seasons of April and October are often the best time to visit the Golden State. Free from the peak season summer crowds, the weather sits in the balmy low 20Cs, practically primed for comfortable days walking on the beach or dining al fresco.

What to do

Barbeque, surf and sunbathe on the white sands of Carmel Beach (Getty Images)

Hit Carmel Beach 

The Pacific laps the dog-friendly white sands of Carmel Beach, and this pale swathe is a dream for a seaside Cali weekend – whether watching sunsets of orange and purple, warming up by a beach fire or surfing. Visit Point Lobos National Reserve to the south and Pebble Beach to the north to find the best waves.

Take a walk 

The town was officially founded in 1902, 132 years after the historic 1770 Spanish Carmel Mission was established by Father Junípero Serra in Monterey Bay. A 3.5-mile Scenic Bluff Path wraps the coast from the north of Carmel Beach and is a great way to take in the area’s natural beauty and midcentury architectural highlights.

Browse the shops 

Boutique shops, art galleries and outdoor malls bless Carmel with everything from florists to delis and antique stores – ideal for spending the day wandering the town’s hidden passageways.

Rent a classic car 

To cruise downtown Carmel in style, rent a classic car with Monterey Touring Vehicles and drive Highway 1 along the…

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