This past weekend, we had the most magical few days at the Vagabond’s House in the charming seaside town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Prior to the past 7 months, I’d never even been to California, and now I’ve had the fortune of visiting twice and seeing 4 completely different regions of the state. Each place I visit in the Golden State is more stunning than the last and I’m always left wondering, “Why don’t I live here?” But, alas, I don’t…and probably won’t, so, for now, I’ll just have to get my fill of sunshine and Pacific air when I visit.
A WEEKEND AT THE VAGABOND’S HOUSE INN
We were in the area for a wedding, but, no surprise, I bypassed the wedding block to find a boutique inn located right in Carmel-by-the-Sea. There’s nothing I love more when traveling than to find a place to stay that feels like an experience in itself. I look for inns with great style, personality, and, of course, unbeatable locations. That search led me to Vagabond’s House Bed and Breakfast Inn.
Vagabond’s House is a beautifully appointed bed and breakfast in the village of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Its English tudor style exterior is something you’ll see throughout the town and I love how the old world charm contrasts with the crisp, bright interiors of the rooms. It’s a welcoming, homey place to land during a long weekend (or perhaps a week!) spent in Carmel-by-the-Sea. I had the pleasure of chatting briefly with the manager, Thomas, on my second day in Carmel, and I can certainly understand why he’s chosen to make this place his home for the past 30 years.
I had heard about Carmel-by-the-Sea for years, primarily because in the days when I worked retail, my company was opening their first West Coast location and it happened to be in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Now I understand why that was the case. Carmel-by-the-Sea takes the quaint towns you find on the East Coast and multiplies them by 10…and adds a stunning white sand beach and dreamy cypress trees on top of it all. Instead of two or three adorable downtown blocks filled with shops and restaurants, you have probably 25 square blocks bordering the Pacific Ocean. The shopping is incredible. There are French and Italian restaurants around every corner. Add in tasting rooms and it’s seriously heaven. We could have spent days exploring and still not hit everything.
Of course, I’ll dive further into all of this later in my travel guide, but Carmel-by-the-Sea is somewhere to visit if you’re looking to enjoy a perfectly pristine downtown filled with things to do and see, a gorgeous coastline begging you to hike its rocky shores, and wine country without the hubbub of Napa.
To visit, you’ll likely fly into San Francisco and then either drive down an hour and a half to Carmel or you’ll hop on a 17-minute flight from SFO to MRY (that’s what we did). We chose not to rent a car for the first 2 days we were in town, but it was worth having one for the second half of our trip when we did the incredible 17-Mile Drive.
THE STORY OF THE VAGABOND’S HOUSE
The Vagabond’s House was built in the 1920s and originally served as a home for artists, poets, and writers traveling through the area. I can see why…I would definitely be inspired to write for days upon days if I was hanging out by the sea, eating good food, and relaxing in the California breeze.
In its mid-century role as guest apartments, the inn was briefly known as the Rider Carmel Apartments before changing names (rebranding, as we call it now) to the Vagabond’s House Apartments, named after a poem and book written on the premises by South Seas poet Don Blanding.
Over the years, the Vagabond’s House became known as one of the most charming inns in Carmel-by-the-Sea. It passed hands through several families from the 1960s until today and is now owned by Amanda LeVett, whose family has owned the property since the 1970s.
THE ROOMS AT VAGABOND’S HOUSE
When we walked in, Adam said, “THIS is what I want our place to look like.” The decor manages to strike the delicate balance that resides between the bright white of modern design and the warm, cozy touches of a rustic styling. There’s a juxtaposition of old and new, farmhouse and city. There were even two gorgeous cognac recliners that had me rethinking my strict, “no recliners in MY house” rule.
I could have filled an entire blog post with photos of our room at Vagabond’s House, but I’ll try to choose just a handful (don’t worry, you’ll see the others on Insta at some point, I’m sure of it). The tub was absolutely to die for, the fireplace was a wonderful touch on those chilly California nights, the heated marble floors were welcomed by me and my cold feet, and I’m always a sucker for anywhere that gives me a robe. Not to mention, the bed felt like falling into a cloud (but not in a way that was too soft for this firm bed sleeper!). I’m not sure I was getting my best sleep given the copious amounts of California reds I was consuming, but at least it was incredibly comfortable sleep.
For reference, we stayed in Room 1.
A DELIGHTFUL BREAKFAST AND A RELAXING WINE HOUR
Something that’s become of increasing importance as I’ve traveled more and more is finding places that feed me in the morning. It makes a huge difference in how much I can do in a day when I’m able to start off with a delicious and quick meal that doesn’t include going out to find it. On our first evening, we filled out a card for the next morning that included our preferences for breakfast to be brought to our room. I chose a soft-boiled egg, a croissant, and orange juice. For Adam, coffee (from La Coppa, a nearby roaster in Mill Valley!), granola with almond milk, and a bagel. There was also an array of fruit included each morning, including jam made from local berries. When I did decide to change my order on the second morning, it was no problem at all to switch it out.
In the afternoons, I stopped by the office for a complimentary coffee (a latte or an espresso for me, a coffee for Adam) to keep me going after 15,000 steps or so, and, in the evening, we enjoyed wine and snacks outside by the firepit. There’s nothing better than enjoying the cool California evening air while sipping on a pinot, munching on cheese and crackers, and sitting by a crackling fire.
Had I really had time to up the relaxation, I would have booked a spa service at the Spa Studio at Vagabond’s House. They offer massages, salt scrubs, seaweed and clay masks, and other services that certainly check the self-care box.
A FEW MORE NOTES ON YOUR STAY IN CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA
As I always do, I’m writing a longer, more extensive travel guide to Carmel-by-the-Sea. But, here are a few activities which you’ll definitely want to add to your itinerary. Should you make a trip out to the vineyards, you’ll also want to build in some time to explore the colorful and abundant spring flowers in Carmel. From late March through April, you’ll find miles of wildflowers dotting the landscape.
I’m not big on aquariums, but Adam was psyched to explore the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is lauded as one of the most impressive aquariums in the country. They dive deep into the regional habitats, including the kelp forests, of the Monterey Bay. While we weren’t lucky enough to spot any, it isn’t uncommon to see whales from the aquarium’s view of the bay. We did, however, see harbor seals frolicking around, which was good enough for us!
With the perfect California weather, you’ll definitely want to get out into nature – even if you’re not a hiker. You’ll find coastal redwood forests within a 45-minute drive of Carmel and, in the Santa Cruz mountains north of Carmel-by-the-Sea, you’ll discover the Henry Cowell Redwoods Park, where you’ll find the famous Fremont Tree that you can walk inside of. Looking for even more adventure? Big Sur, with its hundreds of hikes, is only an hour away.
Again, I’ll dive way more into what to do in Carmel-by-the-Sea in my next post, but, I imagine you’re already planning a trip to this magical California town.
Thank you to Vagabond’s House Inn for extending a complimentary stay in exchange for a review! As always, all opinions are my own and I’m so grateful to the companies and brands that make www.heatherbien.com possible!