Carmel Valley Tour

Departing from the Monterey Peninsula Airport, take Highway 68 east to Highway One south and turn left on Carmel Valley Road. Carmel Valley Village is approximately 11 miles inland and along the way you'll encounter numerous opportunities to shop, dine and take in local artistry such as glass blowing, painting, photography and winemaking.

Turn right at the first light, Carmel Rancho Road, and you'll come upon Carmel Rancho Center on the left, featuring a natural foods delicatessen, music store and a locally-owned, remarkable home and garden store, which feature many hard-to-find treasures.

On the right side of the road is The Barnyard Shopping Village, an imaginative compound of restaurants, clothing shops, art galleries connected by meandering stone pathways and beautiful gardens.

A little further along Carmel Rancho Boulevard, turn right on Rio Road to discover The Crossroads Shopping Village, which includes an extensive supermarket in addition to many restaurants, food shops, unique boutiques and specialty stores.

Carmel Valley is famous for its fine golf courses and wineries. First up, about a mile east of Highway One on Carmel Valley Road, is Rancho Cañada Golf Club. Both of its courses, Rancho Cañada East and Rancho Cañada West, welcome the public.

The valley's mild, sunny climate, so perfect for golfers, is also great for growing vegetables, herbs and flowers. Stop in at Earthbound Farm (at the 3.5-mile mark) to learn about organic farming. In addition to regular tours, there's a farm stand and all-organic café.

A little past Earthbound Farm is another world class golf course, part of Quail Golf Club. Its spa and health center offers luxurious treatments, too.

You can also access the Land Rover Experience Driving School in the lobby of the Lodge. Book a tour of this wilderness driving experience either as an individual, a family or as a team.

Just a few miles down Carmel Valley Road (6.5 miles from Highway One) you'll come to Carmel Valley Ranch Golf Club and its 18-hole Pete Dye course.

If your schedule allows, you can also head over the Laureles Grade into Monterey briefly to check out the Skip Barber Driving School at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca before heading up to Carmel Village.

The village itself is 11 miles from Highway One and features more than a half-dozen winery tasting rooms, including Bernardus, Joullian, and Cima Collina. Plan to park your vehicle and roam the many unique shops, artist studios and restaurants connected by walking paths. A large community park, complete with a pool and playground, welcomes small children and is perfect for picnics or kite flying. If you want to take public transport to and from the Village, the Grapevine Express, Route 24, run by Monterey Salinas Transit, stops at most of the tasting rooms and has a regular schedule.

At this point, you can choose between the short route (about 25 minutes) and the long route (allow at least two hours) back toward Monterey or onward to other destinations. Only smaller vehicles will be able to access the longer route due to its narrow roads and bridges. To do so, continue driving straight on Carmel Valley Road. As it twists along the Carmel River, the road passes the turnoff for Tassajara Hot Springs. Located 14 miles off the main road (by very rough, unpaved roadway), the springs are open to day visitors May through September Day-use reservations are essential. (Note: The road is unsuitable for coaches or vehicles with minimal ground clearance.)

Carmel Valley Road eventually connects with Arroyo Seco Road; take it eastbound to connect with Highway 101 in the Salinas Valley, at which point you can turn north to Salinas and San Francisco or south to Los Angeles.

The much shorter tour returns west on Carmel Valley Road to Laureles Grade, turn right at and continue over rolling hills hiding glimpses of the Pacific and fine views of the Salinas Valley. At Highway 68, turn left to return to Monterey or turn right to explore Salinas and Highway 101.

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