Carmel-by-the-Sea Living

Donna Mae Scheib

Carmel-by-the-Sea Living

Posted by Donna Mae Scheib on October 04, 2018

Carmel-by-the-Sea Living

When considering a retirement destination spot, you can't top Carmel-by-the-Sea in Monterey County, California.  With its year-round mild weather, an abundant assortment of activities and storybook village setting, Carmel-by-the-Sea offers the perfect location to enjoy your retirement years.


California stretches for 770 miles along the Pacific Ocean from Mexico to the Redwood-Douglas fir forests of Oregon.  By area, it is the third largest state in the US with 163,696 square miles and by population, it is the largest state in the US with close to 40 million residents. 

California's $2.8 trillion economy is larger than any other state in America.  If California was a country it would have the fifth largest economy in the world.  Its economy is larger than the United Kingdom or France. 

The area that is California was originally settled by various Native American tribes, among them the Ohlone, Salinan, and Esselen in Central California.  Part of various European exploration expeditions in the 16th and 17th centuries the Spanish claimed Alta (upper) California as part of their New Spain colony in the late 18th century. 

In 1821, Mexico's win of their independence placed California under Mexican rule.  For the next 25 years, California was a remote, sparsely populated, northwestern administrative district of the newly independent country of Mexico.

An argument can be made that California's move to join the United States rests on the shoulders of one man.  One of the largest ranchers in California, John Marsh decided California should be part of the US after failing to obtain justice against squatters on his land from the Mexican courts. 

Marsh conducted a letter-writing campaign espousing the California climate, soil and other reasons to settle there, as well as the best route to follow, which became known as "Marsh's route." His letters were read, reread, passed around, and printed in newspapers throughout the country, and started the first wagon trains rolling to California.  He invited immigrants to stay on his ranch until they could settle and assisted in their obtaining passports.

After ushering in the period of organized emigration to California, Marsh helped end the rule of the last Mexican governor of California, thereby paving the way to California's ultimate acquisition by the United States.

With the outbreak of the Mexican–American War in 1846, Commodore John D. Sloat of the United States Navy sailed into Monterey Bay and began the military occupation of California by the United States.  After a series of defensive battles in Southern California, the Treaty of Cahuenga was signed by the Californios on January 13, 1847, securing American control in California.

Following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 that ended the war, California became a part of the United States.

In the early years of the Mexican-American war, the population of upper California had been less than 8,000 settlers and about 100,000 Native Americans (a third of the population prior to Spanish colonization in the late 18th century).  In 1848, only one week before the official American annexation of the area, gold was discovered in California. 

Soon afterward, a massive influx of immigration into the area resulted, as prospectors and miners arrived by the thousands. The population burgeoned with United States citizens, Europeans, Chinese and other immigrants during the great California Gold Rush.

By the time of California's application to the US Congress for statehood in 1850, the settler population of California had multiplied to 100,000. By 1854 over 300,000 settlers had come. California was suddenly no longer a sparsely populated backwater, but seemingly overnight it had grown into a major US population center.

Monterey County

In Central California lies Monterey County.  Its name is derived from the bay of the same name - Monterey Bay.  Monterey is Spanish for king (Rey) hill (monte).  As in most of California, the development of Monterey County can be seen in four distinct time periods - the Native American period, the Spanish period, the Mexican period, and the American period.


Long before the arrival of Spanish explorers, the Rumsen Ohlone, Salinan, and Esselen Native American tribes inhabited the area now known as Monterey. Due to the relative abundance of food resources, around the biologically rich Monterey Peninsula, the tribes never developed agriculture and subsisted by hunting, fishing and gathering food.

Alta California was first discovered in 1542 by the Spanish explorer Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo.  Although known to the Spanish from that date, Alta California was the last frontier of Spanish colonization.

In 1602, Spanish maritime explorer Sebastian Vizcaino landed at the southern end of the bay and described a great port, suitable for use as an anchorage.  Vizcaino recorded the name "Bahía de Monterrey", in honor of the Conde de Monterrey (Count of Monterrey) the viceroy of New Spain. Over time, the name evolved into Monterey Bay.

It was over 100 years before the Spanish showed an interest in establishing colonies in Alta California. In the year 1769, the Spanish sent an expedition from New Spain (today's Mexico) to take possession of the Monterey area.

The plan was to establish missions and presidios (forts) to colonize the territory for Spain. The expedition was under the leadership of Father Junipero Serra and Don Gaspar de Portolá.

On June 3, 1770, after a year of journey and hardship, the soldiers of De Portolá and the missionaries led by Father Serra, gathered by the Monterey Bay to witness a formal ceremony of the erection of the Holy Cross that would mark the establishment of the mission which was to be called Mission San Carlos Borromeo. The Mission was located near the Monterey Presidio beside the Bay of Monterey.

August 24, 1771, Fr. Serra moved the Mission from Monterey to its present site in Carmel, putting the Mission closer to a fresh-water source and better land for growing crops.

The first Church and dwellings were made of wood and mud. The Padres depended mostly on ships from Mexico for their supplies. Unfortunately, these ships did not make it to the Monterey Bay very often. So the native tribes shared what little food and supplies they had.

Over time, the Padres were able to grow their own crops, and this provided a great deal of the food for the people. Also, the wood and mud buildings were replaced with adobe structures. Carmel became the headquarters for Father Serra and all the Missions. It was from here that he oversaw the building of seven other Missions in California.

Monterey County was originally the only port of entry for all taxable goods in California. All shipments into California by sea were required to go through the Custom House, the oldest government building in the state. Similar to the state and Monterey County, development of the Custom House was built in three phases. The Spanish began construction of the Custom House in 1814, the Mexican government completed the center section in 1827, and the United States government finished the lower end in 1846.

When Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, the civil and religious institutions of Alta California remained much the same until the 1830s.  Secularization of the missions converted most of the mission pasture lands into private land grant ranches.

Monterey was the site of the Battle of Monterey on July 7, 1846, during the Mexican–American War. It was on this date that John D. Sloat, Commodore in the United States Navy, raised the U.S. flag over the Monterey Custom House and claimed California for the United States. 

Always on the cutting edge, Monterey County has seen many California historic firsts. These include California's first theater, brick house, publicly funded school, public building, public library, and printing press, which printed The Californian, California's first newspaper.

More recently, Monterey has been recognized for its significant involvement in post-secondary learning of languages other than English and its major role in delivering translation and interpretation services around the world. 

In November 1995, California Governor Pete Wilson proclaimed Monterey as "the Language Capital of the World".

At, over 3,700 square miles, Monterey is 1-½ times larger than the state of Delaware.  As of the 2010 census Monterey County's population was 415, 057 with close to 30% over age 45. 

Other cities in Monterey County, California include (but are not limited to) Monterey, Big Sur, Parkfield, and Carmel-by-the-Sea.

The city of Monterey is home to many world-renowned places.  Among them is the famed Monterey Bay Aquarium, home to the Open Sea Exhibit where one can watch the sardines swarm in huge, glittering schools appearing to dance. 

On the topic of sardines, the famous Cannery Row was once a sardine factory and now hosts restaurants, shops, and marine activities. 

Monterey Bay, home to the National Marine Sanctuary and the Pacific Monarch Butterfly Grove Sanctuary offers year-round whale watching and Monarch butterflies as they overwinter from October to February.  Also located in Monterey, is Jacks Peak County Park which has fossils from the Miocene epoch, stunning vistas of Monterey Bay and Carmel Valley, and one of the only remaining natural stands of Monterey Pine trees in the United States. Jacks Peak County Park is a part of the Central Coast Birding Trail and celebrated by birders for the many species it houses.

For those who need a faster pace be sure to check out the world-class motorcycle and auto racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Big Sur is famous for its Big Sur International Marathon, an official Boston Qualifier that runs from Big Sur to Carmel on scenic Highway 1, the nation's first nationally-designated Scenic Highway. 

For those who need a less endurance, but still active pace in Big Sur, check out Andrew Molera State Park with its majestic hiking trails or Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park with its McWay Falls. 

Similarly, a unique action experience can be found in the Parkfield town of Monterey County.  Assist the cowboys as they V6 Ranch as they drive their cattle to various grazing pastures on the ranch in the Diablo Mountains. 

California has the highest output of agriculture than any other state and in the center of it all is Salinas.  Known as the "salad bowl of the world" for its giant fields of every variety of vegetable. To see these fields is to be amazed.  Salinas offers the Ag Venture Tours which tours the farms and wineries of the area in a full or half-day trips.  While there with grapes on the mind check out John Steinbeck's childhood home in Salinas.

Salinas is the largest city in Monterey County and the county seat.  It is also home to Garrapata State Park, which offers two miles of beachfront, with coastal hiking and a 50-foot climb to a beautiful view of the Pacific. The park has diverse coastal vegetation with trails running from ocean beaches into dense redwood groves. The park also features outstanding coastal headlands at Soberanes Point. Sea lions, harbor seals, and sea otters frequent the coastal waters and California gray whales pass close by during their yearly migration.

Point Lobos, also in Monterey County has the Point Lobos State Reserve which is outstanding for a whole slew of activities including sightseeing, photography, painting, nature study, picnicking, SCUBA diving, and jogging. In addition to the spectacular beauty, nearly every aspect of its resources is of scientific interest. There are rare plant communities, endangered archeological sites, unique geological formations, and incredibly rich flora and fauna of both land and sea. Deriving its name from the offshore rocks at Punta de Los Lobos Marinos, Point of the Sea Wolves, where the sound of the sea lions carries inland, the Reserve has often been called "the crown jewel of the State Park System".

This area contains headlands, coves, and rolling meadows. The offshore area forms one of the richest underwater habitats in the world popular with divers. Wildlife includes seals, sea lions, sea otters and migrating gray whales (from December to May). Thousands of seabirds also make the Reserve their home. Hiking trails follow the shoreline and lead to hidden coves. The area used to be the home of a turn-of-the-century whaling and abalone industry. A small cabin built by Chinese fishermen from that era still remains at Whalers Cove and is now a cultural history museum. 

For a day of rich history and plenty of recreation opportunities in a diverse habitat, visit Fort Ord National Monument.  Another coastal gem on Monterey Bay, Fort Ord offers more than 86 miles of trails for hiking, biking or horseback riding through rolling hills and oak woodlands. You will see a huge diversity of plant life and animals in habitats that include streamside corridors, grasslands, maritime chaparral, and seasonal pools.

This area remains undeveloped thanks to its role as a U.S. Army facility from 1917-1994. During the Vietnam War, it served as a leading training center and deployment staging ground. As many as 1.5 million American troops trained at Fort Ord.

Monterey County is also home to the famed Pebble Beach Golf Course host to the annual AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (formerly known as the Crosby Clambake), which is held there every February.   


Driving South from Pebble Beach on 17-Mile Drive leads to a fork in the road.  Heading southwest on Carmel Way will lead right into one of California's most iconic spots.  Carmel-by-the-Sea is a quaint European-style village in a forest, complete with buildings and houses right out of a Grimm's Fairy Tales book. 

The tiny 1 square mile city of approximately 3,500 residents is packed with whimsical buildings and houses, secret passageways and hidden courtyards.  City founders had the insight to preserve their unspoiled gem by taking specific measures such as banning streetlights, fast food franchises, and parking meters.  

The natural environment was also of primary concern to the residents of Carmel, who were dedicated to the preservation of the sparkling blue seas and majestic Monterey pine trees.  In 1917, Ordinance No. 7 was adopted making it a crime to "cut down, remove, injure or mutilate any tree, shrub, or bush growing or standing on any of the streets, squares, parks or public places."  The law remains on the books to this day and is still strictly enforced. 


At the turn of the 20th century James Devendorf, a real estate developer, and Frank H. Powers, a San Francisco attorney, ordered 100 pine trees to be planted right down Main Street (now Ocean Avenue).  The duo then invited Michael J. Murphy, a carpenter, to build homes and buildings.  Murphy built over 300 houses and commercial buildings in his career.  Today "The First Murphy House", completed in 1902, still stands and is used as the Welcome Center for the Carmel Heritage Society. 

Officially founded in 1902, Carmel-by-the-Sea has been an artist's community from nascent days.  Following the 1906 fire, many members of San Francisco's cultural scene decided to make Carmel their permanent home.  Their migration firmly established Carmel as the progressive artistic and cultural hub in Northern California. 

The inspiring sparsely populated Central Coast of California attracted authors, painters, musicians, architects, actors, and professors.   Legend has it Robert Louis Stevenson got the idea for Treasure Island while walking on the Carmel Beach.  Even today, the beauty of the area is used in films such as "East of Eden", "Play Misty for Me", and "National Velvet".

Carmel-by-the-Sea officially became a city on October 31, 1916.  Alfred Fraser, a Justice Of the Peace, was elected as head of the Board of Trustees.  Today Carmelites celebrate the city's incorporation with an annual Halloween parade.

Throughout the city cottages seemingly lifted right out of a fairy tale sprinkle the landscape thanks to a man's love for his wife.  In 1924, Hugh Comstock designed a house because his wife asked him to build her a place for her "Otsy-Totsy Doll Shop".  Comstock created a storybook cottage complete with rolled eaves, rounded doors, and asymmetrical stone chimneys.  Although, not an architect, Comstock created many more of these cottages by the request of residents and patrons.  Today over 20 of Comstock's original cottages remain. 

Present Day

The artistic feel of the city does come with a price.  In the mid-1980's Pope John Paul II held a mass at the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo mission describing the area as "among the richest and most fruitful of the earth".  Indeed Carmel is rich and fruitful in terms of natural resources and financial resources.  In the U.S. the average price of a house is approximately $189,000; in California, the average price is around $393,000.  In Carmel-by-the-Sea, the average listing price is $1,337,400. 

Carmel-by-the-Sea is home to 3,700 people of which the largest population are aged 65-84.  More than half the population is over age 45.  The major industry in Carmel is entertainment in various forms such as resorts, restaurants, and wine tasting rooms.  Other major economic contributors are retail and art galleries.

At the foot of Ocean Avenue lies the white sand of Carmel Beach highlighted by the cerulean-colored Pacific Ocean.  Located in the center of Monterey Bay, Carmel sits approximately 330 miles north of Los Angeles and 120 miles south of San Francisco. 

Carmel-by-the-Sea enjoys a Mediterranean climate, experiencing temperatures in the low 60's all year long.  Summer temperatures can be the highest of the year, yet it's often best to bring along a light rain jacket for warmth when the summer fog rolls in.  Winter, although mild, brings an occasional shower.  A morning walk along the deserted beach can be invigorating. However, the locals call Fall "The Secret Season" as it is the sunniest time of the year.  This period brings bright, warm days and cool nights.  Another bonus, with its shorter days and longer nights Fall, offers opportunities for beach bonfires and early morning misty strolls through town.

Carmel is the destination for retirees who want to live life to the fullest.  With so much to experience in the area, there is no time to slow down.  While some could easily spend the entire time shopping in Carmel's world-class stores or unique boutiques, there is plenty for others who need a little more adventure.

The use of open space encourages pedestrian exploration and movement.  One of the most popular activities is just wandering the hidden nooks and crannies.  There are 42 hidden courtyards with secret passages in the one square mile city.  The charming courtyards offer sculptures, rose studded gardens, copper-roofed, gazebos and intriguing Tudor-like cottage architecture.  Each secret passage leads to another fantastical world with discoveries around every turn.

Visionary Assisted Living

In many places, great wealth begets great service.  Visionary Assisted Living Facility in Carmel-by-the-Sea is no exception. 

Meg Parker Conners had limited choices available for her frail elderly grandmother. Frustrated with the lack of support, Conners created a facility where residents received the care they needed without sacrificing dignity or comfort.  Formerly known as Victorian Residential Care Home, Visionary Assisted Living Facility strives to contribute to the health and well-being of the residents and their families.  Conners believes her patients' needs always come first and sets about delivering compassionate care with integrity and sensitivity.

Built in 1990, Visionary Assisted Living is a comprehensive independent living community serving both individuals and couples.  Visionary is proud to be the only facility on the Monterey Peninsula that is able to provide the highest level of in-home care, assisted living, care management, and skilled nursing with just one phone call.

The website says Visionary is the place to experience a warm caring staff and quality independent services.  The team at Visionary aspires to care for individuals with consideration and empathy to improve their quality of life by providing personalized care that respects the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of each resident.  The staff earns trust through demonstrated honesty and standard of care and service collaborating with the resident, doctors, family or friends to address the well-being of each individual served.

Visionary's facility in charming Downtown Carmel offers residents the comfort and elegance of a private home with a low maintenance lifestyle coupled with the assistance a senior needs to enjoy retirement.  Each room is bright and cheerful specifically equipped and designed with senior citizens in mind.  The single bedroom, studio, or semi-private living quarters are fully furnished, with the option for the resident to bring along personal belongings such as furniture and favorite mementos.  Rooms include private cable, phone, emergency in-room call system, internet, utilities, apartment maintenance.  Rooms also include outdoor patios with views of professionally landscaped gardens.

Amenities include personal laundry service, daily housekeeping, 24 hours of controlled access, personal parking space, and a fitness activity center all within a pet-friendly environment.  The Carmel location offers activities such as gardening, volunteering, massage therapy, planned gatherings for families and residents, and preventive health screening.

Located in downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea Visionary Assisted Living Facility is within easy walking distance to all the best Carmel has to offer, including shops, restaurants and the public library.  Despite the central location, the neighborhood is quiet with lovely areas for viewing the local flora.

Residents are provided with delicious, nutritious meals that consider each individual's unique needs in preparation.  Meals can be served family style in the community dining room, or room service, if needed. 

Visionary offers all levels of medical service from medication management and transitional care coordination to post-operative and wound care. 

Visionary Assisted Living has considered every detail for its residents including its location of fewer than five miles to the hospital, three pharmacies, and churches for all faiths.  More than a location for senior citizen assisted live Visionary offers peace of mind for residents and families knowing someone is always there to help.

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