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September 19, 2012 / Linda Hartong

CARMEL RIVER BEACH -“Terrible. Awful. Don’t come.”

Carmel is blessed with two very different beaches. The City Beach at the end of Ocean Ave. Is a busy, social beach. Dogs play off leash,

their owners visit ,

children play and surfers ride the waves. It is a fun, festive spot.

Bill and I first spot Carmel River State Beach while dining at the Mission Ranch. We see it across the sheep meadow and admire the view. It is here that the Carmel River empties into the sea. 

When we are taking our walk along Scenic Dr., we again spot it, a glorious turquoise color on this sunny day. 

We later discover that more often it will appear under cloudy skies.

But today we descend the stairway at the west end and walk the relatively deserted mile-long stretch of sand. This is a beach for contemplation and solitary walks

away from the flock.

This is also a beach where the waves surprise you with their sudden strength.

We later learn that swimming, wading or even just walking too near the ocean can be extremely dangerous as the water is known for its unpredictable riptide. We leave the beach with soaked shoes , jeans and respect for Mother Nature’s power.

We have a completely different experience when we approach the beach from the opposite direction. At first we just notice tall reeds, green hills and clouds.

Then the small parking lot comes into view. 

We walk across the lot facing inland and discover a bird sanctuary in a lagoon.

During the dry summer months, the ocean beach blocks the Carmel River from flowing to the sea- forming a large “swimming pool” for the birds and creating a bird watchers’ paradise full of gulls, brown pelicans and a variety of shore birds.

The scenery is spectacular in every direction.

Inland, the reeds are backed by soft green hill and dramatic skys.

Sunset is our favorite time .  

It seems so tranquil as birds fly home

Or line up to bid the sun “good night”

Lone walkers

Or small groups have the delight of watching the sun set with Point Lobos in the background.

When I read reviews of this beach, I laugh when I find this review: 

Terrible. Awful. Don’t come.”

And this one :

“Don’t come here. It’s a terrible beach and no room for you. Sorry. Ok, just kidding. It is an amazing beach, but if it gets too crowded loses a large part of its appeal. It has always been a kinda hidden local spot and that’s a big part of the charm.”

Indeed it is.


Leave a Comment
  1. Jo-Ann Fantino Ruffolo / Sep 19 2012 3:32 pm

    Hi Linda,

    You have captured “our” beach perfectly. We live in Carmel Meadows and walk down the street to the lagoon and our amazingly tranquil beach . . . it’s restorative; it balances the stresses of the day.

    Next time you are in town, drive to the Meadows, drive Ribera Road to the sea as it ends at the bluff where there is a very small (two space) parking area. There are two wooden stairways to the sand . . . one adjacent to the parking area and one farther out on the bluff. Take one; walk the trail or the sand back toward the river and the lagoon. Climb the bluff at the lagoon trail to the cross. Early padres erected a cross on this spot in the mid-1700s as a sign for the San Juan; a ship bringing much needed relief supplies. The ill-fated San Juan never arrived, it was lost at sea leaving the padres to walk the hundreds of miles back to San Diego. Our beach bluff views and beach walk are particularly captivating at sunset or on wonderfully foggy days when the sea-scented fog rolls in like tumble weeds roll across the desert sands. Being engulfed in a fog roll on a chilly Carmel day is an unforgettable experience.

    Looking forward to connecting on your next visit.

    Jo-Ann Fantino Ruffolo

  2. Little Creek Veterinary Clinic / Sep 19 2012 3:35 pm

    This is one of my favorite posts, so far. The photos are postcard-quality. I wish I were there!

  3. Alexandra / Sep 19 2012 6:37 pm

    Having had family here since the 1920″s and living here now on Scenic Drive,we know we are very blessed and have great gratitude for our paradise. We love this walk to. I wish we were able to keep our paradise more private. With the advent of the internet I believe it is making Carmel more crowded and drawing great crowds as we saw this past summer. This time of year we love as the majority of tourists are gone and its finally quiet.

    • Linda Hartong / Sep 19 2012 7:52 pm

      How do we keep the places we treasure safe and special? This is indeed a real problem. We used to take our family hiking in the Rocky Mountains. The trails we so loved are now paved and tour buses drop off hikers.
      Enjoy your peace and quiet while you can.

      • Judy Rapozo / Sep 22 2012 5:18 pm

        Hi Linda,
        The same is true of Kauai. I moved back home to the North Shore five years ago and am so saddened to see local folks rather than visitors parking their pickup trucks by the dozens at the water’s edge on what once were serene, incredibly beautiful beaches. The population has increased tenfold and people no longer have any respect for nature. It’s so sad and I am planning on leaving permanently in a few short years.

  4. lynley james / Sep 19 2012 8:10 pm

    Beautiful,it could be our own country also,New Zealand, we are very blessed here withsimilar beauty kind regards,Lynley.

    Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2012 12:18:16 +0000 To:

  5. Lynn / Sep 20 2012 4:35 pm

    Stunning! I love this beach – beautiful pictures

  6. Inspired and pretty / Sep 22 2012 3:53 am

    Wonderful photos Linda, wonderful ! I hope it can stay the way it is, tranquil and peaceful. I would so love to walk these beaches !

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