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Beach Trip

By Kevin Wing
Co-Host, Catch a Wave: A Journey to California’s 10 Best Beaches

Kevin Wing(Editor’s Note: This monthly column about America’s best beaches and beach towns is written exclusively for AARisings by Kevin Wing, an Emmy Award-winning San Francisco Bay Area-based television journalist who hosts Catch a Wave: A Journey to California’s 10 Best Beaches, a television pilot for The Travel Channel. Kevin is also a feature reporter for the nationally syndicated LatinEyes, produced at KRON-TV Channel 4 in San Francisco, and performs voiceover work in the Bay Area. Where are we this month? Summer is a few months away – unless you’re reading this in the Southern Hemisphere – but we can still dream about sunny 90-degree days and what better way to spend it than in California at world-famous Carmel Beach!)

During the last two and a half years, the Catch a Wave crew has been everywhere, looking for the best beaches that California has to offer. It is always a winning combination when you visit a great beach and it comes complete with a great beach town. In California, there are many of them – from San Diego County and all of southern and central California to the Bay Area and the North Coast.

A few minutes’ drive south of Monterey and two hours outside San Francisco is a place most people around the world have heard of, but perhaps have never had an opportunity to visit and see firsthand how beautiful it is.

It’s Carmel-by-the-Sea.

This is definitely one of the most beautiful places to see in California. When you first drive into the town – which is officially called Carmel-by-the-Sea – you’ll note that the atmosphere feels slightly staid, in a kind of artsy, woodsy way. That’s how it’s been since the early 1900s.

But, as you drive down the hill on Ocean Avenue from Highway 1, you’ll see the beautiful Pacific Ocean on the horizon about a mile or so away, just peeking through the pine trees that are everywhere throughout Carmel. Ocean Avenue is “downtown” in Carmel. It’s the village’s main commercial thoroughfare. The street is lined with expensive shops crammed with people, most of them tourists from every corner of the world. It is difficult to tell who’s a tourist and who’s a local. Everyone blends in. That’s what makes Carmel so nice. There are also plenty of art galleries, and restaurants that serve square – but pricey – entrees. But, it’s all part of the Carmel experience, and it’s all good.

This wonderful village gained enhanced worldwide notoriety in the 1980s, when the townsfolk elected a Hollywood actor as mayor. Not just any actor, and not just any movie star. This being California, it was Clint Eastwood, for years the No. 1 box-office star who ruled the silver screen. The quintessential Western movie star right up there with the great John Wayne, Eastwood perfected the role of the world-weary loner in such Westerns as The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Unforgiven. For years, he also played Dirty Harry on the big screen. Several years ago, when I worked for KGO-TV Channel 7, the ABC affiliate in San Francisco, I had an opportunity to interview Mr. Eastwood. He’s a great man who will forever be part of Carmel’s colorful history.

Once you pass the shopping district, you’ll reach the end of Ocean Avenue and the lovely white-sand cove of Carmel Beach, one of the prettiest anywhere. On some sunny days, the water of the Pacific can be turquoise. Sometimes, you’ll see a curious otter or sea lion poking his head out of the water. Don’t play with them! Although cute, they can bite. What an experience it is to watch the sunset from Carmel Beach. On a warm evening, as many as a hundred people will gather on the sand facing the setting sun.

This is not really a surfer’s beach, per se, but you’ll see surfers challenging the Carmel ocean waters occasionally. If you bring your dog along, you should know that Carmel Beach is a dog-friendly beach. Just remember to pick up after your pooch. There aren’t any “poop dispensers” anywhere, so please remind yourself to bring a baggie along to help you do the doggie deed. This is one of the cleanest beaches around northern California, and it should be kept that way. Dogs can roam freely on Carmel Beach, off-leash. But, bring it anyway. My golden retriever, Toby, loves this beach. When we arrive, I usually undo the leash as we navigate our way down the sand dunes to the beach below. Our favorite patch of sand is just north of the end of Ocean Avenue. Up above some of the cliffs, you’ll be able to see some of the world-famous golf links of the Monterey Peninsula, lined with Cypress trees and expansive fairways. If you’re a golfer playing on these courses, the Carmel coastline is quite a backdrop to behold.

In all, Carmel Beach stretches about two miles – a mile in each direction from Ocean Avenue. For locals from, say, the Bay Area, it’s worth a weekend drive. And, for out-of-towners, you shouldn’t miss it for anything. There’s plenty to do in Carmel, whether you’re catching some rays at the beach or strolling Ocean Avenue for a little window-shopping. With Monterey just north of the village – where there’s plenty to see and do, from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to Fisherman’s Wharf – Carmel is a worthy destination but still a best-kept secret, all in one.

How to get to the beach: To get to Carmel Beach from San Francisco or Los Angeles, take state Highway 1 to Carmel-by-the-Sea. Head west on Ocean Avenue. Pass through Carmel’s famous shopping and lodging district. Continue west on Ocean Avenue until the street meets the beach. From farther inland, take Highway 101 near Salinas via westbound state Highway 68, which will take you to Highway 1. From there, head south on Highway 1 for about three miles. Watch for Ocean Avenue on the right. You’re there!

Next month from Beach Trip: It’s time to head farther west – this time to Hawaii. We’ll visit Makena Beach, arguably one of the prettiest stretches of sand on Maui.

Countdown to summer: Okay, we have a few months to go, but this “boy of summer” can dream a little. While we wait for spring and summer to arrive, we can conjure up images of those nice sandy beaches baking under the sun. In the coming weeks, we’ll take you to Baker Beach in the world’s greatest city – San Francisco. With a picturesque view and a one-of-a-kind backdrop of the world’s most famous suspension bridge – the Golden Gate Bridge – it’s hard to beat. Also ahead: southern California’s tony Laguna Beach along the beautiful southern Orange County coastline.

To learn more about the Catch a Wave television show and Kevin Wing, go to www.catchawavetv.com. You can email Kevin and the Catch a Wave crew at catchawavetvshow@aol.com.

Copyright 2006
All Rights Reserved
Kevin Wing
American Travelers Television
Issue 6 / January 2006

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Photo used by permission courtesy of Kevin Wing. Photo copyright by Kevin Wing.