By Morgan Bradley 1:32 am PST

Travel along the Pacific coast, about 120 miles south of San Francisco, and you’ll come across the delightfully magical town of Carmel-By-The-Sea.

Referred to as Carmel for short, the small town with a population of just a few thousand is renowned for its natural seaside beauty and charm. The beach offers a stunning view of the pacific coastline. The spotless, white sandy beach is always softly warm, and invites you to look out across the horizon. The ocean’s sparkle and energy easily capture your gaze. Add to this the famous Cypress trees that surround you everywhere, and it’s no wonder why so many people have found it to be a place of both creative and artistic inspiration!

Once upon a time, Carmel was a center of attraction for the visual and performing arts. It attracted famous artists, poets, and writers including John Steinbeck, Jack London, and Sinclair Lewis. Actor Clint Eastwood even served as town mayor in the late 1980s. Today, Carmel has built upon its artistic history with dozens of art galleries, performances, and cultural events throughout the year.

The town itself is a picturesque square-mile village filled with rolling hills, winding alleyways, and quaint courtyards. Enchantingly old-world shops, restaurants, and wineries are around every corner. Visit La Bicyclette, and you’ll get a delicious rustic European meal served family-style. Find the Cottage of Sweets, and you can taste some of the more than fifty types of licorice from around the world. And don’t forget to stop by Devandorf Park, the perfect place for a rest or midday picnic.

As in many storybook settings, the town of Carmel is not without its quirks. None of the houses, for instance, have street addresses. Instead, many of them display whimsical names such as Hansel or Sea Urchin. Also, a 1920s law requiring permits for pedestrians wearing high heels is still in place. Apparently, heels more than two inches high are considered a safety hazard on Carmel’s unusually windy pavement. But don’t worry; local police don’t actually cite those in violation.

A great time to drop in for a stay is during the annual Bach festival. Dated as far back as 1935, it’s two weeks of concerts, classes, and lectures celebrating Johann Sebastaian Bach. Another fun option is to catch the annual sand castle contest held in September. Now going into its 54th year, it’s a beach day full of fun, food, and prizes. Organized by the Monterey Bay chapter of American Institute of Architects, the contest has a new theme every year.

Carmel Shopping Center is a peaceful corner in Carmel. Photo/Yoyo Chiang