Monterey’s cliff-lined coast, Pebble Beach’s most exclusive golf clubs and restaurants, and Carmel’s cozy wine rooms and sandy beaches are now just a direct flight away thanks to American Airlines new non-stop to Monterey Regional Airport from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.
Launched this spring, the three-hour and 45-minute trip departs D/FW daily at 9:15 a.m. with returns leaving Monterey at 11:30 a.m. The 76-passenger plane will continue its daily route through November 3. An extension could be added, but now’s the time to book a trip for early fall – when temps hover around 70, the crowds are thinner, and the Pacific Coast county skies are as clear as its crystal waters. And just because summer’s over, it doesn’t mean you can’t still make the trip. American has extended the flights through January.
Here’s just a glimpse of where to eat, drink, stay and play while there.
Eat & Drink
Thank former Carmel mayor Clint Eastwood for saving one of California’s first dairies from condo development when he bought and restored Carmel’s historic Mission Ranch. The 22-acre property sits on spectacular panoramic views of Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Carmel River State Beach and the Pacific Ocean and is home to the famous Mission Ranch restaurant. Patrons can listen to swanky piano bar music and watch sheep graze in the adjacent meadows while dining inside or outside on a heated patio. Classic American cuisine here ranges from whiskey-marinated beef brochette and salmon ravioli to fennel risotto and pan-seared sea scallops. On Sunday there’s a brunch buffet with live jazz. Note that reservations aren’t taken, so be prepared to take in the scenery, and perhaps a glass of pinot noir, while waiting for a table.
Splurge with a visit to Roy’s at Pebble Beach, located at the posh Inn at Spanish Bay golf resort. Roy is Roy Yamaguchi, born in Tokyo and a James Beard award-winner who’s credited as the founder of Hawaiian-fusion cuisine. With sweeping views of deep blue Pacific, the restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner with a sharp focus on seafood. Think Japanese-style misoyaki butterfish, fire-grilled hamachi collar, and Australian lobster. There are plenty of dishes from the land, too, like truffle-glazed filet mignon and Thai-style rack of lamb.
At Carmel Valley Ranch resort, executive chef Tim Wood exploits everything his property has to offer: honey harvested on-site, produce from the organic garden, eggs from the henhouse, homemade sea salt, and even cheese made from the milk of Swiss nanny goats that live on property. Wood’s on-staff cheese monger, Charlie Cascio, lost his own goat ranch to wildfires in 2016. Wood convinced property owners to bring Cascio, and his goats, on as full-time employees. At Valley Kitchen, the resort’s ranch-inspired restaurant and social hub, patrons can find sweet honey chile chicken wings, one breathtaking heirloom tomato salad with garden basil and Charlie’s burrata, and mains like bone-in rib eye steak carved tableside and a fresh fish catch of the day by “fisherman Jerry.”
Stay & Play
Golfers will appreciate the number of luxurious Carmel Valley resorts well-equipped with championship courses. But the upscale Carmel Valley Ranch offers the only Pete Dye-designed, bentgrass golf course in Northern California. Well-traveled golfers know Dye for setting a high bar for creativity and challenge in his course architecture, and bentgrass for its smooth putting surface. The resort is set on 500 acres, and holes wind through vineyards, lavender fields, ponds and oak groves.
Non-golfers can stay busy with plenty of outdoor activity, including tennis, archery, soap-making, beekeeping, or simply sunbathing by one of three saltwater pools (two are adults-only). There’s also an on-site spa with Eucalyptus steam rooms. Guests get to rest their head in one of 181 suites, each equipped with their own fireplace and private deck – some with outdoor tubs. Rates start at $450 per night in September.
Just down the road is Quail Lodge & Golf Club, another golf resort with 93 spacious, California ranch designed guestrooms and suites. The par 71 course is well-suited for the walking golfer at 6,500 yards and was originally designed in 1964 by Robert Muir Graves, later refined in 2015. There’s also an all-grass, nine-hole putting course that’s popular with guests for fun and banter either after a round, or on its own before dinner.
Guests will also find tennis and pickleball courts, sand bocce ball pits, year-round heated pools and fitness rooms with a class schedule. There’s no resort fee here and overnight parking is free, making it one of the more affordable Carmel Valley lodging options. Find rates as low as $200 in late October.
A trip to Monterey County must include a cruise down Pebble Beach’s famed 17-Mile Drive, a scenic journey through coastal cliffs, white beaches, iconic golf courses and the majestic Lone Cypress tree that serves as Pebble Beach’s logo. Note that admission through the gated route is $10.50 per vehicle, but the fee is reimbursed with any $35 purchase at all Pebble Beach resort restaurants. Motorcycles are prohibited and gates are open to the public from sunrise to sunset.
Golfer can’t miss a stop at the new Pebble Beach Visitor Center, opened to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Pebble Beach this year. Located next to The Lodge at Pebble Beach, the 8,000 square foot facility shares the story of Pebble Beach’s emergence as the golf capital of the world in a museum-like setting with more than 20 exhibits. There’s also exclusive retail shopping and seating areas with an ocean view – the latter of which there’s no shortage of in Monterey County.
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