Ocean sunsets, rocking chairs, and sheep-filled pastures. Stepping out of the car at historic Mission Ranch in the seaside artist town of Carmel by the Sea, California on the Monterey Peninsula, we could feel the tensions of daily life start to melt away. The ranch, located in an incredibly serene pastoral, rolling hill setting is surrounded by lush meadows and a stunning backdrop of the wild Pacific Big Sur coast with spectacular views of Point Lobos State Preserve.
Mission Ranch, originally owned by Juan Romero, a Native American, consisted of 160 acres encompassing the 1771 Carmel Mission founded by Father Junipero Serra. In the 1850’s, the property became one of California’s first dairies. Potatoes were farmed for the Sierra gold miners by The Martin family, who owned the ranch for 60 years.
During World War II, the ranch operated as a private club, then as an officers’ club for the Army and Navy. Windows were blackened to prevent a possible Japanese attack. Dance bands and lively bar scenes were synonymous with the ranch’s rollicking reputation. As time passed, portions of the property were sold to the Carmel School District and the State.
While stationed at Fort Ord in 1950, twenty-one year old Clint Eastwood made his way one off-duty day to Mission Ranch, and, as he describes “it was love at first sight”. Years later, while serving as mayor of Carmel, longtime resident and famous actor, Eastwood rescued the disrepaired property from its impending fate as a condominium development.
In 1986, he purchased the twenty two acre ranch which includes wetlands stretching to the bay and restored the ranch to its former glory. A frequent visitor to the ranch, he is known to be seen mingling with the guests. We caught just a glimpse of the famous actor riding off property on the back of his motorcycle during our last visit!
Thirty one uniquely distinct, picturesque accommodations are located within ten farm-like buildings nestled among ancient cypress and eucalyptus trees. Magenta bougainvillea spills from balconies, and fragrant, flowering plants decorate porches and walkways. Whether guests prefer a crashing-surf ocean view or a lush and peaceful verdant meadow setting, one thing is for certain-there is a sense that time slows down here, or even goes backwards.
The rustic Bunkhouse Cottage with its wraparound patio is the ranch’s oldest building on property. The Main Barn and Farmhouse each have six comfortable, inviting rooms. The Farmhouse’s common living area is perfect for guest gatherings. The charming, vine-covered Honeymoon Cottage is the preferred choice for a romantic get-away.
Another favorite is the Meadowview complex whose lower rooms open to an outside patio deck and upstairs rooms sport a private balcony. All rooms feature amazing views of the rich, green hillsides and/or the Pacific Ocean.
The Ranch Triplex has two rooms downstairs, and a charming upstairs room with a private balcony. We stayed here on a previous visit many years ago, and it was spacious and very appealing. Like many of the rooms at the ranch, ours included a warm, welcoming fireplace and rocking chairs, perfect for those chilly California evenings.
On our current visit, we opted for The Hayloft, a cozy private room with a pot-bellied stove and Jacuzzi tub. The variety of accommodations and views provides unique options and prices ranging from $125 to $310 per night satisfy a range of budgets.
The Creamery, which once supplied the county with butter and cheese, now houses the popular Mission Ranch Restaurant, with undoubtedly one of the most spectacular restaurant views in the area. Indoor comfy seating includes a fireplace. The large, expansive outdoor heated patio provides drop dead views of the Santa Lucia Mountains in the near distance and Point Lobos with the Pacific Ocean’s crashing waves.
Mission Ranch’s famous sheep graze contentedly in a nearby meadow. Guests and local residents alike huddle around the piano with a martini, glass of wine or Irish whiskey for a nightly sing-a-long. Live music is also a big draw of the Sunday Jazz Buffet Brunch. Moderate prices, delectable American cuisine, outstanding service, and views to die for make this place one of the most popular in Carmel.
One of our favorite menu items has to be the immensely popular Almond Coated Goat Cheese appetizer served warm with sun dried tomatoes and mache (corn salad) on flat-bread crackers. Other popular menu items we love are the mouth-watering Slow Roasted Prime Rib and delectably divine Slow Roasted Kurabuta Pork Loin Chop.
If walking the paths of this wonderfully serene property isn’t quite enough physical exercise, the Ranch offers six hard surfaced tennis courts, and a fitness club with state of the art equipment. USPTA Tennis pro, Jeff Gilette, a top ranked player in the 50’s Senior Division, provides private or group lessons or a chance to attend his Wednesday “Drop-In” Beginner/Intermediate Clinic.
Though Mission Ranch is quiet and bucolic, it’s only nine blocks away from artsy, eclectic, quaint downtown Carmel, and eight blocks from Carmel’s sheltered, spectacular white silky beach. Incredibly picturesque Point Lobos State Reserve is less than four miles away. This beautiful promontory has been called “the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world” and “the crown jewel of the state park system.”
Located at the north end of Big Sur’s wildly wondrous coast, Point Lobos, with its stunning ocean vistas, rare Monterey cypress and pine groves, wildflowers, sea otters and sea lions is an absolute not to miss “stop the car” experience. Easy to moderate hikes provide even more spellbinding views of the rugged coast in almost every direction.
Clint Eastwood described Mission Ranch as “where I would have liked to have been raised if I had had a choice…It kind of gets into your blood, this countryside, and the people. So to me it represents my family. And it represents a quieter life. That is why I guess I bought the Mission Ranch to begin with, because I wanted to preserve the history here.” Mr. Eastwood, we’re awfully glad you did!