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Carmel-by-the-Sea, California is home to an entire village of fairytale cottages. Located near the northern tip of Big Sur, on the central California coast, the town is every bit as enchanting as its name. With a population of just under 4,000, a stunning natural setting, and a reputation as a haven for artists, of course Carmel-by-the-Sea is going to have some character… and you only need to talk a walk through town to experience it.

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Fairytale Cottages

Carmel-by-the-Sea is home to a handful of absolutely stunning English fairytale cottages, all designed by a man named Hugh Comstock. Hugh was not an architect by any means, but he did have a lot of vision, and the story of how he came to become the town’s most sought-after builder is incredibly sweet.

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Flickr/Tony Hisgett

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via Tatiana Danger


Hugh first came to Carmel-by-the-Sea in 1924. He was intending to visit his sister and her husband, who had settled in the artsy town. But, on his trip, he met a woman named Mayotta Browne. Mayotta was the artist behind Otsy-Totsies, which were cute little felt dolls meant to be collector’s items. The two were married within a year. Mayotta’s business quickly took off, and it wasn’t long before their new home was filled with dolls. She asked her husband if he might build her a showroom for her dolls, and even though he had no practical experience, he decided to give it a whirl. The storybook cottage he built was inspired by the illustrations of Arthur Rackham, and he didn’t worry too much about making things precise or level, adding a whimsical, rustic look. He named it “Hansel”, and it soon became the talk of the town.

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via Tatiana Danger
via Flickr/Ken Lund
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Once upon a time…in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Naturally, people began requesting their own fairytale homes, and he was happy to comply. Today, 21 of his buildings still stand, lovingly maintained by the owners. Even though they were incredibly cheap to build (and they’re pretty tiny!) they sell today for $4 million! His style had a huge influence on the town, and it’s become a village of beautiful fairytale-inspired buildings. Make a point to stroll past a few, and then pop into the Tuck Box, a restaurant housed in the only commercial property Hugh made. They serve breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea, which makes the perfect end to a day of exploring the magical seaside town’s atmosphere. There’s also the Cottage of Sweets, an English-style candy store with homemade fudge, European treats, a massive licorice selection, and more. Round out your fairytale trip with a stay in one of the adorable cottages or B&Bs, like the Normandy Inn.

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via Flickr/Kunal Murkherjee
via Flickr/Harvey Barrison
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via Tatiana Danger

A storybook guide to Carmel by the Sea on Roadtrippers

More unique towns to explore…

Tucked away off I-95 is an entire seaside town of storybook homes


Wildwood is a neon seaside paradise filled with fake palm trees

The story of Helen, Georgia, a fairytale alpine town hidden in the Appalachians

There’s an ‘Arabian Nights’-themed town just off I-95




  1. Carmel is a truly special and unique place. I spent several months there last year and covered it extensively on my blog in a series of photo-rich posts.

  2. This is a great post. I love Carmel By the Sea. I will add that the post office does not identify these houses by number but by name. Carmel By the Sea also is a very dog friendly town, and each merchant usually has a dog water dish and treats available for your dog. Dogs are welcome in most establishments. The beach is dog friendly as well. Many of the hotels and inns will accommodate your pets as well. There are several wine tasting rooms with local wines from wineries in Carmel Valley.

  3. Golden Triangle district is the most interesting place I have ever been in that I did live in a small fairy-tale cottage in North Colebrook, Ct myself. You could fish from my sofa as the Sandy Brook was literally 10 feet was my sofa. It was the ambiance of living there that reminds me of Carmel. I am going to return to Carmel but this time I will stay. By Gail Adams July 5. 2018 at 10:15pm

  4. I stayed at the Edgemere Cottage and loved the town with the fairy-tale atmospere and friends are easy to talk to. Those two weeks went by so fast. Next time I will stay for good.


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