Booked the Senator's Cottage for two nights with my wife and two children (10 and 8) as a treat on the way down the coast from SF to LA. Very welcoming staff and much appreciated touches like hand written notes, champagne and chocolates on arrival make you feel like you're being looked after. The Cottage garden has wonderful views over the ocean and feels secluded from the hotel and any other properties. Inside the space is generous, the shower being particularly large and the spa bath a real hit with the kids. One caveat is that the price of such a great view is proximity to Highway 1 so there is a good deal of road noise in the evenings if you have the windows open.
Carmel is twee and feels artificial, but was friendly enough and worth a visit. The beach is impeccably clean, but bracing, Bruno's is the best place for sandwiches and general supplies. 17 Mile Drive certainly worth taking, Pointe Lobos a must, spectacular scenery and you should go all the way to the end for the best access points.