A 70-mile drive from San Francisco along the scenic Pacific coastline, Santa Cruz is a must-see stop
On a drive down California’s coast, Santa Cruz County is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places in the state. With attractions along its beach scene and inland, there’s more than enough to keep any group of travelers smiling in this classic beach t own.
Santa Cruz County is home to popular markets, interesting museums, a marvelous state park and more, but one of the nicest things about a visit to Santa Cruz County is how accessible and close everything is. So, whether traveling with a busload of people or by yourself, here are some of the best attractions to appreciate in this lovely little county.
A THRIVING BEACH SCENE
One of the more popular stops on a visit to Santa Cruz County is the always entertaining Santa Cruz Wharf. This 2,745-foot-long pier was constructed in 1914 to accommodate deep-water ships. Now, the wharf is used to accommodate visitors and locals alike with shops, restaurants, events, recreational activities and even wildlife.
Visitors have the chance to rent boats and kayaks, use sea scopes and see local wildlife, or go on a chart ered fishing, whale watching, or sight-seeing tour. Natural Bridges State Beach is another hotspot for travelers as it is one o f the best places in Santa Cruz County to watch the sunset. This beach is clean, has its own parking and bathrooms, visitor center and even a park store.
Santa Cruz’s shoreline is one of the most beautiful locales in California and perhaps, the country. One of the most famous routes for joggers, bike riders, and walkers is the scenic West Cliff Drive. Sitting between Natural Bridges State Beach and the Santa Cruz Wharf, the three-mile walking and biking path delivers gorgeous views of Monterey Bay. Along this route travelers can find the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, which overlooks the internationally famous surfing spot Steamer Lane. This little treasure of a museum houses photographs, surfboards, and other artifacts tracing back more than 100 years of the surfing history in Santa Cruz. The surfing museum is located inside the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, which was built in 1870. Strolling north up West Cliff Drive, visitors will pass cypress trees found along the coast and Mitchell’s Cove, an off-leash area where dogs can play and run around in the sand.
On a tour of the beach scene, Capitola Village is a must see. One of the Pacific coast’s oldest seaside resort towns, Capitola Village has a beautiful Mediterranean feel to it. Charming little shops and colorful buildings light up the town as tourists help themselves to the village’s beach, dining options, and enough window shopping to call it a workout. On the idea of shopping and dining, the Abbott Square Market is another place that offers a multitude of options. This gorgeous market features diverse dining options where visitors can drink heartwarming and locally roasted coffee or grab an authentic Neapolitan-style pizza.
Santa Cruz County has beautiful and entertaining seaside attractions, but there is also an abundance of activities to enjoy inland. The Agricultural History Project Center & Museum is a popular place for school groups, families and tourists alike as it features educational exhibits, historical archives, and even an agriculture research project in the Codiga Center & Museum.
This California county has no shortage of beauty as it’s also home to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The big attraction with this state park, in the literal and ideal sense, is the 40-acre grove of old-growth redwood trees. These massive trees can stand up to 277 feet tall, about 16 feet wide, and are around 1,500 years old. Visitors are drawn to this park from all over the world to soak in the historical significance and spectacular views as they hike, picnic, swim, camp, horseback ride and more.
Another inland treasure is Mount Hermon Adventures. This attraction allows visitors to embark on a guided zipline eco-adventure as they sail past the huge redwood trees. This exciting attraction also offers self-directed challenges and activities more than 70 feet above the forest’s grounds.
Roaring Camp Railroads is another attraction that gives visitors a history lesson while also providing them with a different perspective of the famous redwood trees. At this railroad camp, visitors get to ride in some of the most authentically preserved narrow-gauge steam engines still providing regular service in the states, which takes its passengers through the redwood groves as they tower overhead, while the conductors narrate the history of Roaring Camp.
Conveniently, there are several lodging options very close including the Chaminade Resort and Spa, which recently underwent a $10 million renovation.
by Tyler Drag