Santa Cruz and the surrounding region are synonymous with surf culture in the minds of many and while there’s no shortage of places to catch great waves, there’s so much more to this part of the central coast. From giant redwoods to bucolic vineyards to a rich and storied agriculture scene, here are seven of the best stops in the area.
1. Natural Bridges State Beach
Plan your stop at this beautiful beach in Santa Cruz to coincide with low tide when you can walk under its namesake natural sandstone arch and explore tide pools.
Tip: If you visit October through March, you might spot wintering Monarch butterflies in the park’s butterfly preserve.
2. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
This classic boardwalk is fun for the whole family. It’s home to two National Historic Landmarks: the wooden Giant Dipper Roller Coaster opened in 1924 and the Looff Carousel which has more than 70 hand-carved horses and opened in 1911.
Tip: Stop by The Picnic Basket at 125 Beach Street to get sandwiches, salads, coffee and more to enjoy on the beach. The Market Salad is a favorite.
3. Santa Cruz Wharf
The longest timber pile pier in the United States, Santa Cruz Wharf stretches half-a-mile into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. From its end, you’ll get 360-degree views of Monterey Bay and hopefully spot marine mammals and seabirds. Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz’ most iconic surf beach is also visible from the wharf.
Tip: If you want to get in on the surfing scene, book lessons with Club Ed or Richard Schmidt surf schools right in town.
4. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Part of the only contiguous stand of redwoods located on the Central Coast, this special park in Felton is perfect for a family-friendly stroll or a more strenuous hike. The Redwood Grove Loop Trail circles some of the biggest trees in the park and is accessible to strollers and wheelchairs.
Tip: Stop by on Saturdays at 11 a.m., for guided naturalist tours.
5. Roaring Camp Steam Train
Another great way to see the redwoods is by Roaring Camp Railroads. You can opt for a 75-minute narrow-gauge journey up Bear Mountain or a three-hour ride through the state park to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk in summer. Special events are hosted at Roaring Camp throughout the year.
Tip: It’s an open-air ride so you can get the best views of the landscape and it’s a good idea to bring a light jacket.
6. Lester Estate Wines
Lester Estate combines great wine with an even better atmosphere. Wine tastings are held on Saturdays on an outdoor patio under beautiful, sprawling trees. You can also tour the 210-acre Deer Park Ranch in a restored 1981 Range Rover Defender.
Tip: Check out the Corralitos Wine Trail if you want to make a day out of wine tasting.
7. Martinelli’s Company Store
The sparkling cider that’s graced holiday tables for generations has been produced in Watsonville since 1868. Visit the tasting room to learn about the company’s history, sample complimentary cider and sparkling juices and bring home varietals and blends that aren’t often found in stores.
Tip: To discover more local products, head to the Downtown Santa Cruz Farmer’s Market on Wednesday afternoons.
Learn more at SantaCruz.org.