If you're a wine lover that hasn't been to Bonny Doon Winery in Santa Cruz, shame on you. Randell Graham has been on the cutting edge of California wine for decades and his innovative philosophy of wine is a welcome change from the Chardonnay/Merlot culture.
The tasting room here is free and you can try most of the Bonny Doon wines. There is a picnic area outside but no food is available at the tasting room.
Their website is an adventure all its own.
Twin Lakes Beach is actually named after Schwan Lagoon, which are now in the process of being restored to something of a freshwater wetland area. For a long time, railroad and automobile causeways blocked the flow of water into and out of the Schwan Lagoon, which are named for the original property owner of the area. During the 60's and 70's, the lagoon would dry up in summer, and become a stinky mess other times of year as storm drains from the city flow into it. Recently, the state and city have collaborated to restore the wetland aspect, although these are now freshwater lakes stabilized by a small dam, not brackish water of the original habitat. See the web link for an article about this place, which is popular for local fishing.
On the southeast side of the yacht harbor, there is the only dog beach available in Santa Cruz. The beach is downstream from a series of two lakes that we at one time brackish water wetland. During the hundred or so years, this water wetland has been cut off from the ocean, drained, neglected, and then revived as a freshwater lakes. Anyway, the water from these lakes flows through the sand of the beach. Also, dredging from the yacht harbor put extra sand onto the Twin Lakes State Beach. Parking can be difficult in summer, as there are few spots, but this is otherwise a great beach to walk the dog. No dogs are allowed off-leash because of the shore birds that feed here. It's a decent surfing beach south of the river, where there are some sandstone cliffs. See web link for more details.
For such a small town, Santa Cruz has a big reputation. Many Californians think of it as a sort of mecca for surfers, free spirits, and nature lovers - in other words, an ideal place for a weekend getaway.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
An historic seaside amusement park, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk has everything there you expect at a seaside boardwalk - games, arcades, Dime Toss, Milk Bottles, and Shoot Out the Star. Among the various things to do in Santa Cruz, this probably draws the greatest numbwer of tourists. Definitely ride the wooden roller coaster.
More on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk at http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2933320/things_to_do_on_a_weekend_getaway_in.html?cat=16
The beaches along the Santa Cruz coast come in all sizes and personal tastes. There is a a family beach, a dog beach, and a beach where you can build a bonfire. Natural Bridges State Beach is named after a natural rock formation right off shore - but go see it soon, because there used to be three of these natural rock bridges. Only one is left.
More on the beaches of Santa Cruz at http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2933320/things_to_do_on_a_weekend_getaway_in.html?cat=16
If you're into shopping and browsing in quaint stores, Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz is the perfect thing to do for you. On this tree-lined street are boutiques, a great bookstore called Bookshop Santa Cruz, places to eat or get coffee, a cookie company, movie theater, and lots more. Pacific Avenue is great when you want a break from the sea and sand.
Day Trip from Santa Cruz
Take a leisurely day drive up historic Highway 9 to see redwoods, a state park, cute little towns, antique stores, -- and a haunted hotel. Tnis is a great, must-do trip if you are to get the feel of the historic Santa Cruz area. More information on this day trip is at http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2933320/things_to_do_on_a_weekend_getaway_in.html?cat=16
No matter what things you choose to do in Santa Cruz, you will have an interesting, fun, relaxing vacation with your family, friend, or significant other.
On the west side of Santa Cruz there is a relatively new little complex that has several fun shops, wine tasting rooms and a good place to eat. What is now Swift Street commons for years was a vegetable storage and shipping area, and then a light industrial area that was way off the radar. A few years ago it was fixed up and now houses several specialty shops, four or five wine tasting rooms, a good micro brewery and Kelly's Bakery, a favorite local breakfast and lunch place. This is a great place to stop that is slightly off the beaten path, where you can find something unique as a gift, have some good food, and enjoy a drink or two. Of the wineries I am very familiar with Bonny Doon (well known in California) but don't know the others. Try them and let me know what you think.
Santa Cruz has many beaches. At the far west end is Natural Bridges, and following West Cliff Drive toward downtown you pass "Its" beach before arriving at the popular tourist beaches: Cowell Beach and Main Beach. Most tourists don't venture far from this area, but there are several other beaches.
Just on the other side of the San Lorenzo River from Main Beach and the Boardwalk is Seabright Beach, long and wide and not too crowded. Going further, just across the harbor is Twin Lakes Beach, popular for evening fires. Taking East Cliff Drive further on is the locals beach around Rodeo Creek. This is popular for walking dogs because it isn't a State Park and the rangers don't patrol. Street parking is somewhat limited during the summer, but there is a small parking lot with restrooms just past the creek on the left.
If you are interested in more beaches, if you continue to Capitola there a the popular beach, along with big ones at Seacliff, New Brighton and Sunset.
This small but popular beach is located right on the other side of the lighthouse from Steamer's Lane, an important surfing spot. A concrete stairway makes for easy access. At this beach you will probably find a lot of dogs in the morning; they are allowed until 10:00. The beach is also popular with wanna-be hippies, who often hand out and play drums nearby.
Santa Cruz has a long surfing tradition. Back in 1936 a group of 27 young surfers founded the Santa Cruz Surfing Club, and their activity spread the popularity of surfing on the west coast of California. This club was instrumental in getting the nearby surfing museum up and running. This statue was commissioned by the club and is a meaningful landmark in Santa Cruz.
On an unfortunate note, one of the original club members was taken advantage of by a guy who took over the rights to the club's logo. The logo is now being sold on T-shirts and other souvenirs, but the proceeds don't go back to the club - just to one guy's pocket. Crass exploitation at its worst. This article explains it:
The legendary big wave spot. This is about forty minutes north of SC. I always take people here when they come to the bay area, if it's breaking - the biggest I've seen it get is 60 feet, but supposedly it's been 100+ before. Something to behold for sure.
In several locations in Santa Cruz you can find large wall murals. There is one in the narrow alley way off Pacific Ave by Plaza Lane Optometry, and another on the Pizza Shop on Mission on the West side of town. The one pictured is a favorite, depicting scenes familiar to locals as well as visitors. It is located just on block off Pacific Avenue on Cedar, off Walnut. Hundreds of visitors walk up and down Pacific Avenue, but a one block detour here is worth seeing. The scene here is a surfer at Steamers lane, along by the lighthouse and surf museum.
At lighthouse point on West Cliff Drive there is a fine little museum devoted to the local surf scene. The museum is located in the lighthouse - where else?
The museum opened in 1986 and is the first surfing museum in the US. The location is exceptional, overlooking steamers lane where the surf action is keen. On the other side is a small and popular beach for sunbathing and running dogs (during limited hours for the dogs).
What is good about this museum is that you can really tell that it was designed by people who love and respect surfing and its history. Even if you don't have much interest in surfing itself, the cultural aspects of it are pretty interesting, as well as the stories that come with some of the local surfing legends.
The location of the lighthouse is a popular place just to hang out and see the coast. West Cliff Drive has a long walking path that goes from main beach all the way up to Natural Bridges State Park. This museum and lighthouse is a easy walk from the main beach at Santa Cruz.
This bridge is located nearby in the town of Felton. The bridge was built in the 1890s and for many years was the only way to cross the San Lorenzo River and get into the town. Now it is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is notable for the excellent condition is has been kept in and that it is thought to be the tallest of the existing covered bridges in the US.
In front of the bridge is a small park with a playground and picnic sites. If you come in the winter, during or after a big rain, you will have great views of the rushing water below. In the summer the river looks harmless, but it has been the cause for a lot of worry over the years during rainy winters.
Santa Cruz's original lighthouse was constructed on Lighthouse Point in 1868 near the site of the Abbott Lighthouse. This lighthouse was moved in 1878 due to erosion of the cliff, it ceased operations in 1941, and the original building was torn down in 1948. The Abbott Memorial Lighthouse was completed in 1967 in honor of a surfer who died near the point. The lighthouse building houses the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum which was founded in 1985.
The area around the lighthouse is preserved as Lighthouse Field State Park, a Santa Cruz city park. The park and lighthouse are on a point officially named Point Santa Cruz which is the northern boundary of the Monterey Bay. It stands about 22 miles from the southern edge of the bay, Point Pinos in Pacific Grove. Lighthouse Field State Park is actually the third most visited state park in California with about 4 million annual visitors.
The other lighthouse in Santa Cruz is called Walton Lighthouse and is located next to Santa Cruz Marina and was built in 2001.
Aptos is just a few miles from Santa Cruz and offers a few interesting sites, some nice beaches, and a small town feel.
The most interesting thing here is the Palo Alto, a partially sunken ship that sits at the end of the pier at Seacliff State Beach. The Palo Alto is a concrete ship built in Oakland in 1919 as an oil tanker. Completed after the end of WWI, the ship was mothballed in Oakland until 1929 when it was purchased by the Seacliff Amusement Company for use as an "amusement ship" with arcade, dance hall, and swimming pool. The ship was grounded in the sand, and permanently docked at the pier. In the winter of 1931, the ship's hull cracked and sunk in place. It was used for a time as a fishing pier, but even that is unsafe now with the condition of the hull. Perhaps in another thousand years it will be gone.
Seacliff State Beach is located at the end of State Park Drive. For a $6 fee you can park at the lot on top of the bluffs or you can drive down to the picnic and camping areas on the beach. If you are cheap like me, there are a few place near the park entrance where you can park for free then walk down a set of steps to the beach and pier. Seacliff State Beach is the sixth busiest state park in California with almost 2.5 million visitors per year.
Aptos is an unincorporated town with about 10,000 residents.
Until the late 19th Century, much of the transportation between San Francisco and Santa Cruz was by sea, and the lighthouse at Point Santa Cruz was considered a priority as early as 1852. However, funding and property purchase were delayed, and the first lighthouse structure wasn't completed until 1870, becoming the 12th beacon along California's coast. The original wooden structure on brick foundation was taken from plans used to build the Ediz Hook Lighthouse in Washington. In 1878, the lighthouse had to be moved on rollers to a new location further from the coastline when it was feared that storm battered surge caves might undermine the structure. The lamp was changed a couple of times, particularly as city lights began to compete with it. A United State artillery divisioni occupied the property during WWII, and in 1948, the lighthouse building was auctioned and hauled away by the new owner. In 1965, 18 year old body surfer, Mark Abott, drowned off-shore and with the life insurance proceeds, his parents arranged to build the current Mark Abott Memorial Lighthouse structure. The lantern room from the decommissioned Oakland Harbor Lighthouse was used atop the new lighthouse, and Mark’s ashes were buried at the base of the tower. However, the lantern room had to be replaced in 1996 as part of a restoration project in this building which has, since 1986, been also devoted to being a surfing museum. The links below provide much more detail that I can include here. It is very popular to walk the dog, jog, or bicycle past the lighthouse.
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