Somewhere between San Francisco and LA on the California coast is Santa Cruz. Before visiting the place I had never heard of it, or if I had it was quickly forgotten. However having now been a couple of times I thought I’d share this charming Oceanside town with you.
Downtown Santa Cruz is a charmingly cosmopolitan and stereotypically Californian ‘hippy’ feeling highstreet of independent shops and cafes. As wiki puts it: ‘Pacific Avenue serves as an outlet for the artistic and unique culture that Santa Cruz possesses.’ You can always find a locally made gift, for both yourself and others, here – with prices ranging from the upper end of budget friendly to the lower end of eye-watering for a millionaire and you can always find a high quality dirty mocha chai latte in generous sized glasses in any number of cafes. There are also usually some street performers and other things to produce a pleasant and vibrant atmosphere. So a thumbs up here.
Whenever I’ve been here I’ve ended up downtown after visiting one of the other beautiful spots that are in and around Santa Cruz first.
Perhaps the most popular of these is Natural Bridges State Beach. This state park is a nice sized piece of Californian coastal beauty. The main beach offers a cove of golden sands, sun and stunning views across the bay. And, whilst this is on offer in much of the surrounding area also, this particular beach has the added feature of the natural bridge. In the old days this was ‘bridges’, but sadly now the archways across the sand and ocean have fallen away to leave a single remaining true arch. However this is still a lovely sight with it regularly attracting a constant stream of people taking selfies – often beautiful people in swimming costumes; though often not so beautiful people in swimming costumes – and when the sun sets and you capture it at the right angle this can be truly spectacular… so I am told… but I have never been here at that time of day
The state beach is also a dedicated area for wildlife and there’s always an abundance around you to see. Well, there has been on my few trips there anyway. The list includes mammals like the whales, seals and sea otters which can be glimpsed from the beach often on the horizon, and a plethora of little critters to see in the rock pools/tide pools. The main draw, however, is the monarch butterflies. I have mentioned these before when writing about Pacific Grove so I won’t go into too much detail. But here in Santa Cruz at the state park is a second reserve for their winter migration and they get up to 150,000 butterflies come to their reserve for protection each year. Whilst PG has the reserve tucked away in the town, here it is in the state park near the beach meaning you’ll often see them fluttering around you as you sunbathe which is just lovely.
The second area I wish to talk about is a little different, though it does still have the stunning backdrop of golden sand, blue ocean and brilliant sun – the beach boardwalk. This is California’s oldest surviving amusement park and is beautifully located along the oceanfront 😍. Opened in 1907 it still has classic carnival games and an old wooden roller-coaster nestled amongst newer rides and experiences. And of course there are booths selling all the sorts of food you would expect at a place like this – most popular of these when I’ve been seemed to be potato on a stick… odd. What’s great about the amusement park is that you can pop in and out of it between swimming and sunbathing on the beach – meaning you’re not always stuck with the rides and noise and can come and go as you please, thus alternating sun with screams. Having said this the ocean can be pretty chilly so you do get screams sometimes when people first dive in. Its very entertaining and made me feel as though I was back home in Britain.
So there you have it. Santa Cruz. A town with a lovely feeling and well stocked highstreet, natural beauty and a delightful amusement park on the perfect sands. If you’re ever in the area I recommend you pop on by 👍🏻.
Oh, and, Happy New Year!