Posted by: RasmaSandra | November 5, 2022

Santa Cruz on the Monterey Bay

Santa Cruz from Spanish translates to Holy Cross and is located in northern California. The city is situated on the northern edge of Monterey Bar.

The city was founded by the Spanish in 1791 when Fermin de Lasuen established Mission Santa Cruz. A settlement grew up near the mission known as Branciforte and was known for its lawlessness. In 1866 Santa Cruz was incorporated as a city. When the Santa Cruz Boardwalk was created in 1907 the city became known as a seaside resort community. With the establishment of the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1965 it became known as a college town.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk offers fun for the whole family with amusement park rides, games, and attractions. The park overlooks Main Beach and is considered to be one of the best seaside amusement parks in the world.

The Giant Dipper, a wooden roller coaster was built in 1924 and is classified as a National Historic Landmark.

Along the beachfront boardwalk, there are many food vendors and Santa Cruz is considered to be one of the best beach destinations in California. The two most popular beaches are Main Beach and Cowell Beach.

Main Beach is great for families with children since it is a sheltered cove. The waters are safe to wade in and there are sand volleyball courts.

Cowell Beach is great for surfers. It offers a sandy shoreline with great coastal views and lovely sunsets.

The Santa Cruz Wharf was built in 1914 and served deep-water vessels. Today it is a fishing wharf and sightseeing vantage point. There are lots of shops and things to do at the wharf.

Among the best restaurants is Stagnaro Bros. Serving fresh seafood.

Tourists enjoy bird-watching and viewing sea lions. Sea lions are here all year round and love to splash about. Their barking can be heard from the pier. There is a viewing area to see them better.

Other sea critters that can be seen are whales, dolphins, and otters. There are water sports shops to rent fishing gear, boats, and kayaks to get up close to the animals and get out on the water.

Near the wharf, you’ll find the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center. It is a facility that features interactive exhibits explaining how to enjoy the ocean and help protect the marine environment.

West Cliff Drive is a six-mile pathway running along the coastline. It is a scenic route for both walking and cycling. The views of the Pacific Ocean are fantastic. The path is flat and wheelchair accessible. There are benches along the way to sit and relax and enjoy the views.

Santa Cruz claims to be the original California surf town. There is a bronze surfer statue along the path. You can also visit the Surfing Museum located at the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse standing on a bluff overlooking the water. A small exhibit shows memorabilia like vintage photos of surfers in the 1930s.

Arches at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz California.

Natural Bridges State Beach is a small protected sandy beach great for relaxing and bird-watching. From April through November, you can see migrating whales and sometimes seals and otters playing offshore. There are tide pools that are home to sea stars, small crabs, sea anemones, and other ocean creatures.

From mid-October to mid-February the park near the beach is full of lovely wildflowers. The park’s Monarch Grove is a natural preserve full of monarch butterflies. The fragrant eucalyptus tree here blossoms in winter and provides the butterflies with a source of food. The best time to observe the monarchs is November.

The beach has a picnic area with barbecue pits in a shady grove of pine and eucalyptus trees.

You can take a ride on an old-fashioned train in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Roaring Camp Railroads takes passengers on wonderful rides with the beauty of nature all around. You have a choice of two routes – one departs from Roaring Camp in Felton, in the Santa Cruz Mountains, traveling to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and the other from Roaring Camp to Bear Mountain.

The Redwood Forest Steam Train is a narrow-gauge steam locomotive. The historic train takes passengers through redwood groves and winds its way through the mountains to the top of Bear Mountain. During the journey, you learn about the forest and the history of the Roaring Camp Railroad, which was created in the 1880s to haul lumber out of the mountains.

Forty-five minutes from Santa Cruz is the historic waterfront town of Monterey. It is situated alongside the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, one of the largest marine sanctuaries in the US. It stretches for 276 miles along the coastline and is a habitat for 36 marine mammal species and 525 fish species.

The coast of Monterey is one of the best places to take sightseeing cruises for whale watching. You can see gray whales, humpback whales, and blue whales. From April through November, humpback whales migrate through the region and a small population of humpbacks stays all summer long.

In the spring you can catch a glimpse of migrating killer whales and see pods of gigantic blue whales in Monterey Bay.

The UC Santa Cruz Arboretum & Botanic Garden overlooks Monterey Bay. It stands on an ancient marine terrace in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It is a great destination for nature lovers. It provides the ideal microclimate and topography to grow Mediterranean plants. There are plants from Australia, California, New Zealand, and South Africa. The highlights here are the Australian Garden, the fragrant Eucalyptus Grove, and the small Butterfly Garden. In the picnic area, you can enjoy a picnic lunch with ocean views. The Arboretum offers free docent-led tours and art exhibits all year round.

The Santa Cruz Harbor has two large marinas and provides boating access to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. There are plenty of recreational water sports to take up like sailing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. You can arrange for charter-boat fishing excursions, private sailboat trips, and yacht charters.

The Walton Lighthouse stands on a jetty at the harbor.

The Mystery Spot is located in a circular area of the redwood forest. Here people and objects appear to be tilted even when trying to stand up straight. Scientists have not been able to explain this phenomenon at the Mystery Spot. You can take a guided tour and hike along a trail that winds through the redwood trees.

Downtown Santa Cruz has lovely tree-shaded streets. Pacific Avenue has restaurants, cafes, ice cream shops, bakeries, and retail boutiques. During the summer there are street musicians to listen to and enjoy the music.

The Seymour Marine Discovery Center is located near Natural Bridges State Park. The Exhibit Hall informs about ocean research and about things like elephant seal behavior and the sea otter ecosystem. There are changing exhibits. The center also has an aquarium with both large and small aquatic life like sharks. Children enjoy the touch pool with sea anemones, sea urchins, sea stars, and hermit crabs.

You can enjoy the performances of the Santa Cruz Shakespeare company at the Audrey Stanley Grove at Delaveaga Park. This is an outdoor theater with a picnic area on the ocean bluffs with fantastic views of Monterey Bay. The season runs from July through August.

The Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History offers art exhibits and cultural events. There are paintings of the Monterey Bay to biographies of 19th-century Santa Cruz County residents. One of the highlights is the Mary and Harry Blanchard Sculpture garden on the rooftop of the museum.

The Santa Cruz Mission is part of a State Historic Park on Mission Hill. It was founded by Franciscan Christian missionaries from Spain in 1791. This was the 12th mission established in California. It was damaged during an earthquake in 1857 and today only one small adobe building survives. The rest of the complex is a replica that was constructed in 1931 to look like the original, including a replica of the 1797 mission church. There are original paintings, wooden crosses, and a tabernacle door found in the church.

The Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park has exhibits about the California Indians who lived here when the missionaries arrived. There is a sheltered sandy beach and pastel-painted waterfront houses. Capitola reminds one of a Mediterranean fishing village. This charming seaside village was the first beach resort in California. There are quaint streets to walk with many cafes and restaurants offering ocean views.

Next to the downtown is Capitola beach which is popular for sunbathing, swimming, and surfing.

Capitola Wharf is the place to arrange for excursion boats or boat rentals.

Wilder Ranch State Park is located four miles north of downtown Santa Cruz. There are 35 miles of hiking trails and it is a great place to go hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The scenic trails will take you through valleys and coastal terraces with awesome ocean views.

Visit the historic dairy ranch in the park and see the 1859 Gothic Revival farmhouse and an 1897 Victorian home, and other historic structures. Guided tours are available.

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