Activities in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz offers world-class surfing, great hiking and biking trails, terrific bird and butterfly watching, local wineries, antique shopping, kayaking, an incredible variety of restaurants, sailing, whale watching, great weather, and more.
Santa Cruz is the quintessential California beach town. The coastline, for which Santa Cruz is so famous for, extends south from Santa Cruz to Watsonville. Just a few minutes from Mission Inn is the stunning Natural Bridges State Park. At low tide, you can observe tide pools filled with starfish, crabs, sea anemones, and so much more. You can, also, observe other sea life, such as dolphins, otters, and even a whale or two.
Santa Cruz is a spectacular backdrop to several links. There is a golf course for every skill level. Play among the majestic redwoods at Boulder Creek Country Club in the Santa Cruz Mountains, or challenge yourself in the wooded terrain of De Laveaga Golf Course. You can even try your hand at Pasatiempo Golf Club, with its breathtaking views and truly demanding championship course that continues to challenge the Pros since 1929.
Do you love good wine? Santa Cruz has over 70 boutique, family-owned wineries between Half Moon Bay and Watsonville. With the regions widely varied microclimates, many Santa Cruz wineries have produced renowned, award winning wines. Finding them can be an adventure in itself, as a fair number of wineries are tucked away on mountain roads that meander through the redwood forests. The Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers Association has many programs to help you experience local wines.
Santa Cruz County’s vast preserves of open space are a tribute to the early conservation efforts, which began over a 100 years ago. Today, Santa Cruz County has 14 state parks and each offer an unique experience for visitors. Big Basin Redwood State Park is home to the largest continuous stand of ancient redwoods south of San Francisco. In Felton, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park has wheelchair and stroller accessible Redwood Grove Trail circles around the parks largest and oldest trees. Seacliff State Beach, in Aptos, is home to the “Cement Ship”, an experimental vessel constructed of concrete. The S.S. Palo Alto made just one voyage, in 1919, before permanently making the pier its home. From the mountains to the ocean, natural beauty abounds in its state parks.
Santa Cruz Mission
The Santa Cruz Mission sits on a bluff overlooking downtown Santa Cruz. The original building, built in 1791, was the 12th Franciscan Mission in California. The remaining structure houses historical exhibits depicting the Mission’s history through the experience of the Ohlone and Yokut people.
Santa Cruz County has become a destination for nature lovers from all over the world. Whether you spend the day whale watching, birding through Watsonville’s wetlands, visiting Natural Bridges monarchs, or touring an elephant seal breeding ground, you will be amazed at the abundance of wildlife Santa Cruz County has to offer.
One of the most noteworthy events happens each winter when the grey whales migrate through the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. As these majestic creatures pass the coastline down to Mexico, the Davenport cliffs makes a perfect place to watch them. You may also spot dolphins, sea otters, and a number of coastal birds.
To the north, Ano Nuevo State Reserve is the largest mainland breeding colony, in North America, of the northern elephant seal. In the winter, the males battle for mates and the females give birth to their pups on the dunes. Visitors can view these incredible mammals up close, on a docent led tour, from December through March.
Santa Cruz County is one of the few places where a visitor can hike, on an unbroken trail, from the redwood covered mountains to the rugged beaches of the Pacific Coast. Santa Cruz State Parks are full of hiking trails that have majestic old growth redwoods, graceful waterfalls, and breathtaking vistas.
The Mystery Spot is a gravitational anomaly located in the redwood forests of Santa Cruz. Within the Mystery Spot you will be amazed as your perceptions of the laws of physics and gravity are questioned. The Mystery Spot has mystified and perplexed hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world.
Travel in a 19th century Steam Train over trestles, through towering redwood groves, up a winding narrow-gauge grade to the Summit, as conductors narrate the history of Roaring Camp, the railroad, and the forest.
The Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway operates passenger, and freight services, on one of the oldest, and most historic, lines in California. When the route opened in 1875, it carried lumber, as well as picnickers and tourists, to the Big Trees and Santa Cruz.
You can, also, depart from the Santa Cruz mountains, travel through the forest, down the scenic San Lorenzo River Gorge, to the Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk. Today's Beach Train passengers can start their round trip journeys from either Roaring Camp in Felton or from the beach in Santa Cruz.
Seymour Marine Discovery Center
Seymour Marine Discovery Center is situated on the bluffs overlooking the Monterey Bay. The Discovery Center is a working marine laboratory where you can learn about the local marine life. Visit the aquarium, exhibit halls, and touch tanks. Take a marine mammal tour, and visit Ms. Blue, an 87-foot long whale skeleton, the world’s largest display.