Santa Cruz Wharf Turns 100
All photos by Garrick Ramirez
Santa Cruz has numerous public promenades that flaunt its natural splendor. The Westside’s West Cliff Drive and Pleasure Point’s East Cliff Drive are great examples. But none capture the area’s history, atmosphere and bayside beauty more than the Santa Cruz Wharf. This year, the timber titan celebrates it’s 100th year. It was built in 1914 and designed by Henry Brunnier, the engineer who designed San Francisco’s sky-scraping Bank of America building. The birthday fireworks go off in October, but don’t wait until then to come out and toast the seaside Centenarian.
THE MONTEREY BAY
You might think of the Wharf simply as a touristed spot to shop and dine, but it’s also a great place to engage with nature. Remember, this is the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary we’re talking about. And did you know that the Santa Cruz Wharf is the longest wooden pier in the United States?
On a casual stroll down it’s 2,745 foot span, you’re likely to see seals, sea lions, innumerable species of seabirds and -- if you’re lucky -- dolphins, otters and whales. Or better yet: get on a boat and see it up close. Venture Quest Kayaking rents kayaks by the hour and will suit you up with everything you need to explore the bay. Don’t have your sea legs? Join an Eco Tour. The UCSC sponsored project will team you with a docent from the Seymour Marine Discovery Center to give you the best ocean experience you can get without a boat.
Now about that shopping I mentioned. You’re a stronger person than I if you can resist ducking into Marini’s for some popcorn, taffy and maybe just maybe a candied apple too. Meanwhile, Nolands on the Wharf will outfit you like a local with surf and skate gear from all the major labels. Speaking of local, Made in Santa Cruz is a repository for all the wonderful -- and wacky -- local Santa Cruz culture including artwork, books on local history and a wide range of apparel.
It’s impossible to stroll the Wharf and not crave seafood. You’ll pass fisherman pulling up catches like halibut, sardines and sand dabs just begging for butter and a sizzling pan. Did you know anyone can fish from the Wharf and you don’t need a license? Stagnaro Bros. has been doing it since 1937. Grab a cup of chowder from their open air seafood market or snag a seat in the shipshape Streamline Moderne restaurant made to resemble an ocean liner.
Gilda’s is another tradition with a family lineage that stretches back to the Wharf’s -- and Santa Cruz’s -- early days. Come for breakfast, lunch or dinner favorites served in a lovingly old-school diner setting with knockout views.
Woodies Cafe pays tribute to the popular Woodies on the Wharf event (which recently celebrated it’s 20th year) with American staples like burgers and milshakes served in a causal, family-friendly atmosphere. Next door, popular Fire Fish Grill fires up seafood over a mesquite wood burning grill in an open, exhibition kitchen. Oh, and don't pass on their cocktail menu - a classic margarita somehow has a whole new twist with this view. Other seafood restaurants with killer views and a good bowl of chowder include Miramar Fish Grotto and the Dolphin Restaurant whose outdoor patio is perched overlooking the end of the Wharf.
Make sure you seek out Vino Prima Wine Bar, a hidden spot with a fantastic selection of wine. The handsome space sports amazing second floor views of the bay and the twirling lights of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
As the day winds down be sure to grab your camera to snap a few fiery sunset shots to document a perfect end to a lovely Wharf day.
Photo by Rachel Endsley
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