For most Santa Cruz County visitors there are two big must-sees on their list: the beach and the redwoods. Yes, those are definitely must-sees and should remain at the top of any Santa Cruz list, but there is soooo much more! Check out this list of some, perhaps lesser known, top spots and activities to do in Santa Cruz County in 2015!
SIP ON THE COUNTRY-SIDE
Nicholson Vineyard from Brand USA Shoot
Wine tasting is always a beautiful thing in Santa Cruz. There are over 70 wineries and tasting rooms in Santa Cruz County - from boutique urban wine tasting on the Westside to estate wineries high up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, there’s a delicious experience for everyone. An absolute must-try this year is the Corralitos Wine Trail in south county. The Corralitos Wine Trail is a collection of family-owned wineries along idyllic countryside surrounded by redwood trees, apple orchards, olive groves and flower farms. The country beauty will immediately captivate you and the wines and family-feel tasting experience will keep you coming back.
CLASSIC CALIFORNIA: HIGHWAY 1, NORTH COUNTY
#SCWildflowers Photo by Instagram Fan, @kgraady in Davenport
Some visitors to Santa Cruz think the end of the county is on the Westside - not so! In fact there's much to explore if you travel just a bit north on the classic Highway 1 route. First must-stop is Wilder Ranch State Park. This gorgeous coastal park has 34 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails - and a bonus - in the spring, Wilder, and much of the fields and hillsides as you travel up the coast, is covered in brilliant wild flowers! Another north coast treasure is Davenport, a quaint little town adorned with art galleries and charming cafes. Continuing north is Ano Nuevo State Park which is known for its great wildlife viewing of elephant seals. There really are endless treasures to be discovered just up the coast from Santa Cruz - sea glass hunting, whale watching, U-Pick farms, windsurfing, beach hideaways and the rugged coastal beauty, are just some of the gems of north county. Be sure to put Santa Cruz's north county on your 2015 must-explore list!
Photo by Rachel Endsley
It’s not-so secret that Santa Cruz County has a deep appreciation and love for all food fresh & local and there’s a reason for that, we do it well! Just visit one of the many Farmers Markets held throughout the county to see what’s growing around us. Talk shop with a local farmer and discover the passion, care and effort put into every crop, and of course see and TASTE the difference! And lucky for us, all this fresh and delicious food makes its way into so many of our local restaurants. From the 'made from scratch' ice cream at Penny Ice Creamery using fresh, organic and locally grown mint in their mint chip ice cream (a MUST TRY!) to restaurants like Soif who shop the Downtown Farmers Market - literally right outside their door - to create a fresh and fabulous seasonal menu, you don't have to look far to see why Santa Cruz has the fresh eats thing DOWN.
TAKE IT TO THE TOP AT CASTLE ROCK
Photo by Instagram Fan, @hsaet23
Hiking is one of Santa Cruz County’s biggest draws and there's truly a trail for everyone. From wheelchair and stroller accessible options to all day or multiple day excursions (like those at Nisene Marks and Big Basin) you’re sure to find the perfect trail. For those looking to reach great heights in the new year, take a hike at Castle Rock State Park. Along the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Castle Rock is a lush and mossy forest crisscrossed by 32 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails. There are steep canyons and unusual rock formations that are popular with rock climbers, and for those willing to make the trek - the payoff is great with unmatched vistas.
CRUZ OUR BREWS
Photo by Garrick Ramirez
Last year we shared about the craft beer renaissance taking place in Santa Cruz County. Since then the brewery scene has only grown, and with the recent batch of breweries and taprooms, Santa Cruz has solidified its spot on the craft brew map. Places like Seabright Brewery and 99 Bottles have been local and visitor favorites for years offering top notch brew, but with the surge of other craft beer spots, Santa Cruz has become a true-brew destination. If you haven’t experienced the Santa Cruz brew scene, check out our list of some top spots and consider taking a Brew Cruz to get yourself acquainted with the craft. We'll cheers to that!
Photo by Rachel Endsley
Soaking up the sun from your beach towel or watching the water from the Santa Cruz Wharf are two stellar options for enjoying the Monterey Bay, but kick it up a notch this year and sail away! Whether you want to go whale watching or sail into the sunset - perhaps even with a glass of wine - taking to the sea is guaranteed to bring you a memorable experience in 2015. Be sure to bring your camera to capture some ocean and wildlife beauty like you've never seen before.
Happy New Year from Santa Cruz County and feel free to share your Santa Cruz County 'must-sees' in the comments!