Dream Bike Tour of Santa Cruz
BY GARRICK RAMIREZ
With majestic palm trees, cool bay breezes and stunning waterfront views, is there a more exhilarating way to see Santa Cruz’s shoreline than on two wheels? We recently teamed up with Noelle Stearns, Events Coordinator at The Dream Inn, to cruise West Cliff Drive, a ridiculously scenic promenade that links the best of Santa Cruz’s scenery, history and attractions. Taking advantage of an enviable waterfront location on West Cliff Drive, The Dream Inn lends guests spiffy retro beach cruisers to tour the magnificent surroundings. On a recent sunny afternoon, we borrowed a pair of blue cruisers so Noelle could show us her favorite spots along this beautiful — and sweat free — ride.
Our first stop is the iconic brick Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse perched on a dramatically scenic bluff overlooking the famous Steamer Lane surf break on the Monterey Bay. The historic structure houses the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum with a fascinating collection of local surf culture including a shark-chomped surfboard. Out front, you’ll find a small monument commemorating the three Hawaiian princes who first brought surfing to these shores, making Santa Cruz the birthplace of mainland surfing.
From the lighthouse, you can peer down at Steamer Lane, a world-famous surf spot that draws both surfers and spectators. Join the crowd lined up along the fence and enjoy the show.
The stretch of West Cliff Drive between Lighthouse Point and the Dream Inn was once referred to as Millionaire’s Row, referring to the numerous early 20th century mansions that served as vacation homes for the wealthy elite. Today, you can still view these gorgeous Victorian and Mission Revival structures that once presided over huge (now-subdivided) estates – and one of them is even a B&B. For more on Millionaire’s Row, check out this quick read by our pals at Mobile Ranger.
The Surfer Statue
As we roll further along West Cliff, we pause at this iconic bronze figure of a Santa Cruz Surfing Club member standing guard over the rolling waves of Steamer Lane. The 1992 statue titled “To Honor Surfing” is a dedication, as a nearby plaque reads, “to all surfers, past present and future.”
Cowell Beach Overlook
West Cliff Drive is lined with numerous landscaped turnouts that act as mini parks with the world’s best views. We pull over at this scenic overlook to gaze out over the bay, filled with budding surfers, and Cowell Beach, a lively patchwork of beach towels, umbrellas, and beach goers splashing in the surf.
Jack O'Neill Mural
Did you know that the wetsuit was developed in Santa Cruz? Yep, surf pioneer Jack O’Neill created the chilly water solution for shivering surfers everywhere. This cool mural honors O’Neill and the site of his Santa Cruz surf shop (an official California Point of Historical Interest!) with a collection of larger-than-life vintage beach pics.
Santa Cruz Wharf
The Santa Cruz Wharf is no ordinary structure. About to celebrate its 102nd birthday, the longest wooden pier in the United States allows visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Monterey Bay without ever having to strap on a life-vest. Ride your bike to the end and enjoy a crab cocktail at Gilda’s amidst a cacophony of barking sea lions.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
One of the few remaining seaside amusement parks in the nation, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has been delighting multiple generations with rides, games and over-the-top treats for over 100 years. They’re gearing up for another summer season having recently announced a new lineup of free music and movies on the beach. Plus, they have a great sign that just begs for fun Instagram poses!
The Picnic Basket
We love this modern, casual eatery across the way from Main Beach. Pop in for a seasonal all-day menu that draws from local food producers including the beloved Penny Ice Creamery. We capped our ride with a hulking scoop of fresh Mint Chip on a delicious homemade waffle cone.
Want more recs for cruising around town? Get a free copy of our 2016 Official Santa Cruz County Traveler’s Guide here.
All photos by Garrick Ramirez