All photos by Garrick Ramirez
There’s no debating it. Highway 1 is California’s most spectacularly scenic route. As it wends along the coast through northern Santa Cruz county, motorists (and cyclists!) are treated to some of the area’s most inspiring scenery: green fields of coastal farms, craggy sea stacks and the churning, blue Pacific. Here’s a virtual tour down the glorious coast.
Join daytrippers and cyclists at the bustling pit stop, Whale City Bakery. The all-day eatery serves a full menu -- with breakfast and lunch being the biggest draw -- but you can just pop in to drool over freshly baked breads and pastries. Nab an Olallieberry Croissant if you see one!
At the coastal bluffs across from Whale City Bakery, you’ll find a trail that leads down to stunning Davenport Beach. Its wide sandy expanse is backed by sheer, soft stone cliffs dotted with caves carved by the waves. Keep an eye out offshore for misty plumes of migrating whales.
Back on Highway One, you may notice the namesake sea stack of Shark Fin Cove poking its rocky point above the horizon. A quick scoot down to the shore reveals one of the area’s most dazzling beach coves. With turquoise waters, luxurious sand and a sea cave you can explore, it feels much further flung than its Northern California setting.
Charming Wilder Ranch State Park offers visitors a peek into the coast’s agrarian past. The bucolic property is home to livestock, crops and ranch structures that date back to when it operated as a dairy farm. Stop by the visitors center for a visual exhibit that shares the full story. Just don’t miss a stroll along the Old Cove Landing Trail which skirts seaside cliffs with non-stop panoramic views.
Perched on a scenic bluff above the shore, the Seymour Marine Discovery Center is a wonderful -- and much drier -- way to explore the ocean habitats of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The immersive main hall features fun, interactive exhibits including a famed shark petting tank. Outside, you’ll meet Ms. Blue, an 87-foot blue whale skeleton that is one of the largest displayed skeletons in the world.
Behind the Discovery Center is a public trail that cuts through beautiful, landscaped bluffs and meanders along cliffs with dazzling views of the surging Pacific.
Before there was pie and wine, there were brussels sprouts. A former packing factory for the least favorite veggie of children everywhere is now the modern Swift Street Courtyard. Its renovated industrial-chic structures are home to boutiques, bakeries, wineries and breweries all centered around a charming, light-strung courtyard.
Grab a pint at the convivial new beer garden at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing or a glass of Tempranillo from Santa Cruz Mountain Winery. Afterwards, browse shops like Sawyer Land and Sea Supply for fashionable outdoor apparel and Cameron Marks for uber-stylish home goods.