Micro Tour: Santa Cruz Wharf

The Santa Cruz Wharf beckons with its storied past, stunning vistas, and vibrant ambiance, promising a day of exploration and relaxation. Whether you’re perusing local crafts, savoring fresh seafood, or simply enjoying the coastal breeze, every moment here is a celebration of Santa Cruz’s timeless allure.

The Santa Cruz Wharf is one of Santa Cruz County’s must-see iconic landmarks. Located between the bustling Beach Boardwalk and the rolling waves of Steamer Lane, the Santa Cruz Wharf stretches out over half a mile into the Monterey Bay. Seeing Santa Cruz from the water offers breathtaking vistas of the area and allows visitors and locals to experience ocean wildlife, delicious seafood, and water recreation activities. This over-a-century-old structure remains the longest of its kind on the West Coast, an impressive 2,745 feet long. This historic structure is supported by 2000 70 ft. Douglas fir pilings driven 21 feet into the ocean floor. Constructed in 1914, this timber centenarian continues to offer an enduringly enchanting Santa Cruz experience. Wander its wooden plank pathways – perhaps with a steaming cup of clam chowder in hand – and uncover fresh-seafood eateries, local artisan shops, fascinating displays of nature and history, engaging seasonal events, and, of course, the charming chorus of barking sea lions.

Follow along as we take you on a micro tour of the Santa Cruz Wharf and let you know some of the must-experience highlights in the area that visitors and locals alike will love!


Begin your day on the Santa Cruz Wharf just a few blocks away by grabbing breakfast burritos at the Pacific Point Market or delicious bagels and coffee from Firefly Coffeehouse. Bring your breakfast and coffee out onto the wharf and enjoy sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. If you prefer a sit-down brunch spot, check out Jack O’Neill Restaurant and Lounge, which is located right at the base of the wharf with some of the best views of the entire impressive structure. They serve breakfast from 7am-11am and brunch from 11-2pm.

Located at the center of the Wharf, another sit-down option is the iconic Gilda’s which has been serving Santa Cruz since 1971. Open Wednesday – Sunday, this low-key Santa Cruz Wharf classic serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

After enjoying your breakfast, head out onto the water with one of the many recreational rental businesses including kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, or motorboats. Venture Quest Kayak is one great option to embark on a scenic cruise around the Wharf and Lighthouse areas. Encounter sea lions and otters as you navigate the kelp beds on self-guided or group nature tours. If you prefer to stay on the wharf itself, perhaps enjoy the fishing culture that is constantly bustling on the wharf. Strike up conversations with local anglers in search of perch, rockfish, and lingcod. If the mood strikes, join them; no fishing license is needed to cast your line from this pier, and nearby tackle shops are ready to outfit you for an angling adventure.


Santa Cruz Wharf is renowned for its fresh seafood offerings, and there are several excellent restaurants for lunch. Try the local institution Stagnaro Bros Seafood Co. for its excellent fish market offerings featuring delicious clam chowder and a seafood bonanza of choices. Traditional seafood spots like Riva Fish House, Gilda’s, and Olita’s offer fantastic options, including Olita’s famous Taco Tuesdays, where you can savor fish tacos and margaritas with an ocean view.

Want a family-friendly classic? Try Woodies Café for a quick and casual dining experience. Seafood staples like clam strips and chowder are on the menu plus, kid-favorites like corn dogs, burgers, fries, fish & chips, and more.

Follow up your lunch with a sweet treat from Marini’s, a beloved local candy shop. Marini’s Candies is a must-visit for dessert lovers. Indulge in their famous saltwater taffy or chocolate-dipped treats after your seafood meal.

Spend the remainder of your afternoon playing bocce ball on the wharf or sunbathing on Cowell’s Beach right at the base of the wharf. Alternatively, explore the wharf’s offerings, wandering through the diverse shops, each offering a treasure trove of unique souvenirs, local artistry, and coastal delights. Keep an eye out for the lively sea lions sunbathing and frolicking. There are several great spots for viewing sea lions and be sure to keep your eyes open for sea otters and pelicans in the area.


End your wharf day with dinner at Makai for creative twists on Hawaiian food and great cocktails. This flashy and fun restaurant even has a spinning seated section and some glass bottom floors, so you can look directly below at the wildlife frolicking amongst the dock pilings. Stagnaro Bros also has a great sit-down restaurant or try Firefish Grill or Riva Fish House! Don’t forget to try out Vino by the Sea for some of the most scenic wine tasting in town or check out Humble Sea’s wharf location that is open and bustling in the summer months. Wherever you choose, the sweeping coastal vistas are the real star of the show!

Finish your day by finding a picturesque spot along the wharf to witness the breathtaking sunset. The vibrant colors dancing on the water create a mesmerizing display. The wildlife comes to life with barking sea lions and seabirds squawking as the sun sets on another beautiful day in Santa Cruz.


The Santa Cruz Wharf is not just a place for delightful seafood and ocean views; it’s also a hub of vibrant events throughout the year. From live music performances to seasonal festivals, the wharf offers a diverse array of experiences. Visitors can enjoy events like the Wharf to Wharf Race, a beloved annual running event that draws participants from near and far. The Woodies on the Wharf event is a cherished annual celebration that brings vintage Woodie cars to the picturesque setting of the wharf. Woodie cars, known for their classic wooden body panels, are showcased in all their nostalgic glory, each with its own unique history and charm. The wharf transforms into a showcase of automotive history, with live music, food vendors, and a festive atmosphere. During summer, the wharf comes alive with outdoor concerts featuring local musicians, providing the perfect soundtrack to a sunset stroll. Keep an eye out for special holiday celebrations, like the 13 Days of Halloween events. Something is always going on at the Santa Cruz Wharf, so plan your visit today!