All Photos by Garrick Ramirez
The bustling Westside neighborhood has come a long way since its Brussels sprouts packing days. While you may have heard about the hip coffee shops, stylish boutiques, and small-batch wine, beer, and spirits producers that have made it a local hot spot, the area is also home to some of the most striking natural wonders in Santa Cruz County. Here’s your guide on where to hit the Westside’s trails, sales, and pale ales.
At Natural Bridges State Beach, gorgeous sandy shores and creature-filled tidepools lure beachgoers while a lush eucalyptus grove draws thousands of migrating Monarch butterflies each fall and winter. Leading to and from Natural Bridges is stunning West Cliff Drive, a multi-use, waterfront trail that teems with joggers, cyclists, and pedestrians basking in the glory of the Monterey Bay. Go at sundown for the real show! The historic dairy grounds of Wilder Ranch State Park features miles of singletrack trails for mountain bikers as well as the outrageously scenic Old Cove Landing Trail which ambles along dramatic coastal bluffs. At Seymour Marine Discovery Center, you’ll meet-and touch-some of the sealife who call Monterey Bay home, including two sleek swell sharks. Nearby, the beautiful Natural Bridges Farm invites visitors to wander its bloom-filled grounds and fill a basket with fresh veggies, fruits, and flowers plucked directly from the soil.
Much of Westside’s shops can be found in the always-hopping Swift Street Courtyard. Sawyer Land & Sea Supply keeps locals looking sharp with modern surf-inspired apparel, sleek outdoor gear, and contemporary artworks from local artists. A pair of boutiques from Cameron Marks features stylish women’s wear, modern jewelry, and an irresistible collection of chic home decor. On Saturday mornings, the Westside Farmers Market transforms a parking lot into a bustling plaza with vibrant local fruits and veggies. After your tote is full, linger over destination-worthy brunch dishes such as egg-topped carnitas from Burn Hot Sauce and roasted cauliflower and queso breakfast tacos at Gordo Gustavo’s.
From pour-overs to pinots, the Westside is guaranteed to slake your thirst. At Verve Coffee Roasters, the Instagrammable boho interiors are nearly as much of a draw as their delicious, third wave brew. For oenophiles, the Westside is the next best thing to the vineyards thanks to a cluster of tasting rooms pouring local wine. You’ll find rare Spanish and Portuguese varietals at Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, refillable bottles of easy-drinking red table wine at Sones Cellars, and robust cabs and aloha spirit on the patio of MJA Vineyards. At Venus Spirits, you can sample locally made, small-batch organic spirits, or grab a seat and relax with a seasonal cocktail. If beer’s your thing, don’t miss the hazy, New England style IPAs and light-strung patio at Humble Sea, or the buzzing beer garden and Boardwalk-collaboration brews at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing.
It’s impossible to talk about the Westside without mentioning Kelly’s Bakery, the all-day cafe that revitalized the area by converting a former Brussels sprouts packing facility into a spirited hub of eateries, shops, and wineries. At Companion Bakeshop, a line forms early each morning for a countertop filled with flaky, buttery pastries and Cat & Cloud coffee. Avanti Ristorante has been holding it down on the Westside for thirty years with their rustic, farm-to-table fare and seasonal cocktails. You can also snag expert cocktails at Bantam where a wood-burning oven churns out blistered Neapolitan pizzas and seasonal, organic plates.
The Westside’s got a lot going on, probably more than you can pack into one day. If you need more time-or another beer-make it an overnighter at one of the following properties, each within close proximity or walking distance to the featured spots above. The recently updated Mission Inn has a loyal following thanks to its tidy rooms, comfy beds, and personable staff. Newly built in 2016, the sleek Fairfield Inn & Suites is a stone fruit’s throw from the Westside Farmer’s Market, and earns rave reviews with free wi-fi, clean modern interiors, and a hearty complimentary breakfast.