The quaint town of Aptos is in an unincorporated area of Santa Cruz County that includes Rio Del Mar, Seacliff, and Seascape areas. It is also the home of historic Aptos Village, and the gateway to the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. Hikers, runners and mountain bikers enjoy the 30 miles of trails where remnants of mill sites and trestles still exist. The park, covering 10,000 acres and once clear-cut by loggers, is a testament to forest regeneration where second-growth redwoods coexist with new foliage. Traces of the once-bustling railroad and logging industry can still be found. For more history, the Aptos History Museum houses a collection of artifacts and photographs tracing the history from native Ohlone Indians who named the area to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
Nearby, Seacliff State Beach is the perfect spot for a cookout or picnic, with barbecue grills and shaded tables along the sand. Stop by the visitor center and learn about the Pacific wildlife migration pattern. A mile-long seaside paved path runs parallel to the ocean, adjacent to fossils of extinct marine creatures embedded in the bluffs. “The Cement Ship,” a local landmark, the S.S. Palo Alto, is docked at the end of the fishing pier. An experimental concrete ship built as a tanker at the end of World War I, “The Cement Ship” – which elegantly leans to its starboard side as a result of winter storms – now serves as an artificial reef for marine life, and celebrated its 100th birthday in 2019!
On the south side of the pier, Rio Del Mar State Beach is THE spot for dog lovers and beach fires. Another pet-friendly activity is Aptos’ “World’s Shortest Parade” on the Fourth of July morning which includes nearly every Aptos resident – and pet – dressed in red, white and blue splendor, and which ends at Aptos Village Park with live music and fun. A vibrant new town center graces the heart of Aptos Village, a pedestrian-friendly spot where artisan ice cream, local retailers, small-batch coffee, destination eateries, and a small sweet park combine to add local flair to this mid-county destination.