After leaving the Monterey bay area, we camped for a night at New Brighton State Park which is in the small town of Capitola, just south of Santa Cruz. We visited Capitola beach for a bit and then went to the main shopping center and got some essentials like water and some Rite-aid ice cream cones.
The next day we started off with a big breakfast at IHOP. Then we drove to Santa Cruz, settled into our hotel and got ready to check out what Santa Cruz was all about. It was a nice walk from our hotel to the downtown area and we enjoyed a nice vegetarian dinner at a Mediterranean eatery named Laili.
The next morning, we took Becky to get an oil change. While we were waiting for Becky, we walked to Jalapeño’s Taqueria for some lunch. We enjoyed their pupusas and the free wifi!
We got the call that Becky was ready and had a clean bill of health. Then we paid a visit to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Our friend who attended UC Santa Cruz recommended we go there, but we had no idea how impressive it would be! Too bad we didn’t have enough time on our parking meter to get on a ride! However, were were able to make time for a caramel stuffed churro. We also enjoyed a stroll on the allegedly abandoned rail bridge just outside the park.
Our next stop was the essential Santa Cruz experience… the Mystery Spot. Even though our guide told the lamest jokes, we were impressed with the “gravitational anomalies.”
Since UC Santa Cruz was nearby, we decided to drive through the campus. It was pretty cool to see classrooms and school buildings tucked into the redwood forrest. When we exited the campus we found a scenic overlook.
When dinner time rolled around we went to good old Yelp to find some Asian soup. Marlaina had a cold and needed some spicy warmness to clear her sinuses. We ended up at Betty’s Noodle House and their grub did the trick!
After dinner, we walked down the street and found ourselves at the Pour Taproom – what we call a “do-it-yourself” beer and wine bar. You get a wristband that gets linked to your credit card. You then wave the wristband in front of a beer or wine tap of your choosing. Pour as much from the tap as you want and make as many visits to the taps as you want. When you are ready to close your tab, turn in your wristband and they will charge you according to the total ounces you poured. We had a lot of fun sampling the different micro-brews! We then called it a night and headed to our campsite at Henry Cowell State Park.
We started the next day with a short hike at Henry Cowell State Park. We did the Redwood Grove Loop Trail with the self-guided tour pamphlet. We learned a lot about the beautiful redwoods, saw some deer having breakfast, and found out about some interesting history of the area from a costumed volunteer. For instance, in the 1870’s famous people would take the train from San Francisco to a resort once in the Redwood Grove area. One of the trees was also named after General Fremont who had camped inside the tree. We also got to see an old fashioned steam engine train in action at Roaring Camp.
We had some lunch and then headed to Natural Bridges State Beach. It was windy and cold, yet the beach was full of folks in bathing suits. We walked around and scoped out the rock formations and tide pools.
Next, we made our way back downtown for some ice cream at Penny Ice Creamery. DB had this place bookmarked and was excited to sample their various ice creams which they make entirely on-site. The salted caramel in their fresh waffle cone was pretty good!
Then we decided to go for a drive up PCH and check out a lighthouse. The Pigeon Point Light House was very scenic and offered some beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. It is tied as the tallest lighthouse on the west coast. Designed in the same fashion as a New England lighthouse, we almost forgot we were in California!
For dinner we stopped at the Highway 1 Brewing Company. We enjoyed their fried pickle appetizer and cobb salad. We had a pint of their freshly brewed Glacial Summer IPA – it was perfectly hoppy and had a refreshing citrus finish. Yum!
The drive to our next campsite at Big Basin State Park was through a thick forrest with windy roads. We set up our tent in the dark and caught some much needed Zzzzzz.
Santa Cruz is a cool little city! The area is full of history, natural beauty, and good food.
Yosemite is next up on our adventure!