SCENIC DRIVES: Starting in Half Moon Bay – choose a beach or, in October, check out
the Pumpkin Festival in town or go to the harbor from December through
March to take a whale watching tour from a fishing boat.
SIDETRIP: Head away from the coast briefly to Pescadero, a tiny
inland town famous for Duarte’s Restaurant for the artichoke soup.
Stop at Pigeon Point Lighthouse or go on to Ano Nuevo State Park for a
chance to see the unbelievably huge and raucous elephant seal colonies
from December through March. These beasts spend the rest of the
year out in the ocean so it is a rare opportunity – tours book up on
Follow Highway 1 (or, head inland at Big Basin Redwoods State Park for
dose of redwoods grandeur). Stop at Natural Bridges State Park to
see the beach and, in the rainy season, hordes of migrating monarch
In Santa Cruz, start at the main beach where the Santa Cruz Beach
Boardwalk dominates – rides, arcade games and fun for the whole
family. The nearby beaches are seasonally swimmable but the
surfers are there all year – a great show from shore.
Explore the coastside town – plenty of places to stay and dine –
influenced by UC Santa Cruz students, faculty and family from the
fog-shrouded campus above the town. A tour of the campus is a
worthwhile, too – the mascot is famous for its originality – a banana
slug (very, very big, but fortunately slow moving slug).
Continue to the beach town of Capitola where you can get out and stroll
the beach, find a quiet restaurant, or stay in lodgings within view of
the Pacific. Summer is very busy here so book ahead. The
faster choice for this stretch is Highway 1 but the shoreline route is
If you are ready for redwoods, you can find them at The Forest of
Nisene Marks or take Highway 9 in Santa Cruz and enjoy the drive up to
Felton (turn off here to see Henry Cowell Redwood State Park or
continue pas Ben Lomond and Boulder Creek. Hiking and biking
trails in these deep forests are easy to find and yet you’ll feel like
you have stepped off into another world far from civilization.
Take Highway 35 to cruise the ridgeline of the Santa Cruz mountains all
the way back to Highway 92 (take it back to the Bay Area to cross the
San Mateo Bridge).