CAPITOLA, SANTA CRUZ AND APTOS
Fall is the best time of year to visit the beautiful central coast of California - warm weather and little or no fog... just one glorious sunny day after another.
In October 2008 I spent three days on the coast, checking out the sights in Santa Cruz, Capitola and Aptos. My favorite community of the three is Capitola, with a nice beach, a wharf, shops and galleries, and beachside hotels and restaurants. Visitors staying at the Venetian Hotel literally step from their hotel room onto the beach. Capitola looks like a small village on the Mediterranean coast.
Santa Cruz has a nice beach also, and during the off-season the Boardwalk is open on weekends for visitors who are into that scene. Drive west of Santa Cruz on W. Cliff Dr. and you'll find the tiny but interesting Surfer's Museum, and Natural Bridges State Park. Stop along the way before you arrive at the Surfer's Museum (or park at the Museum and walk back towards Santa Cruz on the path along the road) and watch the surfers in action. Another one of my favorite places to visit while in Santa Cruz is the Arboretum at UC Santa Cruz.
For those who like to visit the missions along the California coast, the mission at Santa Cruz will not impress like the other misssions - only a small portion of the original Santa Cruz mission still stands. In downtown Santa Cruz, the Museum of Art & History is worth a visit - most people don't realize that before it became a seaside resort, Santa Cruz was best known for agriculture, logging and the "powderworks", a facility that manufactured gunpowder (occasionally a very exciting place to work!).
Aptos is the least picturesque of the three communities, but it has a nice beach, with the added benefit of free parking. The most interesting sight at Aptos is the "concrete boat", built for the Navy in World War I but never used, then purchased by investors and deliberately run aground so the owners could turn it into a nightclub. Abandoned to the elements since the 1930's, what's left of the boat can be seen close up at the end of the wharf. (In addition to the photo below, see my "Large Format Photos" webpage for a photo of the concrete boat - link at the bottom of this webpage.)