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.)

Cameras used for the Capitola, Santa Cruz and Aptos photos

The two cameras I used on this trip were my late 1960's/early 70's Yashica-D twin lens reflex camera, and my mid-1950's Zeiss-Ikon Nettar foldout camera. Both take 120 film.

Santa Cruz from W. Cliff Drive

This photo was taken from one of the vista points along W. Cliff Drive, looking east towards Santa Cruz. Surfers sit astride their boards in the water on the west side of the Santa Cruz Wharf. (Zeiss-Ikon)

Surfer's Sign at Santa Cruz

This photo was also taken along W. Cliff Drive, looking west (with Santa Cruz behind me). Bearing the surfers code of behavior, this sign sits near a stairway that leads to a small beach below. The people in the distance are standing at the vista point near the Surfer's Museum. (Zeiss-Ikon)

Surfer's Beach

The stairs near the surfer's sign go down to this small beach, providing access for surfers who prefer to ride the waves in this section of the water. (Zeiss-Ikon)

Concrete Boat at Aptos/Sea Cliff

The concrete boat is located at a stretch of beach which is actually a state park, the Sea Cliff State Beach. The boat can be accessed from the state park, or by walking the short distance from Aptos. A free parking lot is located at the confluence of Aptos Beach Dr. and Rio Del Mar Blvd. (Yashica-D)

Fishing From the Concrete Boat Wharf

Fishermen and women try their luck off the wharf at the concrete boat. Some of them fish for sport; others, dressed in ragged coats, are literally fishing for their dinners. (Yashica-D)


Wrecked Pier at Capitola City Park

The beach at Capitola is actually the Capitola City Park. Two-hour parking is available along the beach; a tiny four-hour parking lot is tucked into a small space right at the beginning of the Capitola Wharf (in between the Venetian Hotel and another building). All-day parking is available five blocks from the beach, accessible either from Monterey Ave. or Capitola Ave. (Zeiss-Ikon)

Capitola Wharf

Like most beach towns along the central coast Capitola has a wharf, originally used for loading incoming goods for area residents, and shipping out agricultural products and timber. Milk from coastal dairies was sent up to San Francisco every day. (Zeiss-Ikon)

Pilings Along Soquel Creek

Soquel Creek "dead ends" at the Capitola beach. The restaurants at the beach are housed in a long building, a portion of which backs up against the creek. Pilings protect the structure from wayward boats. (Zeiss-Ikon)

Battered Posts

Scattered among the posts supporting the Capitola Wharf are remnants of older posts, worn from decades of battering waves. (Zeiss-Ikon)

Capitola Beach Building

The east end of Capitola Beach is fronted by a row of restaurants stretching approximately one third the length of the beach. This break in the building allows access to the beach midway along the building. (Zeiss-Ikon)

Sunset at Capitola Beach

Watching the sun set at Capitola can be a little disorienting for people (like me) who expect to see the sun set over the ocean; due to the curve of the land, beach-goers at Capitola watch the sun set over the wharf. (Zeiss-Ikon)

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