Santa Cruz: Beaches are just the beginning

By Jill K. Robinson

PHOTO: Paul Schraub

Water lovers may be lured to its sandy beaches, but Santa Cruz isn't only about the coast. From redwood forests to country vineyards to surfable waves, Santa Cruz packs a wealth of outdoor experiences for all ages—even if your dream is to ride a roller coaster within view of the ocean.

To get a look at the variety of vistas the region offers, drive along Highway 1, which cuts through Santa Cruz County. Be prepared to pull over when you find your favorite spot.

Catch the Surfing Spirit

It's a common California dream: living the surfer lifestyle. A sport of adventure and leisure, surfing was introduced to Santa Cruz in the late 1800s. As the birthplace of mainland surfing in the United States, it's hard to imagine Santa Cruz without its signature sport.

Folks ready to jump in and learn can rent a board or sign up for a class from a surf school. To grab some surfing spirit without getting wet, head to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum for exhibits chronicling more than 100 years of the sport. The surfing museum overlooks Steamer Lane, one of the best places in the country to surf.

From Ocean to Redwoods

Santa Cruz County's vast preserves of open space include 14 state parks, where visitors can opt between a Victorian-era living history museum, a California mission, majestic redwood forests, a coastal marsh and more.

Gaze at the largest continuous stand of ancient redwoods south of San Francisco at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California's oldest state park. An annual migration of monarch butterflies takes a rest near the last remaining sandstone arch in Natural Bridges State Park.

A Wealth of Wine

The Santa Cruz Mountains Appellation Region, with more than 70 wineries and tasting rooms, is one of the oldest wine regions in the United States. Known especially for Pinot Noir, wineries here have a variety of tasting opportunities sure to please a wine lover's palate.

The Corralitos Wine Trail's family vineyards offer a farm-style experience amid apple orchards, flower farms and olive groves. The wineries that make up the Summit to Sea Wine Trail serve as delicious stops in some of the most picturesque spots in the mountains. Coast side, Vino Prima on the Santa Cruz Wharf is another picturesque spot. And Bargetto Winery in Soquel Village is one of the oldest family-run wineries of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and is a must-see for delicious Santa Cruz Mountain varietals. If you like wine, it's an itinerary you won't want to miss.

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