Seven Wonders of Santa Cruz County, California: Photography Opportunities Abound

If you'll be cruising through California, here are some places that might delight and offer unusual photo opportunities. Enjoy some of California's favorite seaside destinations special spots in Santa Cruz.

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Wonders of Santa Cruz California

North Coast

A favorite spot to watch migrating California grey whales during the wintertime, Santa Cruz County's north coast is rich with artists' galleries and rolling fields of artichokes and strawberries. An undiscovered gem oftentimes hides itself in the sands of the Davenport beaches in the form of colorful sea glass, washed ashore from old shipwrecks and vintage glass bottles.

Berry Creek Falls -- Big Basin Redwoods State Park

California's oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, is home to one of the most challenging yet beautiful hikes in the area. Not for the novice hiker, the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail is a breathtaking 29.5-mile (47.2-kilometre) hiking trail that descends from the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Along the trail stands Berry Creek Falls, the tallest waterfall in the park with over 60 feet drop. The falls are actually a series of four falls: Cascade Falls, the Golden (named for its golden shimmer) which drops down into Silver Falls, a silvery cascade and Berry Creek Falls the largest and some would say, the prettiest. The falls create a lovely pool for park visitors to rest beside and features a viewing platform perfect for taking photos (or a nice long rest).

Sunset State Beach

Surrounded by vast agricultural fields to the west, Sunset State Beach affords visitors one of the most spectacular settings to watch an orange sun descend into a sky streaked with pink and orange. A classic California beach setting, Sunset features 200-foot high sand dunes (the largest in the country) built up in front of coastal bluff. The beach itself stretches down to where it meets the mouth of the Pajaro River, showcasing three miles of unobstructed and spectacular shoreline. Broad vistas of the Monterey Bay can be enjoyed from two main overlooks. During the summer and autumn, large groups of bottle nosed dolphins swim in the surf.

Top of the Giant Dipper

If San Francisco's "Top of the Mark" is one of the classic spots in northern California, then the crest of the Giant Dipper roller coaster at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is the Central Coast's answer to a big-city view. Snap a photo just as the roller coaster car begins its descent down the first dip: Although a mere seconds worth of viewing, the gleaming blue Monterey Bay never looked better -- or as exciting -- at the summit of the lift hill that rises seven stories above the boardwalk before the train begins to drop, catching speed as it descends the 65-foot first drop to reach a top speed of 55 mph.

Mission Santa Cruz State Park

A local favorite, and one of Santa Cruz's best-kept secrets, Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park rests near a bluff overlooking Downtown Santa Cruz. Built in 1791, it was the 12th Franciscan mission in California. While the park has restored a remaining structure of the original building, which houses fascinating exhibits and events depicting the mission's history, this "secret spot" also boasts one of the best views of Downtown Santa Cruz and beyond.

Lighthouse Point

With nearly 360-degree views of the Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz Wharf, Cowell Beach and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Lighthouse Point - adjacent to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum - is undeniably one of the best places to take pictures. Not only scenic, but a great place to watch talented tube riders shoot the curl, Lighthouse Point overlooks Steamer Lane, one of the best places in the United States to surf.

Capitola Village

Pastel-colored Venetian-inspired cottages add to the Mediterranean charm of Capitola Village, and serve as the backdrop for this picturesque town six miles (9.65 km) south of Santa Cruz. The Esplanade, a wide walkway adjacent to the beach, curves alongside a row of bistros and then bursts open into a magnificent view of the sea, and is a popular place to watch the sunset or gaze at the rhythmic motion of the waves.
Santa Cruz County, California is located approximately 70 miles/113 km south of San Francisco and 349 miles/562 km from Los Angeles. Many visitors choose to take scenic Highway 1 along the California coastline to Santa Cruz, or Highway 17 through the Santa Cruz Mountains. Visitors can also choose to fly in to San Francisco International Airport or Mineta/San Jose International Airport

Based on information provided by Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council

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Updated: August 23, 2016

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