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Natural Bridges State Beach picture in Santa Cruz
Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County and Dennis Jockmans

Key Info

Details

  • Beaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation Type
  • 2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.2
Overall
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Scorecard

  • Value
    4.0
  • Facilities
    3.5
  • Atmosphere
    4.0

Read about how we rank Things to Do.

In the summertime, Natural Bridges State Beach is a picturesque beach, punctuated by rock formations and teeming with wildlife – shorebirds, seals, sea stars and more. In the fall and winter, thousands of monarch butterflies flutter into the area's milkweed plants and eucalyptus trees (in 2016, an estimated 8,000 butterflies overwintered here). The state beach also contains a visitor center, picnic areas and hiking trails.    

Many recent visitors said the shoreline is peaceful and beautiful, but some say the rock arch (natural bridge) is a bit underwhelming. For a quick look, some travelers recommend stopping at the free 20-minute parking lot to take in the view and snap a few photos.

Open year-round from 8 a.m. to sunset, Natural Bridges State Beach is located off Highway 1 on West Cliff Drive. It is free to access, but if you want to park in the State Beach lots, there is a day-use fee of $10. For more information, visit the California Department of Parks and Recreation's website.

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Hotels Nearby

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Ocean Pacific Lodge

Ocean Pacific Lodge ...

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  • 2.0-star Hotel Class
Babbling Brook Inn

Babbling Brook Inn ...

  • 1.7 Miles Away
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Dream Inn Santa Cruz

Dream Inn Santa Cruz ...

  • 1.9 Miles Away
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#1 West Cliff Drive This 3-mile walking and biking path offers some of the best views of the county – and it's a great workout too. Along the way, you'll be treated to ... Read more » Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County and Paul Schraub

#2 Santa Cruz Main Beach Santa Cruz Main Beach is also known as Boardwalk Beach since it stretches the length of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. In the summer, it's one of the busiest ... Read more » slobo / Getty Images

#3 Santa Cruz Wharf The Santa Cruz Wharf dining and shopping district sits on the water of a nearly 100-year-old wharf and features all those gifts that coworkers and family members expect you to ... Read more » Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County and Paul Schraub

#4 Seymour Marine Discovery Center The University of California, Santa Cruz's Seymour Marine Discovery Center is an indoor and outdoor natural science museum. The center features an aquarium, complete with tanks housing rockfish, jellyfish ... Read more » Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County and Mark Barnes

#5 Roaring Camp Railroads The same redwoods that awed passengers back in 1875 when the Roaring Camp Railroads opened are still doing so today. Roaring Camp, headquartered in Felton, California, takes visitors on train ... Read more » Courtesy Roaring Camp Railroads

#6 Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a mile-long boardwalk and amusement park just south of central Santa Cruz. Operating for more than a century, the boardwalk boasts a plethora of ... Read more » Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County

#7 Natural Bridges State Beach In the summertime, Natural Bridges State Beach is a picturesque beach, punctuated by rock formations and teeming with wildlife – shorebirds, seals, sea stars and more. In the fall and winter ... Read more » Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County and Dennis Jockmans

#8 Wilder Ranch State Park Located just west of central Santa Cruz, Wilder Ranch State Park is a 1800s-era dairy ranch, home to a Victorian homestead and a water-powered machine shop (both of which travelers ... Read more » Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County and Greg Pio

#9 Santa Cruz Surfing Museum The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum overlooks one of the most renowned surfing spots in Santa Cruz – Steamer Lane. Along with historic surfing photographs and boards, the museum features a bevy ... Read more » Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County and Paul Schraub

West Cliff Drive picture in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Main Beach picture in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Wharf picture in Santa Cruz
Seymour Marine Discovery Center picture in Santa Cruz
Roaring Camp Railroads picture in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk picture in Santa Cruz
Natural Bridges State Beach picture in Santa Cruz
Wilder Ranch State Park picture in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Surfing Museum picture in Santa Cruz
West Cliff Drive picture in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Main Beach picture in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Wharf picture in Santa Cruz
Seymour Marine Discovery Center picture in Santa Cruz
Roaring Camp Railroads picture in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk picture in Santa Cruz
Natural Bridges State Beach picture in Santa Cruz
Wilder Ranch State Park picture in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Surfing Museum picture in Santa Cruz

Situated between the Santa Cruz Wharf and Natural Bridges State Park, West Cliff Drive is a 3-mile path that yields breathtaking views of the crashing Pacific waves.  Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County and Paul Schraub

Santa Cruz Main Beach is one of the most popular stretches of shoreline in Santa Cruz. Families especially appreciate the lifeguards on patrol in the summer and the nearby restrooms.  slobo / Getty Images

Buy your souvenirs at the shops and eateries at the Santa Cruz Wharf – a favorite hangout of local sea lions.  Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County and Paul Schraub

Inside the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, visitors have the opportunity to pet friendly swell sharks. The museum's grounds also showcase whale skeletons.  Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County and Mark Barnes

All aboard! The Roaring Camp Railroads' "From Trees to Shining Seas" train takes passengers on a scenic ride from the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Courtesy Roaring Camp Railroads

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk doubles as an amusement park, with mini-golf, laser tag, carnival rides and fare that ranges from corn dogs to deep-fried artichokes.  Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County

An iconic rock formation gives Natural Bridges State Beach its name, but some travelers say the area's peaceful atmosphere is its best feature.  Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County and Dennis Jockmans

Founded in the late 1800s, Wilder Ranch State Park gives visitors a peek into life on an old dairy ranch.  Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County and Greg Pio

The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, filled with surfing photos and memorabilia, resides in a converted lighthouse along West Cliff Drive Courtesy of Visit Santa Cruz County and Paul Schraub

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