Natural Bridges State Beach#7 in Best Things To Do in Santa Cruz
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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#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 pristine vistas of the Pacific Ocean and you might even spot some surfers riding the waves at Steamer Lane or whales and dolphins cresting the water at Lighthouse Point. You can also stop in to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum along your stroll, which is stationed inside the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse.
Recent travelers and locals said West Cliff Drive is a must-do. According to reviewers, the beauty is unparalleled, and the benches that line the path are a nice pit stop along the 6-mile round-trip walk. To avoid crowded paths, some travelers recommend visiting on a weekday and also note parking can be difficult to come by on weekends.
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