Northern California Treasures, Part 2

Drivin' or Surfin' USA

I've been experiencing the four seasons in a day here in Northern California.  It was chilly and raining when I woke up this morning. Driving to my appointment, I noticed that my windshield wiper was broken. So, I went to the car dealer/repair to get the wiper replaced.  The weather changed drastically as I left the dealership.  It felt like early summer.  So, I decided to go for a scenic drive to Santa Cruz.

The fog rolled in and started to rain as I approached Pacifica. I decided to stop downtown for coffee, but I missed the exit and took the next exit to Starbucks.  Across the coffee shop was Taco Bell. This place is noteworthy because it's the only Taco Bell situated in the middle of the beach.  The Taco Bell parking lot and the Pacifica State Beach parking lot were full. I noticed a few people changing in the parking lot. I went down the beach and saw a few surfers walking on the beach with surfboards in tow. I was struck by large swells and the number of surfers and surfing activities.  It felt like summer without the sun.  It was surreal.   It occurred to me that surfing is an all-year round sport and a more prominent winter sport in Northern California. 






I was so fascinated by the scenery in Pacifica that I never made it to Santa Cruz today.  However, I have driven from San Francisco to Santa Cruz along the coastal road (CA Highway 1) on many occasions. Even though the highway stretches for only 70 miles, there's so many things to see and do. The next town, Half Moon Bay is a farming town, hailed as the pumpkin capital of California (arguably America). It's also famous for its surfing beaches, and "The Mavericks", the biggest surfing contest in America that's held in the winter.  But if you're not into surfing you’ll find really good seafood restaurants like Sam’s Chowder and Princeton Seafood Market/Restaurant, and a luxury hotel, the Ritz Carlton, that is perched atop an ocean bluff.  The hotel has an outdoor seating overlooking the ocean.  You don’t have to be a guest of the hotel to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and the amazing view of the ocean.   

The drive becomes a hillside drive overlooking a craggy coast before reaching another fascinating landscape - a lighthouse perched above an expansive bluff. The Pigeon Point Light Station Historic State Park in Pescadero features the Pigeon Point Lighthouse that stands at 115 feet, one of the tallest lighthouses in the West Coast and has the biggest Fresnel lens.  The light fell off during the 2011 earthquake and repair work still undergoing.  So, you can’t go inside, but the grounds are open and there’s an observatory at the back where you can go bird watching.  You might spot sea lions and seal.  If you just want to take pictures and sightsee, you can take pictures from off the highway and from a small beach area where you can find tidepools to explore. There’s a docent guided history walks around the ground (Check with State Park), and hostel if you want to explore.  



You'll find a few state beaches and parks like Big Basin Redwoods State Park before reaching Santa Cruz - one of the best surfing beaches in California.

Natural Bridge State Park, Santa Cruz

My favorite spot in Santa Cruz is the Natural Bridge State Park.  It features a majestic arch in the middle of the water, the famous Natural Bridge weathered by thousands of years of waves and winds proving that nature is the world's greatest sculptor. Across the parking lot, there's an overlook where you can see the view of the rocks and the beach below.  I always setup my beach tent on the beach and do a little surfing and stay until sunset.


NOTES:

  • I have not received any compensation for writing this post and have no material connections to the brand or products mentioned in this blog.
  • Visit or follow me on Instagram (@greencaviar) or Tiktok (@greencaviar_features) for visual stories/reels.


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