Santa Cruz celebrates

By | Category: Travel news

There’s never a bad time to visit Santa Cruz – a heart stopping-ly pretty Californian beach town that, in surfing circles at least, has always been legendary. (A century ago the Hawaiian Princes Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Piikoi and David Kahalepouli Kawanaanko a Piiko, were spotted surfing on 15 foot redwood planks weighing 100 pounds in this sunny seaside resort. And in the 1950s, Jack O’Neill – the man who invented the wetsuit and changed the surf industry forever – opened up his first surf shop in Santa Cruz.)

But 2014 is a particularly satisfying time to visit as this Californian paradise is preparing to party – big time. Santa Cruz, you see, has lots – and we mean lots – to celebrate this year.

Surf aside, Santa Cruz is famous for its wharf – the longest wooden pier in California and the longest Pacific Ocean Pier of any type. This year Santa Cruz Wharf turns 100 making it one of the oldest piers in the state – only Balboa Pier in Newport Beach (1906) and Stern’s Wharf in Santa Barbara (1872) are older.

Santa Cruz Wharf isn’t the only attraction in town to celebrate a big birthday. The old school American amusement park that is the Santa Cruz Boardwalk (you may remember it from The Lost Boys and more recently, Of Men and Mavericks, starring Scottish hunk Gerard Butler) is home to the Giant Dipper Rollercoaster which – this year – turns 90! The Giant Dipper – the fifth oldest coaster in the US – was the brainchild of one Arthur Looff who envisioned a giant wooden coaster that would be a “combination earthquake, balloon ascension and aeroplane drop.” The thrill ride, with speeds up to 46mph, was built in 47 days for US$50,000. Today labour and materials for merely painting the Giant Dipper are estimated at around US$300,000. A ticket to ride the rollercoaster when it opened on 17 May 1924 was 15 cents: today the ride is still wallet friendly at US$6 per ride.


Elsewhere The Santa Cruz Harbour – which was first constructed in 1964, expanded in 1973 and today provides over 800 permanent slips for recreational, commercial, and research opportunities – is sailing into its 50th year. The harbour serves as Santa Cruz County’s main gateway to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and offers sailing, kayaking, whale watching tours, stand up paddle boarding, a complimentary water taxi and other recreational activities.

But it’s not all about the old. 2014 has seen Santa Cruz Dream Inn – SC’s hip beachfront, boutique hotel – debut a new cocktail lounge dedicated to Jack O’Neill, the man who brought surfing to the world stage. The Jack O’Neill lounge features floor-to-ceiling windows facing the Monterey Bay, a prototype O’Neill wetsuit under plexiglass, vintage photos and a new signature drink menu encompassing Jack’s tipple of choice: a Ketel One Martini. Just below the lounge and near the entrance to the wharf sits a permanent mural adjacent to the site of Jack O’Neill’s Original Surf Shop, a State of California Point of Historical Interest. The mural boasts a collage of historic photos of Jack complete with a bronze plaque.

And downtown, where Santa Cruz’s strong 1960s vibe is arguably most prevalent, two new dining experiences have sprung up. Assembly restaurant celebrates food and community with rustic California cuisine. Within Assembly, visitors will find a concept called Pop Up, which will serve as a showcase for up-and-coming rising chefs from the Bay Area who will rotate in and out on an 8-week basis or so, creating their own customised menus based on what is available from local farms and markets.


Bottom line? Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, history buff, foodie or yes, surfer, Santa Cruz is humming with even more activity than usual in 2014.

Getting there
Santa Cruz, California, is located approximately 75 miles south of San Francisco and 349 miles 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 into San Francisco International Airport or Mineta/San Jose International Airport.

For more inspiration, information and to download the free Visit Santa Cruz Travel app, visit

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