Did you know that California has over 1,100 miles of coastline with over 450 beaches? Within those beaches there are around 63 designated California State Beaches that are managed by the State Parks system (this doesn’t include all the beaches in State Parks along the coast). New Brighton is one such California State Beach located in Capitola in Santa Cruz County and is situated right on the Monterey Bay. There is a day-use area, and many people come for the day to enjoy the beach. This is a popular beach, but the campsites with the ocean views are very highly sought after.
First of all, to the people that cancelled their reservations for a premium campsite at the New Brighton Beach campground on Easter weekend, I’m sorry that you weren’t able to use your reservations, but we thank you so, so much for giving us the opportunity to experience such a beautiful ocean view campsite. I happened to come across this lucky find through pure dumb luck while I was looking for campgrounds for the future. I happened to notice a tiny spec of green (available sites) in a sea of red… for the coming weekend in 2 days! After the initial shock, I kicked it into high gear, sweating as I clicked the reserve button, and then almost tripped head first while I was running to get my credit card info. Almost, thankfully. I really was expecting the campsite to be taken before I finished the reservation process, but somehow it all worked out and we had a lovely campsite on such short notice. It really does pay to check around because people do cancel reservations (I know I’ve had to cancel my fair share of them also).
We didn’t have much time to prep, but it was only an overnight camping trip so we relied on picking up some food on the way and stopping by Gayle’s Bakery and Roticceria in Capitola to pick up something special for Easter (the bakery and a produce market are only about 2 miles from New Brighton State Beach). Having the campervan stocked and ready to go made this last minute trip even possible for us. We don’t have the best track record when we pack for trips under pressure.
New Brighton Beach State Park is located about 20 minutes east of Santa Cruz. It’s not a big park and is surrounded by civilization all around (no worries if you forgot something), but the beach is beautiful and as I mentioned before, the campground has ocean view sites up on the bluffs. We wound our way through the campground looking for site #73 and were NOT disappointed at our first look. #73 was a huge site and had, as promised, an ocean view. If you are thinking about camping at New Brighton, #73 is nice for a large group, but it was next to the trail that everyone took to get down to the beach. It wasn’t too much of a bother for us, but if you want more seclusion, then try to get another site along the bluff, most were very nice. On the other hand, it might be nice if you wanted easy access to get to the beach.
We were able to enjoy a couple of hours of warm sunshine before the chilly ocean air made us retreat into the warmth of the van. We (ok, only my hubby and daughter) cooked dinner in the fire pit and enjoyed the fire as the ocean waves provided a soothing background sound.
Hearing the ocean waves is medicine for the soul and made for a peaceful slumber. I woke up early (darn my internal alarm clock!) and started feeling antsy when I looked out and saw what a beautiful day it was. Usually, I go for a walk or read so I won’t wake anyone up. BUT it was April Fool’s Day and I wasn’t going to let the opportunity go to waste, I have a reputation to protect 😉 So, I casually looked out the window and started pointing and getting excited. “Come here and look at the giant fox (giant fox, really? so I panicked under pressure) that’s walking through our campsite. Wow! You have to get up and come right here to see it! It’s ginormous!” My peeps jumped out of their sleeping bags, always up for seeing wildlife. Only to hear, “April Fooooools!” Well, they weren’t exactly happy campers, but at least they were up 🙂
We stayed at the campsite until the noon check-out time, these sites are for savoring and enjoying. The premium sites don’t come cheap, $50/night (with a non-refundable reservation fee of $7.99), so you want to make sure you get the most out of them. We eventually, made our way to the beach for a stroll. Just a beautiful beach on a bright sunny day. There were bathrooms and outdoor water spigots/showers to rinse off, all very convenient for a beach day.
We headed home by driving north through Santa Cruz, enjoying the views on Westcliff Drive. It was so popular on Easter Sunday that the parking situation was a little too crazy for us. So, we kept driving …
We took a quick detour through UC Santa Cruz, reminiscing about our college days. It was a perfect time to drive through the college since the students were on their Spring Break. So much has changed since we were there, but it was also nice that so much hasn’t changed either.
Continuing up Hwy 1 we pulled over on Pigeon Point Rd near the Pigeon Point Lighthouse to have lunch and explore a new beach, Pistachio Beach. The wildflowers grow tall and abundant along Pigeon Point Rd, perfect for picture taking. On the beach we noticed some rocky areas in the northern section and headed over to see if we could do some tide pooling. We saw some hermit crabs, sea snails, and sea anemones as we scrambled over the slippery rocks.
As we were walking with our heads down looking intently at the tide pools, we noticed that we had quite accidentally gotten close to a sea lion sunbathing on the rocks. It was so still that we wondered if it were alive. At some point a lady walked by the sea lion and the sea lion lifted its head up ever so slightly. Alive, and so well camouflaged!
The stretch of Hwy 1 north of Santa Cruz and below Half Moon Bay has got to be one of our favorite drives, and we can’t help keep coming back to it. There are so many beaches and tide pools to explore, wildlife to see and breathtaking scenery to marvel at.
New Brighton Campground information:
9 Premium sites: $50/night
10 Hook up sites: $50/night
88 Standard sites: $35/night