Whatever your motivation for coming to Santa Cruz County, sooner or later you and your pup will want to chase some waves and get some sand between your toes. With 29 miles of coastline, there are lots of places to go, including 15 strands that welcome leashed dogs and one, Mitchell’s Cove, that is legally leash-free before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.
Last winter’s storms wreaked havoc on some segments of Santa Cruz shoreline—most notably forcing the closure of Seacliff State Beach, known for its long fishing pier and the carcass of a concrete freighter, the Palo Alto, that for decades has been ogled as an off-shore curiosity. Both pier and ship were damaged by winter storms, forcing the temporary closure of the state park until repairs can be made. Nearby Rio del Mar State Beach in Aptos is open for business, however, as is its Café Rio for appetizers, beverages meals or ocean-watching from its pup-friendly patio.
Back in town, Seabright State Beach is a sandy strand centrally situated between the famous Beach Boardwalk amusement park and Santa Cruz Harbor. Leashed dogs are welcome on the north side of the harbor, and fire rings are available for DIY bonfires. Manresa State Beach has a walk-in, bluff-top campground for those who like to stargaze. Dogs on tethers are welcome there, as well as on New Brighton State Beach, Twin Lakes State Beach, Palm State Beach, Davenport State Beach and Lighthouse Field State Beach (often called Its Beach) The latter is a jewel of a place surrounded by bluffs—and, on warm days, populated by people in the buff. While in the vicinity, don’t miss a must-do opportunity to stroll with your pup along West Cliff Drive, 2.5 miles of coastal walking path that serves as a perfect perch to watch wildlife, surfers and scenery.
Photo Credit: @little_rocky_balboa