Summer Travel Quest #17

Walk the Longest Pier on the West Coast

The Santa Cruz Wharf turns 100 years old this year. Here’s how to spend a day with her.
by Jill K. Robinson
Jill writes about travel, adventure, lifestyle, food and drink for a variety of publications. 

The Municipal Wharf was constructed in 1914, of more than 2,000 70-foot Douglas fir pilings driven 21 feet into the floor of Monterey Bay and is the longest pier on the West Coast of the United States (half a mile). Here’s how to get the best of the grand dame on a wharf visit:

Greet the Morning at Gilda's

Gilda’s has been providing the quintessential fishing-wharf breakfast experience since the 1940s. Choose from classic egg dishes, fish, hotcakes or waffles, and pick a window seat so you can enjoy the view of fishermen making their way out for the day, surfers taking turns at Steamer Lane and wildlife hunting for food. Breakfast ranges from $6.75 to $13.25.

INSIDER TIP

Arrive before 10 a.m. on a weekend and plan to leave after a leisurely dinner (work in a walk up West Cliff Drive to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum and the waves of Steamer Lane or down Beach Street to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk—both enjoyable ways to extend your day), or come on a weekday and put the traffic worries behind you.

Go for a Paddle

You can walk on the wharf and check it out from land, but expand your horizons with a water-bound visit when you rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard from Venture Quest Kayaking. While you’re out, explore kelp beds and catch views of otters and harbor seals. Rates start at $30 for a 3-hour rental.

Snack with Sea Lions

No, you can’t feed them, but you can swing by Marini’s Candies for saltwater taffy or homemade fudge to satisfy your own sweet tooth. Then, walk toward the end of the wharf and peek through cutaway areas at the home of a large colony of California sea lions.

Learn to Surf

Leaving the waves at Steamer Lane to the experienced surfers doesn’t mean you have to stay out of the water. Get a 2-hour lesson ($90) from Cowell’s Surf Shop, right within view of the wharf. Even if you just towel-dry afterward, dinner on the wharf is casual.

Bask in the Sunset

End your visit with more breathtaking views on the beaches of the Santa Cruz coastline at Olitas Cantina & Grille. You know you deserve the fresh lime LouieRita with Herradura silver tequila, as well as any of a wealth of tasty daily specials—from light seafood to hearty meat dishes.

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Jill K. Robinson writes about travel, adventure, lifestyle, food and drink for a variety of print and online publications. Her childhood summer trips to Santa Cruz always included a soft-serve ice cream treat on the wharf.

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MORE SUMMER TRAVEL QUESTS

15) Sleep in a (Former) Brewery

16) Sleep in an Authentic Victorian Railroad Car

17) Walk the Longest Pier on the West Coast

18) Touch a Dinosaur Bone in the Wild

19) Find the Perfect Hawaiian Shirt

>> All 99 Summer Travel Quests

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Use the hashtag #99SummerQuests to share your own summer travels, and follow along with us at @MapQuest and Instagram.

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