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Posted by on Jun 22, 2015 | 41 comments

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto

We human beings like to experience the bizarre, the weird and the out of the ordinary. Just think a little bit about it and you are going to give me the reason.

When we travel, we like to include those odd feelings in the journey.  Hundreds of people visit / kiss a stone (Blarney Stone), admire a wall covered in bubble gum (Seattle, San Luis Obispo) or walk around a replica of the Stonehenge made of cars (Carhenge).  And, I have not even started to mention all the bizarre museums around the world (ramen, hair, bananas, rabbits, etc.).

With that introduction, well, it may be easy to decipher where I am going.

Yes, I stopped at one of those lovable, fun (pure sarcasm) and unique attractions in Northern California.  But, I have to admit something.  I was expecting something weird.  Instead, I got more of what my sanity was able to handle.

It all started one cold and chilly Saturday morning.  We took one of the exits towards the town of Aptos.  Leaving the town behind, we immediately moved towards Seacliff State Beach.

We walked a bit around the businesses clustered at the entrance of the beach area.  Then, it was time to have that first look at what lied below those cliffs.

Surprise! Surprise! Take a look at what we saw.

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

 

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

 

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

That my friends is the SS Palo Alto a concrete ship built as a tanker at the end of World War I.  She was built in Oakland but was launched too late to serve in the war.

With my camera, I was able to take a good look at the ship from the high point. But, I felt the urge to go down and take a closer look (dumb idea #1).

After debating for a few minutes with my husband (the entrance fee is $10), we decided to give it a go.

The ship was parked in Oakland for ten years since it never made it to war.  In 1929, it was bought by the Seacliff Amusement Corporation and towed to its current location.

A pier was built to connect the ship to the shore.  The Palo Alto was fitted with dancing floors, swimming pools and a café.  The company went bankrupt two years after the acquisition of the ship.  All valuables where removed and the Palo Alto was left to the elements.

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

In all honesty, from the shore, the pier, ship and blue water offer a nice scene.  There were tons of people taking selfies with the ship in the background. What is more, the photos taken during sunset are gorgeous.

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

 

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

However, the beautiful scene started to fall down when I took a closer look with the camera’s zoom (dumb idea #2).  One word came to my mind: desolation.

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

I swallowed hard when moving the camera over the open part of the ship.  This was a land of cormorants, seagulls and sea lions (and who knows what else).

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

After the ship was stripped down, it was used as a fishing pier. The deterioration came fast and it had to be closed to the public.

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

Nowadays, it is what you see in these photos (not a nice place at all).  At the beach, I wasn’t able to distinguish what I was seeing in a small screen.  Once I got home, I got grossed out (pardon the ugly words) by the photos.  During that moment, I was able to really see how horrible the conditions inside the boat are.

That is not it! I got the brilliant idea of getting close using the pier (dumb idea #3).  This was the worst of the worst.  As I got closer to the gate separating the pier from the ship, a nasty smell deterred me.  I turned back, hold my breath, took a few pictures and (literarily) ran away.  There was this guy sitting in front of the gate like nothing was happening.  Not sure how he was doing it.

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

 

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

 

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

Many times I asked myself what I was doing there.  Deep inside, in a twisted way, I am glad I stopped to see by myself what this was about.

And there you have it! My traumatizing story where a concrete ship makes a stellar appearance.

Do not be deterred by my story.  Seacliff State Beach is quite nice (just do not get close to the ship).  There are extensive, covered picnic facilities (reserve with time), a learning center, RV sites and other programs.  The day I visited, there was live music on the grounds.

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

 

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

 

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

 

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

 

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

Find more information here: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=543

What is the weirdest attraction you have visited?

Pin it for later?

Seacliff State Beach and The Palo Alto, Aptos, Santa Cruz, California

 

41 Comments

    • Thanks. I think this place will appeal to many people (because of different reasons).

  1. I was quite amazed as the photos went on, at first I thought it was people all over the ship from your distant photos. As you got closer I wondered why you had to pay $10 to see a rusted ship with crows all over it. But it was a fun tale.
    Sally@Toddlers on Tour recently posted..How I’m Going to Get Cheap FlightsMy Profile

    • Hello Sally, thanks for stopping by. Seacliff State Beach has a $10 day use fee. It is not necessarily a fee to see the ship. A lot of beaches in California has a similar (or more expensive during summer months) fee. There is a parking lot at the top of the beach, near the entrance. If you park there, and walk down (some people bike), you do not have to pay a fee.

    • Ha, ha. I totally understand. The beach is nice though. Like I said, just stay away from the ship.

    • Andrea, the smell was horrific. Why do you think I ran away?

    • You are right. I am sure you would not like to smell the areas surrounding this ship. I visited the catacombs in Paris. Agree places like that are creepy.

  2. I think it’s nice there’s a haven for all those animals when so much of their habitat has been invaded by humans, it’s a little spot where the humans have given back to them. If they had the whole beach to themselves it would probably not smell so badly. Thanks for sharing your photos, I’ve never heard of a concrete ship before.
    Stella Lee@ Purfylle recently posted..I’m keeping it!My Profile

    • Agree with what you say (seen from that point of view). I think the ship serves as an artificial reef too. The Monterey Bay is a National Marine Sanctuary and the protection to all wildlife in there is high. That is why this area of California is full of dolphins, otters, seal lions, harbor seals and other creatures.

  3. I love the way you wrote this, getting closer and closer. I also thought it was people on the ship at first. I can just imagine the smell but fascinating none the less!

    • Honestly, I do not know why is still there. Not sure if at the precise moment, it was a financial thing. Hope nobody gets hurt when trying to break the rules.

  4. Lol I’ve definitely gone to some stinky places for the sake of a photo! I find abandoned structures that are being reclaimed by nature to be really interesting – especially ones that have an interesting origin story. A warship turned dance hall? That’s pretty neat! Would make a great setting for a ghost story!
    Kelly Del Valle recently posted..Flora, Fauna, Fungi // North Florida Camping FindsMy Profile

    • I have to admit the whole story behind this ship is pretty bizarre. I think that is why I wanted to visit. And, wait there is more. A twin concrete ship was built (SS Peralta). It serves as a breakwater somewhere in British Columbia.

  5. Hmmm. That’s just strange to have such a boat at a family beach area. I can only assume that they thought it would become part of the sea as time went on. Your photos are really great but I truly don’t understand why it’s there.
    bettyl – NZ recently posted..Pukekura Fernery and Display HouseMy Profile

    • Betty, I am with you. I do not understand why is still there. Maybe it has became a symbol of the area. It will be interesting to get the point of view of residents and authorities.

    • I am with you. When you visit abandoned places, you do not think about the negatives of the visit (even though there may be more negatives because of the state of the place).

  6. Looks like a very cool area. And a very unique concrete sea animal shelter. Thanks for the warning about the smell – will have to remember that!
    Jill recently posted..Maine EatsMy Profile

    • Like I said in the post, it is cool in a twisted way. You have been warned about the smell!

  7. Well I guess not all shipwrecks can be attractive. There’s a beach in Greece with a shipwreck and it’s really popular (the good thing is that the wreck is from metal (so rust is the only issue here) and isn’t inhabited by a flock of birds!!

    Have no idea though what I could consider the weirdest place I’ve ever visited!!
    Anna recently posted..The Essential Info Guide to getting around the Greek IslandsMy Profile

    • Yes, I have seen tons of photos of the shipwreck at Navagio Beach. This week a blogger posted photos oh him inside the wreck. I didn’t know it was allowed to get into the old ship.

  8. I stared a lot at the first photos, trying to figure out if there were people or seagulls on the ship, haha. I hate it when historical sights are left to decay, I’ve seen it many times before 🙁
    Vlad recently posted..How I Spent A Day On The Island Of GozoMy Profile

    • That is exactly the effect I wanted to create with the order I posted the photos. I know people where not going to imagine a concrete ship was down at the beach.

    • Glad to know you liked it. I thought it was going to be interesting.

    • Thanks you. Good to see you here.

  9. If I could hazard a guess, the stench probably came from the sea lions. We took a boat trip around the tip of Baja California and were greeted by a godawful reek when our boat approached an island of the animals. They may be pretty, but omigosh how they stink!

    Thanks for participating in #TheWeeklyPostcard, btw. 🙂
    Linda Bibb recently posted..#TheWeeklyPostcard: Singapore Night SafariMy Profile

    • You are right. I have been to several places where there are a lot of sea lions and the smell is terrible. I like to see them but from a distance.

    • If we get into the details, it is technically sinked (but in shallow water). It is already an artificial reef.

  10. It took me a while to realize all the “people” on the boat in that 2nd photo from the cliffs are actually birds and sealions. Looks like they have quite a fertilizer factory going there. It smells just looking at it. I would not have expected something so strange at a place so benignly named “Seacliff State Beach.” The rest of the beach looks lovely, but I think your post will be the extent of my exploration of the Palo Alto.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..Postcards from Intramuros, a Spanish walled city in the PhilippinesMy Profile

    • Michelle, you are so funny by describing the inside of the ship as a fertilizer factory. But, the more I think about it, the more I agree.

  11. Great series on this state beach and the ship. I think it is great that the birds and sea lions have a spot of their own, like a refuge. The beach looks beautiful though. Enjoy your day!
    Eileen recently posted..Virginia RailMy Profile

    • Yes, it is a great beach. I would like to camp in the area (near the water).

  12. Oh wow! There certainly are some interesting and wonderfully odd places in our world, aren’t there? I knew quite a bit about the Liberty ships built in the Bay area, but I’d never heard of the concrete ships. I’m glad that the ship has continued to have life but the smell. Ugh.

    Thank you for joining us again for Photo Fiday!
    Jen recently posted..Photo Friday – HPD StrongMy Profile

    • Yes, a crazy idea (concrete ships) that actually saw the light of a day. Too bad they didn’t serve as expected.

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