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.
SS Palo Alto
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.
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 a 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 were removed and the Palo Alto was left to the elements.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 on 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.
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.
Seacliff State Beach
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.
Directly north of the pier, you will find different lots with beach front camping spaces. In total, this beach counts with 26 full hookup sites and 38 non-hookup sites.
These spaces are very popular and get reserved fast. If you do not find a site, check out the camping area at New Brighton State Beach, located directly north of Seacliff State Beach.
Where to Eat
Seacliff State Beach is located in the town of Aptos. There are plenty of establishments located nearby to satisfy your hunger. Here are some recommendations.
Manuel’s Mexican Restaurant – This is one of the closest restaurants to the beach and it just happens to be one of the best. Feel free to order fish tacos, enchiladas, chiles rellenos, and mole.
Zameen – Get your fix of Meditteranean fare in here. You can create platters with a protein, sauce, and side. You can add a soup or salad. This is an excellent budget option.
Cafe Rio – On my! This place offers pasta, salads, fresh fish and soups. Expect to find short ribs, wild mushroom risotto, and ahi tuna. Note: This is establishment is not related to the chain of the same name.
Cafe Sparrow – Locals and visitors rave about the dishes served in here. They have options such as New Zealand rack of lamb, peppered Angus filet mignon and calamari piccata.
Red Apple Cafe – In m opinion, this is the best place to get breakfast in the area. They serve a huge variety of combinations including steak, ham, chicken steak, spicy sausage, and eggs. Also, they have eggs benedict, pancakes, French toast, omelets, and potato dishes. Space here is not enough to describe everything they have on the menu. You check them out!
Marianne’s Ice Cream – Ice cream! Do I need to say more? Ok, gourmet ice cream. Do you get it?
Capitola – New Brighton is part of the town of Capitola. This is a colorful, charming town in the Santa Cruz Coast. I encourage you to explore it.
Soquel – this small town, adjacent to Capitola (in theory, a census-designated place), has a center (The Village) full of antique shops, a brewery (Discretion Brewery), restaurants and cafes. Do not miss nearby-located, Bargetto Winery.
Santa Cruz – Santa Cruz is known around the world for its surfing culture, Boardwalk, Wharf, historic Mission and tantalizing beaches. You need several days to cover this city. I recommend doing a road trip to the county. Remember to include Capitola on your itinerary.
Moss Landing – Home to the Elkhorn Slough, a marine wildlife sanctuary. You can access the area through small cruises, kayaks and paddle boards.
Monterey – This city, located 40 miles from Capitola, is one of the best stops on any road trip along California. Since it served as California’s capital, it is full of historical monuments. Others visit because of the Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Cannery Row.
Remember you can beach hop in the Monterey Bay. Visit La Selva, Manresa, and Sunset beaches.
Capitola is located 9 miles from Santa Cruz, 38 miles from San Jose and 80 miles from San Francisco. San Jose has the closest, biggest airport in the area. A car rental is recommended if you intend to explore the area.
There is a day use fee to enter the beaches ($10). I recommend spending as much time as possible using the facilitites or at leisure in order to make the most of the fee.
You can find a supermarket, bank and other services at Rancho del Mar Shopping Center.
What is the weirdest attraction you have visited? Have you been to Seacliff State Beach?
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