Seacliff State Beach

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About Seacliff State Beach

Seacliff State Beach is an ideal place to take the family and friends for a beautiful seaside sleepover. You can go fishing on the pier, check out the massive concrete ship, boogie board among the waves, and camp right on the beach! If you’re heading to the Santa Cruz area, opt for a vacation to the often overlooked Seacliff state beach instead--you won’t regret it! With the warm sand beneath your toes and plenty to do, you can’t go wrong with a visit to this shore.

Campgrounds in Seacliff

Seacliff State Beach Campground
Camping at Seacliff is only for RVs and trailers, and there are some hookups available. There are 35...

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Seacliff
hipcamper
June 5th, 2015
Seacliff
hipcamper
June 5th, 2015
Seacliff
hipcamper
June 5th, 2015
Seacliff
hipcamper
June 5th, 2015
5 Reviews
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Great family beach. Do some fishing (*gasp*--no fishing license required) off the pier while the kids play in the sand!

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The concrete ship (the SS Palo Alto) is the coolest thing around, definitely check it out (although you can’t miss it).

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There’s a tide pool tank and aquarium in the visitor’s center!

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Docent-led fossil, history or beach walks are a highlight here.

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So close to New Brighton State Beach for double the beach fun, and only a 15 minute drive from Santa Cruz!

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History of Seacliff State Beach

The Ohlone Indians thrived for thousands of years on the area’s natural resources. The riches of the ocean, rivers and forests provided plentiful sources of food, from fish, shellfish and game to edible plants and seeds. The Ohlone, creative craftspeople known for ornate shell and feather adornments, continue their ancient crafts and traditions today. Spanish colonization led to the
establishment of Mission Santa Cruz. After Mexico broke away from Spain in 1821, the land was subdivided into Mexican land grants (ranchos). Seacliff, known by 1833 as Rancho Aptos, developed into a bustling shipping port with the building of the Castro-Spreckels wharf. In the 1850s, Thomas Fallon acquired part of Rancho Soquel and turned it into a resort named New Brighton, in honor of his favorite English seaside retreat.

In 1910 a Norwegian civil engineer named Fougner thought of using concrete to build ships. It wasn't until 1917, when wartime steel shortages required the use of cement for construction that Fougner's idea was used. Three concrete ships were built. Two, the Peralta and the Palo Alto, were built at the U.S. Naval Shipyard in Oakland, California while the third, the Faith, was built in a shipyard in Redwood City, California. The Peralta and the Palo Alto were built for wartime use as tankers, however World War One ended before ship construction was finished -- so they were never used.

The Palo Alto remained docked in Oakland until 1929, when the Cal-Nevada Company bought the ship with the idea of making her into an amusement and fishing ship. Her maiden voyage was made under tow to Seacliff State Beach. Once positioned at the beach, the sea cocks were opened and the Palo Alto settled to the ocean bottom. By the summer of 1930 a pier had been built leading to the ship, the ship was remodeled. A dance floor on the main deck was added, also a cafe in the superstructure was built, as was a fifty-four foot heated swimming pool, and a series of carnival type concessions were placed on the afterdeck. A neon sign at the top of the bluff at Seacliff simply read The Ship. Thousands dined at the Fish Palace, with its spectacular ocean view on three sides. In the elegant Rainbow Ballroom, diners then danced on a new white ash floor. Unfortunately, the Seacliff Amusement Corporation went bankrupt after only two seasons of dining and dancing, thwarting future plans for expansion. Today, the stripped and abandoned Palo Alto is unsafe and closed to the public, but the pier leading to the ship is open for fishing.