Best Picnic Spots in Santa Cruz

A seaside picnic in Santa Cruz, with a checkered blanket, a wicker basket, and a view of the ocean
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Santa Cruz offers an idyllic backdrop for your summer picnics with its diverse coastline along Monterey Bay. Whether you’re after a solo retreat, a family outing, or a gathering with friends, Santa Cruz County’s outdoor scene welcomes you with open arms. Engage in laid-back activities or simply soak in the views; the choice is yours in this coastal gem. Enjoy not just natural beauty, but also amenities to enhance your outdoor experience. Santa Cruz is your destination for memorable alfresco dining in nature’s heart.

Natural Bridges State Beach

Nestled along the scenic shoreline of Monterey Bay, Natural Bridges State Beach offers a serene spot for picnic enthusiasts. You’ll find picturesque views of the vast water, ample sand for a comfortable seating, and the opportunity to observe diverse wildlife. The iconic rock formation, for which the beach is named, creates a perfect backdrop for your outing.

Enjoy the tranquil sound of the surf as you relax. Keep an eye out for seals frolicking in the water or take a leisurely walk to the Santa Cruz Wharf for a broader vista. This destination combines natural beauty with the simplicity of a day at the beach, making it a truly worthwhile spot for your next picnic.

Lighthouse Field State Beach

Your visit to Santa Cruz isn’t complete without a picnic at Lighthouse Field State Beach. With its panoramic ocean views, this locale offers a serene spot to enjoy a meal against the backdrop of the Pacific. Leash up your dog and relish the calm that comes with the rhythmic sound of the waves, making for an ideal day by the sea.

As a surfer, you’ll appreciate the proximity to Steamer Lane, a famed Santa Cruz surf spot. Whether you’re catching waves or just watching the action from the shore, Lighthouse Field State Beach combines the tranquility of sandy beaches with the thrill of surf culture.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park offers you a serene escape adorned with ancient redwood groves. The park provides ample shade for a tranquil picnic experience throughout the simmering summer months, thanks to the towering trees that stand guard like age-old sentinels of nature’s stillness.

Your visit is enriched by the availability of designated picnic tables and welcoming grassy areas, ideal for a family outing or a solitary retreat. Should you seek more active leisure, set out on a hike among the redwoods, where the gentle rustling of leaves and firm earth underfoot beckon you further into the heart of the forest.

Pogonip Open Space Preserve

Lush green meadows dotted with wildflowers, surrounded by towering redwood trees, and a glistening creek running through the peaceful Pogonip Open Space Preserve in Santa Cruz

Immerse yourself in the serenity of Pogonip Open Space Preserve, a gem nestled in the heart of Santa Cruz. Offering hiking trails with varying difficulties, you’re guaranteed breathtaking views of the surrounding nature. An afternoon adventure here promises a refreshing mix of solitude and outdoor activities.

The preserve’s lush grasslands and dense forests near water sources are perfect for a tranquil picnic. Revel in the sounds of nature at this beloved local outdoor haven, while enjoying a leisurely break or an active day out.

Wilder Ranch State Park

Wilder Ranch State Park offers you a perfect blend of natural beauty and historical charm. With over 7,000 acres of land, you have a plethora of options for picnic areas, where you can enjoy a meal with a view. The park’s terrain includes rolling coastal terrains leading down to the beach, accented by stunning views of the Santa Cruz coastline. Explore its rich landscapes and dive into the local wildlife, which thrives across its vast expanse.

Your adventure starts in the cultural preserve, with the rest of your journey winding through the various hiking trails, each promising its own unique sights. Visit the historic ranch buildings to connect with the area’s dairy heritage. Don’t worry about parking; ample space is provided near the gardens and main areas.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Your visit to Santa Cruz wouldn’t be complete without a day spent at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. A cornerstone of summer entertainment, the boardwalk offers a variety of activities for kids and adults alike, from thrilling rides to classic arcade games. Plan your picnic on the beach, soaking in the festive atmosphere.

Sprawling along the coastline, the boardwalk ensures your experience is coupled with picturesque views and the refreshing ocean breeze. Convenient parking lots make access easy, allowing more time for enjoyment. Whether you ride the historic Giant Dipper or enjoy seaside games, your memories from here will last a lifetime.

Seabright State Beach

A picnic blanket laid out on the sandy beach, surrounded by scattered food and drinks. The ocean waves gently roll in the background, with a clear blue sky overhead

Seabright State Beach offers you a picturesque blend of sun, surf, and sand. Embrace the warm rays and soft sands ideal for a serene picnic, while the sweeping views of Santa Cruz County promise a memorable backdrop.

With this beach being dog-friendly, you’re welcome to bring your four-legged companions along. Remember to respect the space and keep it clean, as Seabright is a cherished local retreat where you can relish the true essence of beachside serenity.

The Mystery Spot

Your visit to Santa Cruz is not complete without exploring The Mystery Spot. This local attraction is a gravitational anomaly that creates a unique and mystifying experience. Perfect for families, kids find the peculiar effects especially entertaining, and it’s a great spot for taking memorable photos.

Accessible via car or the shuttle from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, parking is available on-site. While dogs aren’t allowed, the area offers plenty of nearby trails fitting for a pet-friendly stroll before or after your visit.

DeLaveaga Park

Lush greenery surrounds picnic tables under tall redwood trees in DeLaveaga Park, Santa Cruz. Sunlight filters through the branches, creating dappled patterns on the forest floor

Your summer picnics at DeLaveaga Park will be complemented by the canopy of trees providing ample shade and a scenic backdrop. This location boasts a variety of picnic tables fit for family gatherings or larger group festivities.

Let your kids enjoy the playground, and if you have a furry friend, visit the dog park. For sporting activities, DeLaveaga Park features a disc golf course. The park is an ideal spot for a leisurely afternoon combining relaxation and activities.

Arana Gulch Open Space Park

A spread of food and drinks on a checkered blanket, surrounded by lush greenery and a winding trail in Arana Gulch Open Space Park in Santa Cruz, California

Arana Gulch is a lush natural hideaway located in the heart of Santa Cruz, offering you a peaceful space for your picnic excursions. Open from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset, this area provides both paved and dirt trails, perfect for a leisurely walk after your meal. The space acts as a bridge from Agnes Street to the upper harbor, inviting you for a scenic retreat less than a half-mile long.

Your experience at Arana Gulch also includes the opportunity to observe a diverse array of habitats, including wetlands and live oak forests. As you explore, the elevated views grant you a stunning perspective of the north harbor, amplifying the serene atmosphere of your visit.

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