New Brighton / Seacliff
The mission of California State Parks is
to provide for the health, inspiration and
education of the people of California by helping
to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological
diversity, protecting its most valued natural and
cultural resources, and creating opportunities
for high-quality outdoor recreation.
Long stretches of bluffbacked sandy beaches
invite visitors to play
on the beach, watch a
glorious sunset, or stroll
peacefully along the shore.
California State Parks supports equal access.
Prior to arrival, visitors with disabilities who
need assistance should contact the park at
(831) 685-6500. If you need this publication in an
alternate format, contact email@example.com.
CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS
P.O. Box 942896
Sacramento, CA 94296-0001
For information call: (800) 777-0369
(916) 653-6995, outside the U.S.
711, TTY relay service
Seacliff State Beach
201 State Park Drive, Aptos, CA 95003
New Brighton State Beach
Park Avenue off Hwy. 1, Capitola, CA 95010
© 2002 California State Parks (Rev. 2016)
t Seacliff State Beach, a
mile-long expanse of soft sand
connects this popular recreation
spot with New Brighton State Beach,
where wooded bluffs provide
unparalleled views of Monterey
Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
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. Their numbers were severely
reduced by illness and cultural changes
brought to California by European settlers,
yet some Ohlone descendants continue
their ancient traditions and crafts 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
SEACLIFF STATE BEACH
Known by 1833 as Rancho Aptos, Seacliff
developed into a bustling shipping port with
the building of the Castro-Spreckels wharf.
During the mid-1920s, landowners built
summer homes on the bluffs above Seacliff
and the area to its south, Rio del Mar. On the
north side of Seacliff, 1920s tourists enjoyed
upscale camping facilities.
Seacliff became one of California’s first
state beaches in 1931. For more than 80
thwarting future plans for
expansion. Today, the stripped,
abandoned SS Palo Alto is unsafe
and closed to the public, as is
part of the pier near the ship.
NEW BRIGHTON STATE BEACH
In the 1850s, Thomas Fallon
SS Palo Alto
acquired part of Rancho Soquel
years, beachfront camping, picnicking,
and turned it into a resort he named New
fishing, and interpretive walks have been
Brighton, in honor of his favorite English
among the park’s most popular activities.
seaside retreat. New Brighton became
a state beach in 1933. Fishing, camping,
THE CEMENT SHIP
hiking, and swimming are now favorite family
Seacliff’s famous fishing pier extends out to
activities at New Brighton State Beach.
a unique concrete tanker, the SS Palo Alto. It
New Brighton, once known as China
was built during World War I, when wartime
Beach, was the site of a driftwood Chinese
steel shortages created a demand for alternate
fishing village during the 1870s and 1880s.
shipbuilding materials. However, when the
The village inhabitants proved invaluable
war ended, so did the need for new ships.
in building the California railroads, and
The SS Palo Alto never saw wartime service.
the village of China Beach provided fish,
In 1930 the Seacliff Amusement
produce, laundries, chefs, and laborers.
Corporation bought the ship and turned it
New settlers took the village away from the
into an elaborate amusement center. The SS
Chinese, and laws were passed to make it
Palo Alto was brought to rest in shallow water
illegal for the Chinese to fish, so the Chinese
near the beach, and a pier was built leading
moved south to Watsonville and beyond.
to the ship’s main deck.
A neon sign at the top of the bluff
at Seacliff simply read The Ship.
Much as a reef does, the SS Palo Alto
Thousands dined at the Fish Palace
attracts an immense variety of marine
onboard, with its spectacular ocean view
life within its concrete wreckage, and
on three sides. In the elegant Rainbow
many of the same animals found on
Ballroom, diners then danced on a new
rocky shores live on it. Mussels,
white ash floor. Unfortunately, the
barnacles, sea stars, sea
Seacliff Amusement Corporation
anemones, ocean worms,
went bankrupt after only two
seasons of dining and dancing,
Photo courtesy of NOAA
and rock crabs all cling to the sides and insides
of the ship and pier. Harbor seals and sea lions
line the deck, while pelicans and cormorants
perch on the bow. Pier anglers catch sole,
flounder, mackerel, halibut, lingcod, cabezon,
bocaccio (tomcod), kingfish, and occasionally
salmon and steelhead. During summer and
fall, sooty shearwaters (small, dark seabirds)
arrive by the tens of thousands from as far
south as New Zealand, soaring in masses over
the ocean, searching for anchovies. Sea lions,
dolphins, sea otters, and migrating whales are
often spotted in the water.
The Seacliff visitor center features natural
and cultural history interpretive exhibits, a
tidepool tank, and an aquarium. Beachfront
camping at Seacliff is for recreational vehicles
(RVs) only. Picnicking, fishing, and guided
fossil, history, or beach walks are among the
most popular activities. Children’s arts and
crafts programs highlight Seacliff’s story.
The New Brighton visitor center tells
the story of Pacific wildlife migrations and
highlights the history and contribution of
Chinese immigrants in the area. Campfire and
Junior Ranger programs are offered during the
summer. More than 100 family, group,
bicycle, and RV campsites
make this a special
Fishing from the pier
Site-specific camping reservations for both
beaches may be made by calling (800) 4447275 or visiting www.parks.ca.gov.
To schedule educational programs at
Seacliff, call (831) 685-6444. For New Brighton’s
educational programs, call (831) 464-5620.
Borrow beach wheelchairs from the camp host.
Seacliff State Beach — The visitor center and
some RV hookup campsites are accessible, as
are restrooms and shady picnic sites.
New Brighton State Beach has accessible
visitor and campfire centers, family, group,
and RV campsites, and restrooms.
Accessibility is continually improving. For
updates, visit http://access.parks.ca.gov.
NEARBY STATE PARKS
• Sunset State Beach
201 Sunset Beach Rd., Watsonville 95076
• Manresa State Beach
Sand Dollar Lane, Watsonville 95076
Children learn about fossils from docents.
• Day-use hours are from 8 a.m. to sunset.
• The speed limit is 15 mph.
• Climbing the unstable sandstone cliffs
• All natural and cultural features in state
parks are protected by law and may not
be removed or disturbed.
• Dogs must always be on a leash no longer
than six feet and attended by humans.
• Do not feed or leave food out for wildlife.
• A license is not required to fish from the
pier, but Department of Fish and Wildlife
limits apply. See www.wildlife.ca.gov.
• Consuming alcohol is not allowed on
the beach or in the day-use areas — only
within registered campsites.
• Fires are not allowed on Seacliff’s main
beach. At New Brighton and Rio del
Mar, fires must be confined to fire rings
provided and attended at all times.
• Vehicles must park on pavement and not
on gravel or dirt walkways.
RV Sanitation Station
C re e k
S TAT E
S TAT E
© 2002 California State Parks (Rev. 2016)
The Forest of
Nisene Marks SP
New Brighton SB
Moss Landing SB
M o n t e r e y Ba y
Santa CruzManresa SB
Salinas River SB
RIO DEL MAR
Rio del Mar
SS Palo Alto
Day Use P
A p to
S TAT E B E A C H
This park is supported in part through a
nonprofit organization. For more information,
contact Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks
144 School Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 429-1840 • www.thatsmypark.org