One of the string of state park jewels that encircle Santa Cruz, New Brighton is an understandably-popular beach and campground. While the beach itself is narrow and somewhat rocky, it is set in an undeveloped stretch of shore with a beautiful backdrop. The day use parking area can get crowded on weekends and even on nice days in the winter. The campground fills up on weekends all year, and early reservations are a must nearly any time.
New Brighton Campground is the closest campground to the city of Santa Cruz, yet it has a very private and remote feel. Deer are sometimes seen in the campground. Many of the sites are huge, including all of the premium sites on the bluff's edge. There are a small number of sites with electric and water hookups, but the rest have no hookups. There are pay showers in some of the bathrooms. The sites are distributed on several one-way loops with wide spaces and vegetation that provides moderate privacy. There is a $15 added cost for the nine premium sites, which are perched on the edge of the bluff and have eye-popping views of the Pacific.
This is a very family-oriented campground, and beach activities are the main attraction. There are also many nearby recreational opportunities for all ages, including great hiking at the very nearby Forest of Nisene Marks State Park.