The coastline along Highway 1 through Central California is arguably one of the most picturesque coastal landscapes in the state. One of the better places to experience this is the beaches at Coast Dairies State Park. From sunrise to sunset, you will find a slice of heaven here. Although windy at times, this is a great place for photographers and plein air painters to find some local inspiration.
Access to the beach is just a short 9-minute drive north of Santa Cruz. The parking lot is a long, poorly maintained dirt road that ends at the park entrance. From here, a moderately difficult climb down to the beach is required. You can also catch some great views from the cliff that separates the north and south ends of Panther Beach (the south end is sometimes called Team Beach). Below this point on the beach level you will find a naturally carved arch that gives access to either side.
On the beach, water runoff from Yellow Bank Creek pools up and flows out into the ocean. Depending on the flow, you may or may not need to walk through this runoff to get to the main part of the beach. Just follow the cliff face to where the water flows out for the easiest access. This spot makes for some great photography as well. If the wind is minimal, you can get some nice reflections in this water.