Located in the Monterey Bay area, New Brighton State Beach is a 93-acre park that includes close to one mile of shoreline, a group picnic area, a campground on the bluffs overlooking the beach with campsites and parking spots for day use.
Because the shoreline at New Brighton State Beach is inside a protected cove, the waves are smaller than other areas of Monterey Bay. The gentle waves are one of the attractions at New Brighton; because they are light, New Brighton is a better beach to go kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, or even surfing, especially for beginners.
Whether you wish to visit the park for a day or spend a weekend or week camping there, New Brighton Beach State Park is a rewarding destination less than a two-hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area.
Depending on the time of year, you may be able to see migrating whales from the beach or the bluff. Just about any time, you may spot bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, or the ever-playful sea otters. Only one view of any of these creatures would be reason enough to make the trip!
A wintertime treat is the view of migrating monarch butterflies in the courses of their great yearly migration. The best time to see the monarchs is from mid-October through February, and the best place in the park to look for them are in clusters of trees, whether they are Eucalyptus or pine trees.
New Brighton State Beach Hiking
If you are interested in hiking, New Brighton sports at least two hiking trails. One of these trails goes from the top of the bluffs at the campground down to the beach.
The other 3-mile trail is across the beach until you reach Seacliff State Beach. If you are interested in fossils, you might be able to see some of the rocks along the way during your walk to Seacliff. Most of them date from the Pliocene area and in geological terms are quite recent – only 2.5 – 5 million years old.
Be sure that you do not take any of the fossils with you, as they are protected by law from being disturbed. Still, it’s not every day you get a chance to travel millions of years back in time!
If you are interested in the history of more recent vintage, New Brighton Beach was once known as China Beach due to a large number of Chinese fishers that would dock their boats in the bay during the Gold Rush era in California. Unfortunately, the anti-Chinese movement ended the Chinese presence at New Brighton Beach by about 1900.
For birding fans, the various habitats contained in this 93-acre state park present many opportunities to view native birds. If you look closely, you might be rewarded with the sight of Stellar’s jays or chestnut-backed chickadees, among many other species.
New Brighton State Beach Camping
The campground at New Brighton Beach State Park is very popular during the summertime, so it is a good idea to make reservations if you want to camp there. Best Campsites New Brighton State Beach. Sites 73 -79, 82, 87, 88, and 90 are situated on the bluff and have ocean views. These campsites are considered premium and cost more than regular sites. 47 to 56 are the only sites with hookups.
The campground has electricity and water, but no sewer hookups. There is a dump station, though. The sites can accommodate RVs that are up to 36’ feet long. The restrooms at the camp are fully functional and include hot showers, although the hot showers need to be paid for. Campground Reservations
The visitor center at New Brighton Beach contains exhibits exploring the history of migrations into the Pacific Northwest by the various peoples who have made the area their home.
It also has exhibits that tell the viewer about the migrations of the animals that live in the sea around New Brighton, including migratory whales in the winter. In the summer, it is open Wednesday through Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
During the summer, check with the Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks to see what activities are scheduled at the park; some of these activities may include guided walks that focus on the history of New Brighton Beach, the fossils at New Brighton or the history of New Brighton.
Some children’s activities, including arts and crafts, may be scheduled during the summer as well. Also, the New Brighton Beach participates in California’s Junior Ranger Program, designed for children ages 7-12, and designed to provide children insights into geology, ecology, and flora and fauna of the park.
New Brighton State Beach is located east of Santa Cruz in the city. 1500 Park Ave, Capitola, California.