The simple joys of Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz, California

Story by Crystal Gabrielle. Photos Copyright © Crystal Gabrielle & Matt Steinmetz.
Thanks to Santa Cruz local Matt Steinmetz for contributing photos for this story.


RAIN, RAIN AND MORE RAIN. I was excited to be at my new house-sitting job in Corralitos, California, but for the first four days I was cooped up inside waiting for the sky to stop weeping. Finally, Friday afternoon the sun peeked out. I took off for Santa Cruz about 17 miles north of me.

My first goal was finding some cheap gas—yep, this is California, land of shocking gas prices—and I accomplished that on Ocean Street (Sav-On Gasoline, $2.92 per gallon). After that, all I cared about was seeing the beach and the ocean.

Google Maps showed that W Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz would be the ticket. I was open to discovery but I was also starving, having missed lunch in an effort to get out of the house faster. The farther I progressed along W Cliff Drive, the less promising it looked in terms of getting fed.

Steamer Lane Supply, Santa Cruz, California | breakfast tacos

Breakfast tacos = comfort food | Steamer Lane Supply

Suddenly, I rounded a corner and simultaneously saw a cute little lighthouse and a hand-painted sign that read GOOD FOOD & GOOD COFFEE in big orange letters. And there was free parking! I was ecstatic.

Being January, there were a few vacant spaces in the parking lot. (Good luck during summer. . . .) The food outlet was in an unassuming building with no inside seating. Oh, darn, I’d be forced to eat my lunch on a bench overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Tea and donuts taste so much better at the beach! | Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz | milliverstravels.com

Tea and donuts taste so much better at the beach!

I loved everything about Steamer Lane Supply. Their menu is fun, including not-yer-average range of quesadillas (Kimchi-dilla, Vegan-dilla, Nutella-dilla, among others), seafood (Salmon Poke Bowl, Rock Cod Bowl), sandwiches, hot dogs and tamales.

For those visiting with dogs, there’s a $1 dog menu of house-made treats (eggs, meat, cheese, brown rice). Also a basin of fresh water at the front door and a bowl of dog bone treats in the corner.

Kaleigh of Steamer Lane Supply, Santa Cruz with organic local apples

Kaleigh of Steamer Lane Supply with organic local apples

Lots of heart expressed in this little food outlet | Steamer Lane Supply, Santa Cruz, California

Lots of heart expressed in this little food outlet

After satisfying my hunger I strolled across the lane to get a closer view of the beach, the waves and the surfers. Although almost five o’clock (and winter-time, albeit a balmy 66°F) surfers were still going down a steep stairway leading to an inlet piled with boulders. They climb over the rocks to get to the beach to enter the water.

Chatting with a local named Matt, I remarked that it seemed a laborious way to get into the water. His eyes widened and he said, “At least there’s a beach! Other places you get into the water with your board straight from the rocks.”

Early evening and surfers are still going into the water at Steamer Lane | Santa Cruz, California

Early evening and surfers are still going into the water at Steamer Lane

A surfer going in where there's no beach access | Santa Cruz, California

Surfer going in where there’s no beach access | Photo courtesy Matt Steinmetz

Surfing’s the lifestyle here and this small spot on the map is teeming with history and fame. Wikipedia says “Steamer Lane was named by Claude Horan while he was a student at San Jose State in the late 1930s. One flat calm day he and his friend Wes Hammond thought it would be a good idea to hire steamships to cruise back and forth to generate waves for surfing.”

The Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse is home to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, displaying surfboards (including one bitten by a shark), wetsuits, photographs—and a history of how three Hawaiian princes kicked off the surfing craze in California on their surfboards carved by the local timber mill from redwood planks.

Santa Cruz Surfing Museum in the guise of a lighthouse

Santa Cruz Surfing Museum in the guise of a lighthouse

Checking out the surf at Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz, California

Checking out the surf at Steamer Lane

Surfer Magazine dubbed Steamer Lane a “world class right-hand reef-point,” and in 2012 Santa Cruz was formally dedicated as a world surfing reserve, which took place on Steamer Lane and in front of the museum.

Waves crashing over the rocks, Santa Cruz, California | Photo courtesy Matt Steinmetz

Waves crashing over the rocks | Photo courtesy Matt Steinmetz

Sunset over Santa Cruz | Photo courtesy Matt Steinmetz

You don’t have to be a surfer to get caught up in the romance and beauty of Steamer Lane. It feels like a place where the primal energy of nature cannot be squelched even by the constant traffic, tourism, commercialism and the cityscape that disappears and reappears magically through the ocean mist.


Crystal at Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz, California

Crystal Gabrielle is a double Aquarius with a vast interest in metaphysical subjects, as long as they’re fun. She’s a full-time house sitter in the Southwest and California, and she enjoys getting on the road. She embraces anything that brings more magic into life, and she’s not afraid to talk to herself out loud when a good idea possesses her. Check out Crystal’s travel-related Kindle book, House Sitting Secrets Revealed.


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