Love exotic plants? The UC Santa Cruz Arboretum boasts the largest number of Aussie flora this side of the Southern Cross. Wander on a self-guided tour among banksias, grevilleas, proteas, and other plants from Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, many of which are low-water growers. Look for the stunning red and yellow pincushions (Leucospermum), which resemble finely tendriled sea creatures.
$5; High St. at Western Dr.; 831/427-2998.
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Picnic by a creek
Pop into Emily’s Good Things to Eat for a made-to-order sandwich on fresh-baked bread or a “sliver” (you know, thinner than a slice) of moist apple cake. Then grab a seat on the outdoor deck above trickling Laurel Creek, and you’ll have no choice but to heed the bakery’s motto, posted above the entrance: Relax you have plenty of time.
$; 1129 Mission St.; 831/429-9866.
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Bone up on regional gardening, green living, and growing your own food at 43-year-old Bookshop Santa Cruz, crammed with timely, eco-conscious titles by local authors. Check the website (bookshopsantacruz.com) for new author-led outdoor events.
1520 Pacific Ave.
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Walk along the water
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk may be the best-known place to stroll, but the most breathtaking is a paved, coasthugging path along West Cliff Drive. Start near Natural Bridges State Beach and head 3 miles east to the Municipal Wharf, for an easy out-and-back, past views of Monterey Bay, rugged bluffs, and surfers. Free street parking is readily found on, or just off, West Cliff.