Davenport Cove

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Rating: C

Both clothed and unclad visitors can be found at this site, which is off Highway 1, just south of Davenport's public beach. "It's really a beautiful place," says regular visitor Russ. A group of offshore rocks resembling a shark's tooth gives the beach its alternate name, Shark's Tooth Beach. Swimming isn't recommended, due to dangerous waves and cold water, but some locals paddle around anyway. However, the wind-sheltered cove is good for suitless sunbathing. A steep trail takes you to a cave you can explore and some interesting rock formations. Use caution when visiting the cove in high tide; it often washes out. Also, "avoid the area at night," suggests Russ, who has heard stories of partiers harassing people who remained after dark in defiance of the beach's official closure at dusk. Former problems included car robberies and gawkers in bushes.

Legal status:

Believed to be privately owned, with public access allowed under state law.

How to find it:

Look for Davenport Cove off Highway 1 north of Santa Cruz. The turnoff is 39.1 miles south of the junction of Highways 1 and 92 in Half Moon Bay and 12.2 miles north of the junction of Highways 1 and 17 in Santa Cruz. Park at the main public beach, find the railroad tracks, and take the trail that begins there and runs about a half mile south to the cove. Or check for a turnoff half a mile south of Davenport, pull off the highway, and park in the rutted lot, which holds about 10 cars. Go around a long metal gate to a path leading to the sand. It's a poor and steep trail, winding up and over the railroad tracks, but it will take you directly to the cove. "The path isn't easy," says Russ. "Instead of walking down the trail, you kind of climb down the trail."

The beach:

Backed by towering white cliffs. The cove is small but sandy.

The crowd:

Only a few people visit Davenport Cove, and not everyone goes nude. Russ and his wife counted six other visitors.

Problems:

Beach erosion, especially in spring and winter; fog; wind; cold water; steep trail; poor parking; sometimes poison oak on trail; formerly had cliff gawkers; rough surf; cove may be covered by high tide; signs urge visitors not to leave valuables in their vehicles.

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