Its Beach

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Rating: C

It's a beach, but whose beach is Its? Although derided by recent visitor Andrea, of Portland, for "decaying kelp" that's often left on the beach (It's "no fun for walking on," she adds), the main issue that's been brewing for years at the shore in front of the lighthouse on Santa Cruz's West Cliff Drive is whether or not dogs should be banned. Dog lovers and haters, plus a small contingent of nudists, are regular visitors to the site, near Santa Cruz's Municipal Wharf. Both sides have been howling. Some regulars want the dogs to be banned or leashed, but there's also a strong local movement to let them roam free. Under one plan, announced in 2008, the city of Santa Cruz would buy 2.5 acres of Its Beach from the state for $103,000, and the rest of Lighthouse Field State Beach in the future, which would allow the dogs to be legally off-leash, which isn't allowed at other state beaches. The beach itself is nothing to write home about. For the best sand, visit in late summer or early fall. Nearby attractions include the lighthouse's surfing museum; a butterfly refuge at Natural Bridges State Beach; the Municipal Wharf; and the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, with an amusement park and rides.

Legal status:

Lighthouse Field State Beach, also known as Its Beach and Point Santa Cruz.

How to find it:

Take Highway 1 to Swift Street in Santa Cruz. Follow Swift to the sea, then turn right on West Cliff Drive. Follow West Cliff until you see the lighthouse. Starting from the wharf, take West Cliff Drive north to the lighthouse, which will be on the left (beach) side of the street. Park at the lighthouse and walk down to the little, pebble-strewn shore.  The nude section is at the far right end of the beach.

The beach:

Small with a mix of sand and rocks.

The crowd:

Visitors are mostly suited, but the site gets occasional use by nude sunbathers. Members of yelp.com seem to love the nudists. "My favorite beach in Santa Cruz by far," says Gretchen P., of San Francisco. " ... I got accustomed to the naked people and deadheads ... The cozy enclave feeling of this little crescent moon of a beach made me feel safe and I could sleep and read and roast for hours without being bothered." Andrew B. writes: "The best beach in Santa Cruz. It has lots of cool dogs, a few naked hippies, and a fun little beach ... to play in." Dave, of San Jose, called it "hands down the best beach to take your dog ... The vibe here is hot and on a hot sunny day it can get packed." He found "crunchy hippy nudists and a drum circle that can go on for days with mega gatherings" on the right side of the beach."

Problems:

Unleashed dogs may soon come romping onto the sand; cold water; wind; fog; hazardous swimming conditions; beach open to view.

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