I am always on the lookout for new and interesting places to take the kids around the Bay Area. I usually need a hook to convince them to leave their friends & devices behind for a good chunk of the day. When I first came across Davenport, a tiny coastal town along California’s Highway 1, I was intrigued and knew my kids would be too with things like Shark Fin Cove, awesome beaches, a pier swing, and berry picking!
Where is Davenport, California?
Davenport, CA (population ~400) is a tiny coastal town along Highway 1, just 9 miles north of Santa Cruz. In the mid-1800s, a small village, known as Davenport Landing, developed around a wharf built at the mouth of the Agua Puerca Creek to load lumber brought down from the Santa Cruz Mountains. Davenport Landing, which became known as simply Davenport, expanded in the 20th century with the construction of a cement manufacturing plant which was operational until 2010. The plant’s 8500-acre parcel is now slated for a future park, San Vincente Redwoods, though most of this area was burned in the 2020 CZU Lightening Complex Fire setting back the timeline.
Davenport California Map
Things to do in Davenport
For such a small town, there are plenty of things to do in Davenport: exploring stunning coastal cliffs, enjoying large unspoiled beaches, adventuring to a pier swing, dining at cute restaurants, and berry picking at a U Pick farm.
While Shark Fin Cove might be the crown jewel of Davenport, there are other Davenport beaches that are less crowded and worth a visit.
Shark Fin Cove
It was Shark Fin Cove that initially drew me to Davenport – a small beach hidden from the road with a rock shaped like an enormous shark fin jutting out of the water.
Shark Fin Cove is a few minutes south of the town. Park along the side of the road (there will likely be lots of other cars) and then follow a little path along the railroad tracks to a sign indicating a steep rocky trail down to the beach. The path was not stroller friendly and it’s probably best to carry anything on your back to keep your hands free for balance.
For a town with such a small population, Shark Fin Cove was especially crowded, but then again it is only 10 miles north of Santa Cruz. The beach was not spacious, but there was room to spread out and lay down a blanket. We went on a Tuesday so I would imagine the weekends would be much more crowded. My 10-year-old waded in the waves a bit, we threw a football around and watched a group of 20-somethings climb up on the rock and jump into the water. This actually made me super nervous as the water was really choppy and it was unclear how deep the water really was.
Before we left, we explored a really cool tunnel carved out of the rock by the ocean. My son had a blast running back & forth through the tunnel into the water.
Bonny Doon Beach
Bonny Doon Beach is only a few minutes south of Shark Fin Cove. Bonny Doon is much larger and less crowded. When we arrived we were the first ones there and slowly others started trickling in. Even with 20-30 other people there, the beach still felt empty.
After we were done at the beach, we climbed back up the hill and explored the bluffs that overlooked the beach.
Note: Bonny Doon Beach is technically clothing optional though it seems the clothing-free section is to the north of the large rock which mostly keeps this section secluded. We got a glimpse of a few nude people from a distance when we were up on the bluff but otherwise did not see anyone when we were on the beach. This might be different on the weekend or when it’s busier.
Even further south is much lesser-known but still stunning Panther Beach. There’s a dirt lot on the side of the road and then walk down railroad tracks to the Coast Dairies State Park sign which is the trailhead to Panther Beach. Here you’ll find a wide open beach with tide-pooling just beyond the large arch and maybe some surfers. Be sure to pack out what you pack in as many others have disregarded this rule.
Swanton Berry Farm
We were excited to discover Swanton Berry Farm U-Pick right in Davenport! Swanton Berry Farm was the first certified organic strawberry farm in California! Berry picking is available on Saturdays & Sundays – no reservation needed! In addition, they have a farmstand open daily offering a variety of baked goods (pies, cobblers, scones & cheesecakes), jams & drinks. Everything made at the farmstand is made by them almost exclusively with their own berries and with organic ingredients. We picked up strawberry shortcake which was delicious and brought home fresh berries to make cobblers & pies.
- U-Pick Hours: Saturday & Sunday 9am – 5pm ($8/lb)
- Farmstand Hours: Daily 8am – 7pm
Check here to confirm hours & pricing
Davenport Pier Swing
Another unique feature is the Davenport Pier, an old washed-out pier on the beach. Only the concrete footings remain and sometimes you’ll find a swing hanging from the one closest to the beach. The access point is on Highway 1 (where the railroad tracks cross) across the street from the Old Cement Plant. There’s a dirt area to park. Beware that there is not an easy path down to this beach. The climb down is challenging and if the fixed rope is missing or damaged it’s not advised. There are still many viewpoints of the Davenport pier from the trails on the bluffs above.
Where to Eat in Davenport
There are a few restaurants in Davenport plus some farmstands.
The Davenport Roadhouse Restaurant & Inn is right on Hwy 1 just one block from the beach. It’s a cute 2-story building with wide porches, perfect for outdoor dining! The menu was impressive with salads, sandwiches, wraps, pizza & pasta! I got the BLTA wrap and my 10-year-old had the Grilled Cheese. Both were delicious. Afterward, we went to the bakery inside and picked up cookies to go!
Want to stay in Davenport for the night? The Davenport Roadhouse is also a 9-room inn with rooms located above the restaurant. Most rooms have an ocean view and are connected by a wrap-around porch with rocking chairs.
Whale City Bakery
Located on Highway 1, Whale City Bakery serves breakfast, lunch & dinner, has a bakery and full espresso bar plus live music several nights a week. We stopped for breakfast on a summer morning, ate on the patio, and watched as the fog rolled in from the beach across the street. I had coffee and a breakfast burrito and my 12-year-old had the Classic Breakfast & hot chocolate.
While technically closer to Pescadero and more of a roadside farmstand, Pie Ranch is worth a stop! The farmstand was full of fresh flowers, pies, jams, soaps, candles, and more! We picked up a pie, flowers, and a cold brew. Outside there are picnic tables for hanging out and relaxing. In addition to the farmstand, Pie Ranch also has food education programs and is available for field trips, weddings, and events.
Tips for Traveling to Davenport, CA
The weather in Davenport is typical of this stretch of the coast.
- Highs range from the low-to-mid-70s in the summer; Low 60s in the winter
- Lows range from the 40s to low 50s throughout the year
- Even in the summer months expect coastal fog in the morning which often burns off revealing blue skies in the afternoon.
- Always bring layers as the weather can change quickly
- Wetsuits recommended year-round
- None of the beaches have restrooms so be sure to plan accordingly.
Visit Nearby Santa Cruz
For even more adventures, visit nearby Santa Cruz! This post lists our favorite things to do in Santa Cruz!