Santa Cruz is known as being a hippie, dippie surfer town, but right outside the borders, you find yourself surrounded with open farmland, artichokes, strawberries, brussel sprouts. Drive about 10 miles south toward Monterey to Moss Landing, turn inland about three miles and you come to Elkhorn Slough Estuarine Reserve. There's a walk about three miles long through various marshlands, around ponds, over boardwalks, along the shoreline of the slough to Hummingbird island. We saw kingfishers, egrets, shore birds, and birds of prey. I would highly recommend this walk to anyone, especially in the early morning or late afternoon.
At the visitors' center, we learned that in 1790 there were 5 million acres of wetlands in California. Today there is less than 450 thousand. A 90% drop, due to human interference.