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An old "agri-biz" town in south Santa Cruz county, Watsonville lacks the tourist focus of Santa Cruz and Carmel, and is often overlooked by travellers to and from the Bay Area. The second largest town in the county, modern Watsonville is still surrounded by agricultural land. Drive the country roads in the spring and summer and the sweet smell of strawberries will waft across the fields, for Watsonville is the country's largest supplier of fresh strawberries. In the fall, the focus turns to apples, and in the orchard country near the hills you will spot signs along the roads offering fresh-picked apples (whatever variety has just come into season) and fresh cider. At the Freedom Meat Locker, or just a couple of miles at Corralitos Market, is wonderful sausage and barbecued meat and the rest of the makings for a French country-style picnic. And visit local hillside wineries, too!
Watsonville is also a center of flower culture and the local farmers sometimes sell their "extras" for just a few dollars from stands by the road. If you are here on Fridays, take in the local Farmer's Market in the Plaza, from 3 - 7 PM. From spring to fall, there is a bountiful display of just harvested products but you'll find something to tempt you just about any time of year. And if you're too hungry to wait for dinner, you'll find snack foods ranging from tamales to pupusas to roasted corn to cappuccino.
Drive away from the town towards the ocean and you will have your pick of beaches, the best known of which is "Pajaro Dunes". Park in the State Park lot and cross the dunes; you will be rewarded with a grand view of the Pacific Ocean and a clean wide beach that invites strolling, kite flying and lolling about. At most times of the year there will be little competition for blanket space and even in the height of summer you will find lots of room to walk and sun yourself.
The Watsonville wetlands are world-famous for bird-watching, with viewing areas and trails. A few miles north off of Highway 1 in Aptos is Nisene Marks State Park where you can hike through towering redwoods on easy level trails or more ambitiously clamber up rocky paths to the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. A few miles south of town and you are in Elkhorn Slough wetlands preserve, where you can spot sea otters and seals, numerous species of shorebird and, in spring see egrets fly in to feed their babies, nesting high in the eucalyptus trees along the water. Down the coast another 2 minutes is Moss Landing, where you can buy fresh salmon and, in season, Dungeness crab, right off the boat. Wherever you go you will find friendly folks and a small town feel that will make you forget that you are just an hour away from Silicon Valley.