Road Trip: Santa Cruz's 'Cement Ship'

On May 29th, 1919, the SS Palo Alto was launched from its construction yard in Oakland, California to serve U.S. forces in World War I. Of course, it was a bit late for the party: WWI ended in November of 1918. So, the boat went back into storage.

In 1929, the Palo Alto was purchased by the Seacliff Amusement Corporation in an effort to turn the ship into an entertainment center, featuring a dance floor, nightclub, swimming pool, cafe, and hotel. They towed the ship down towards the Santa Cruz coastal town of Aptos, lodged it into the bottom of the ocean floor, and constructed a 640-foot pier to it. The attraction opened in June of 1930 but, as this history details, luck wasn't on its side:

A series of storms cracked the hull in 1932. The investors, hoping to cut their losses, sold their beachfront property and the SS Palo Alto to the State of California in February 1936 for $1.00.

And there it still sits today, an attraction to be visited by both humans and great white sharks. In fact, as this great piece in the Mercury News points out, the ship has become a home for various marine animals. While humans can't actually walk the ship, they can stroll the pier and swim in the nearby beach to get a closer look.

The Seacliff State Park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset every day.


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