The Santa Barbara State Parks and Beaches Section of the California Central Coast Travel Guide covers the state beaches in the Santa Barbara area.
Note: Many California state parks and beaches have excellent campgrounds. Reservations are very strongly advised during the prime summer season, weekends, and holidays. Additional campgrounds are listed at the bottom of this page.
Santa Barbara Camping, State Parks and Beaches
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Carpinteria State Beach
Twelve miles south of Santa Barbara off of US-101, Carpinteria State Beach offers a mile of beach for swimming, surf fishing, tidepool exploring and camping close to the water. The Spanish named the area Carpinteria because the Chumash tribe, which lived in the area, had a large seagoing canoe-building enterprise, or "carpentry shop" there, because of naturally-occurring surface tar which was used to seal the boats. There is a seal rookery nearby, and the mammals may be present December through May.
El Capitan State Beach
Seventeen miles west of Santa Barbara off of US-101, El Capitan offers a secluded, sandy beach at the base of a bluff. Lots of natural greenery in the area, with stands of sycamore and oak along El Capitan Creek. Activities include swimming, fishing, surfing, picnicking and camping. Good tidepools at low tide. Bike trail to Refugio State Beach, 2.5 miles away.
Refugio State Beach
Twenty miles west of Santa Barbara off of US-101, Refugio offers a different look from neighboring El Capitan State Beach. Numerous palm trees are planted along the edge of the beach near Refugio Creek. Picnic tables and grills are plentiful; the camping is close to the beach. Activities include biking and hiking trails as well as good diving and snorkeling. Coastal fishing is considered excellent.
Gaviota State Park
Thirty-three miles west of Santa Barbara off of US-101, Gaviota State Park offers recreation both on the beach and away from the water. The inland section includes oak-studded hills, areas of chaparral and coastal sage, and lush riparian areas along creeks. A network of short trails good for day hikes includes destinations such as Gaviota Peak with scenic views and Gaviota Hot Springs. One unusual feature is a large railroad trestle running parallel to and just behind the beach. The beach is popular for surf fishing, diving, surfing, and picnicking. There is a long public fishing pier which is equipped with an electric boat hoist.
Point Sal State Beach
A remote and rugged beach in far northwestern Santa Barbara County. Pedestrians may access Point Sal State Beach for day use via Brown Road and Point Sal Road. Motor vehicle and bicycle access and camping are not permitted. Access is from sunrise to sunset for recreational purposes only. Visitors should allow sufficient time to return to the trailhead on Brown Road by sunset. The beach has no recreational facilities. and swimming is unsafe due to rip tides. Good views and abundant wildlife. Check with CalParks (link below) for future access status.
Los Padres National Forest Camping
There are several small campgrounds with reservable sites at the Santa Ynez Recreation Area near Cachuma Lake. This is about a thirty minute drive from downtown Santa Barbara via California-154. The campgrounds are Fremont, Los Prietos, Paradise, and Upper Oso. The sites may be used by tents or RVs. There are water taps but no hookups. Also, convenient to Santa Barbara Wine Country.
Cachuma Lake County Park
There is extensive family camping at Cachuma Lake County Park. This is about a thirty minute drive from downtown Santa Barbara via California-154. There are over 400 first-come first-served sites, 130 of which have full or partial hookups. Any size RV can be accommodated. The park also has a few cabins and yurts available for rent, and these may be reserved. Also, convenient to Santa Barbara Wine Country.
Private RV Parks
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