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updated: Nov 06, 2010, 8:45 AM
By the dedicated staff
This week Santa Barbara County had an unexpected and unseasonal early November hot spell. It was the kind of weather you'd want if you were headed for the beach. No fog in the morning, in the 80s during the day, and cool at night. It made us think: Hey, maybe summer isn't so far gone after all. And it also reminded us that four of our favorite State beaches: Carpinteria, Gaviota, Refugio and El Capitan, are just a short drive away.
Here are just a few reasons why you might want to visit one of these stellar state facilities during your trip to Santa Barbara County, no matter what the season or the weather.
Carpinteria State Beach: Known for its mellow camping scene and easy access to the chill coastal community of Carpinteria, they call it the "world's safest beach". Despite that moniker, an Edhat subscriber had a close call last summer when her teen daughter and a friend headed out to sea - farther than they wanted to be - on an inflatable raft. Read all about that, a great reminder about water safety here. Camping rates range from $35-$225 (group site), and there are tent spots as well as RV hookups. Here's a link to camping reservations info - even in the offseason, it's a good idea to book here ahead of time. Looking for something great to do while you're there? Carpinteria resident and longtime Edhat contributor David Powdrell recently took a scenic tour of the entire Carpinteria coast. You can see all his photos and read about some of the highlights right here. These four photos below, all taken near the state beach, are courtesy David Powdrell as well.
Gaviota State Beach: The expanse of coast stretching from north Goleta to the right-hand bend in Highway 101 is known as the Gaviota Coast, and is named for the northernmost public beach about 30 minutes from Santa Barbara. There is a small (39 spot) campground here, as well as is a popular fishing pier, some great hiking to nearby caves on the Las Cruces trail and a nearby hot spring hot spring. A tiny beach, dominated by the massive train trestle that passes over it, Gaviota is a great place to catch some rays, have a picnic, or just chill out. It's also a popular jumping off point for kayaking, but beware: One local resident recently survived a shark attack that left bite marks in the hull of his kayak. He made it back to Gaviota safely nonetheless. Another fisherman who started his trek from Gaviota this year was not so lucky -Vandenberg Air Force Base fireman Sean Fleming was lost at sea, and the search for him was abandoned after a week. Day use fee for Gaviota is currently $10. More info about camping can be found here. There is a boat launch available from the pier.
Photos courtesy Louis Ramirez and Tom Modugno
El Capitan State Beach: The closest State beach to the South Coast city of Goleta and just a 10-minute drive on northbound Hwy 101, El Capitan is known for its camping, surfing, hiking, and beachcombing opportunities. Its scenic cove surf break will fire off rideable waves typically only in the late winter months, but when it does, you can expect a crowd of local surfers who have been riding here for years. They'll often have a crew of family and friends hanging out on the rocks, watching, picnicking and heading into the sycamore grove for a pleasant hike. El Capitan is another spot where you need to book in advance if you want to camp. There are a variety of spots accommodating large groups to walk-in tents for hikers and cyclists. Rates range from $10 (hike/bike), $35 (drive-in) to $420 (largest group). Currently, the bike path between Refugio State Beach and El Capitan is closed at the El Capitan end due to trail damage. This is unfortunate, because it is one of the most beautiful short bike paths in Santa Barbara County. Check a local tide map to see if you might be able to pass between the two beaches during low tide. Otherwise, consider renting or bringing a kayak to see this stretch of coastline, which is covered in healthy offshore kelp beds that support a diverse variety of sea life. Refugio State Beach is the easiest launching point for such a trip. Day use fee is $10. No matter what you do at the beach, be sure to watch for the train, which passes close to the El Cap and Refugio campgrounds, with engineers often waving to campers as they pass by. Some interesting trivia about the Spanish Army officer who retired to the area and for whom the park is named can be found here.
Photos courtesy Tom Modugno
Refugio State Beach: The favorite day use beach of residents of Northern Santa Barbara County, Refugio is a secluded cove setting perfect for mellow sunbathing and water sports. It is located about 25 minutes north of Santa Barbara along Hwy 101. It sports a decent surf break when the waves are big (see photos from last winter below), and in mellower conditions, you will often see moms and dads teaching their kids how to surf or boogie board. There is a popular campground with rates ranging from $10 (hike/bike) to $35 (drive-in) to $270 (large group). As mentioned above, it is a great jumping off point from which to kayak up to El Capitan State Beach and see beautiful wildlife within the kelp beds. Refugio is an ideal picnicking spot for a romantic evening, but you'll want to bring all your supplies along - the camp store is no longer open here. Day use fee is $10.
Photos courtesy Leah and William Etling
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