Santa Barbara Beaches North: Goleta, El Capitan, Refugio and Gaviota

hit counter script

North of Santa Barbara, the coastline grows gradually wild and windswept, leaving Southern California's arid sunniness behind.

That debuts at the 29-acre Goleta Beach County Park, which still close to the city proper, has its share of palm trees. It also offers grass picnic areas, barbeques and the Goleta Beach Pier. Swimming is popular here. A playground and hiking trails make it fun for groups and children.

It's close enough to the city to be convenient for downtown Santa Barbara hotels, perfect for a day at the beach and then dining downtown.

Santa Barbara North County Seventeen miles north you'll find the popular camping spot El Capitan State Beach, 168 acres of beach, and dune trails flanked by a stately sentinel of giant sycamores.

Surfers especially love the swell off El Capitan Point, but swimmers and fishermen love it here, too. You'll see seals and sea lions offshore, and a three-mile hiking and bike trail along the bluffs and highway leads to Refugio State Beach, just up the road.

Refugio (the "g" is hard as in "goo") is popular for fishing, camping and picnics. The beach itself nestles in a small cove, with palm trees lining either side of the mouth of Refugio Creek. But the entire park offers 2,700 acres to explore, all with a striking view of the westernmost sweep of Southern California.

Up the road 13 more miles, where U.S. Highway 101 turns inland, Gaviota State Park arguably marks the last stand of the public Southern California coast. Beyond it lays Point Conception and the central coast.

It's easy to know you've reached Gaviota: A tall railroad trestle crosses Gaviota Creek, a landmark familiar to fans of the movie Sideways, where the character Miles moped after learning a publisher rejected his book.

Link to the city's downloadable map of movie locations, including scenes from "Sideways."

Be sure to also visit our directory of north county accomodations.

Winds buffet Gaviota, but swimmers, picnickers, campers and scuba divers come in strong numbers. But it is also a popular boat launching point for surfers who motor in rubber inflatable Zodiac boats farther up the coast.

Scuba divers use the boat launch in equal numbers, and Gaviota Pier draws fishermen. Away from the beach, a trail winds up to 2,500-foot Gaviota Peak (six miles round-trip) for a dramatic view of the coast. Another trail leads to Gaviota Hot Spring, an all-natural sauna for the trail-weary.

Above Point Conception, the small town of Guadalupe, just below the San Luis Obispo County line, is gateway to the area's vast sand dunes that stretch for miles, Point Sal State Beach, and Cecile B. Demille's Lost City.

Don't miss these related pages...

Santa Barbara Introduction Page

Beaches to the City's South

Gaviota, El Capitan and Refugio Beaches and North County

Hotels Near South County Beaches

Hotels Near North County Beaches

Restaurants in South County

Come back soon: We'll be adding beach hours and parking information.

Photos courtesy of the Santa Barbara Conference, Visitors Bureau & Film Commission.

Santa Barbara sailboat

Return to the home page.