Public Beaches In and Around Santa Barbara

We've compiled highlights of public beaches ranging from Malibu to Carpinteria so how about if we stretch the boundaries of that list further west a bit to include some of the popular beaches of Santa Barbara.

The City of Santa Barbara maintains four miles of beaches, including East Beach, West Beach, Leadbetter Beach, Shoreline Park and the Mesa neighborhood. The city offers a number of parking lots along the waterfront. Dogs not allowed on city beaches from East Beach to Leadbetter.

East Beach stretches from Stearns Wharf on the west to roughly across the street from the Santa Barbara Zoo. There are over a dozen volleyball courts, a play area, the full service East Beach Grill and picnic facilities. The Cabrillo Pavilion Bathhouse at 1118 East Cabrillo Boulevard is open M-F from 8am to 5pm and has showers, lockers, a weight room, beach wheelchairs and volleyball rental.

West side of East Beach looking towards Stearns Wharf

West side of East Beach looking towards Stearns Wharf

There's a also a fun bike path stretching from here to West Beach and Leadbetter. Bring your bikes or rent them across the street on Cabrillo Boulevard near State Street. And on Sundays year-round is the Santa Barbara Arts & Crafts Show.

West Beach is located on the west side of Stearns Wharf to the Santa Barbara Harbor. Good for sunbathing, swimming, picnics, kayaking, volleyball and other fun. West Beach is easily accessible and family-friendly, with a wide walkway/bike path. There's also a wading pool, playground and the Los Baños Pool nearby. The beach is adjacent to the Santa Barbara Harbor, where among other things you'll find the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.

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It definitely doesn't suck to be at the beach next to the Santa Barbara Harbor at sunset!

It definitely doesn't suck to be at the beach next to the Santa Barbara Harbor at sunset!

Leadbetter Beach and park is between the Santa Barbara Harbor and Shoreline Park, across from Santa Barbara City College. The area has reservable picnic and barbecue sites, outdoor showers, restrooms and a grassy lawn. Popular for beginning surfers and sailboats, as well as sunbathers and fitness enthusiasts.

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Shoreline Park is a 14.6-acre coastal bluff park west of Leadbetter Beach that has a playground, restrooms, picnic tables, barbeques, a group picnic area, benches and beach access stairs.  The park has sweeping views of the coastline, city, and Santa Ynez Mountains. The Torii Gate at the center of the park takes you to a staircase down the bluff to the beach below, where you'll find a narrow and rocky beach area.

View from Shoreline Park looking east towards Leadbetter Beach

View from Shoreline Park looking east towards Leadbetter Beach

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The Mesa beach area between Shoreline Park on the west and Arroyo Burro Beach is accessible via the Mesa Lane Steps near the corner of Mesa Lane and Edgewater Way. This is a residential area where primarily locals access the relatively narrow and rocky beach area below. About a mile away on the east is another beach access point at the eastern end of Camino Al Mar.

Arroyo Burro Beach is a beach park managed by the County of Santa Barbara. It is also referred to as Hendry's Beach, as the Boathouse at Hendry's Beach is located here at 2981 Cliff Drive. Decent sized parking lot with restaurant serving up moderately priced meals and drinks indoors/outdoors, seven days a week from 7:30am to 9:30pm. Arroyo Burro Beach is a sandy beach, good for surfing, boogie boarding and fishing, with an adjoining park with grassy areas and picnic tables. Restrooms available. From the 101 take Las Positas Road south to Cliff Drive. Turn right and travel 1/2 mile to the park entrance.

Arroyo Burro Beach

Arroyo Burro Beach

Goleta Beach Park is a 29 acre Santa Barbara County park known for its 1,500 foot fishing pier and sunbathing beaches. Great destination for bicyclists on the area's paved trail system. There are also BBQ picnic areas, volleyball, horseshoes and children's playgrounds as well as the Beachside Bar Cafe. Find your way to Sandspit Road and you're there. Learn more at www.countyofsb.org/parks/parks02.aspx?id=7682.

For beachside parks in Isla Vista, including beach access points at Camino Pescadero Park, El Embarcadero, Camino Corto, Escondido Pass and Camino Majorca, visit www.ivparks.org/parks/descriptions.

El Capitan State Beach is located in Goleta, 17 miles west of Santa Barbara, Exit 117 off of Highway 101. south and you'll see the entrance to the park. A great place for camping, hiking, surfing, picnicking and beach walking. There are rocky tidepools and fun hikes galore here. There's also a 132 site campground open year-round with easy walking access to the beach (click here to make reservations). Restrooms and showers are nearby. For those into "glamping" (e.g. luxury camping), nearby El Capitan Canyon offers awesome cabins decked out with bedding, kitchenettes and bathrooms as well as deluxe canvas tents and yurts. Visit www.elcapitancanyon.com for more information. Learn more about El Capitan State Beach at www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=601.

El Capitan State Beach at sundown

El Capitan State Beach at sundown

Tree lined trails in El Capitan State Beach Park

Tree lined trails in El Capitan State Beach Park

Refugio State Beach is located at 10 Refugio Beach Road in Goleta, about 2 1/2 miles west of El Capitan State Beach. Refugio offers great fishing,  trails and picnic sites. Palm trees planted near Refugio Creek give a distinctive look to the beach and camping area. There are 61 campsites available. Visit www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=603 for more information.

Jalama Beach County Park is an hour drive from Santa Barbara and a 45-minute drive from Lompoc at 9999 Jalama Road.  It is maintained by the County of Santa Barbara. Have fun at the beach with surfing, whale watching, fishing, horseshoes, picnic areas and more. There's also a popular camping area with over 100 sites as well as seven cabins available. Visit www.countyofsb.org/parks/parks06.aspx?id=9186 or call 805.736.6316.

Butterfly Beach is on the east side of town in Montecito, accessible off of Channel Drive near, of course, Butterfly Lane, across from the Four Seasons Biltmore. No amenities but nice sand, a few benches and dog access. You'll most likely have to find a parking spot on the street. Mainly geared towards locals. You can catch a beautiful sunset from here.

Butterfly Beach in Montecito

Butterfly Beach in Montecito

Lookout Park is a County of Santa Barbara managed park located on four acres on the cliffs of Summerland. Take the Summerland exit off Highway 101 and turn south into the park. Dogs are allowed on leash at this park. There access to a decent strip of beach, Summerland Beach. Also a small playground, restrooms, picnic areas, BBQ grills and more. Visit www.countyofsb.org/parks/parks02.aspx?id=7946 for more info.

Carpinteria area beaches, including Carpinteria State Beach, Tar Pits Park, Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve and Rincon Beach Park, are highlighted at this link.