Carpinteria State Beach is consistently voted one of the best campgrounds in the United States, and is one of my favorite beaches in Santa Barbara County. You're likely to see dolphins, sea lions and whales swimming just offshore all year long.
Carpinteria City Beach continues westward beyond the State Beach. Together these two Southern California beaches stretch for 5 miles! Even when it's crowded here, there's plenty of beach for everyone.
The ocean here is perfect for all types of water sports. An offshore reef minimizes high waves and rip tides. At low tide, the exposed rocky shore near Carpinteria Creek is great for tidepooling, too.
Take a virtual trip to Carpinteria Beach by visiting this webcam.
At Linden Avenue, the State Park meets Carpinteria City Beach. The beach is most crowded here. Don't miss the cute little Beach Store at Linden Avenue & Sandyland Road.
LOCAL SECRET: There are a few tiny beachfront parking lots along Sandyland Road. One is at the end of Linden Avenue, in front of the Beach Store.
You will find a few others if you drive down Sandyland Road. Look where the streets meet the sand.
These free parking lots are almost always full, but you might get lucky and find an empty space. You may also park along the neighborhood streets near Carpinteria City Beach.
Free parking fills up quickly, so come early to enjoy the beach for free. Otherwise, there's a $10 Day Use fee to enter the State Beach. If you must pay for parking, here's a great tip for you...
Find out the current status of this park by calling 805-968-1033.
The Carpinteria Tar Seeps appear as big black rocks along the beach. This natural phenomenon is similar to La Brea Tar Pits, not oil pollution as some mistakenly think.
Chumash Indians used this natural tar to seal their cookware and tomols. This tar was also used in the early construction of many California roads, too.
Sometimes there is tar in the sand. If tar sticks to your shoes or the bottom of your feet, use baby oil or vegetable oil to dissolve it.
If you want to go camping, reserve your campsite at Carpinteria State Beach as early as 6 months in advance. This campground is very popular and fills up quickly.
Peak season is March through November. Non-peak season is December through February. There are special holiday rates and a Senior Citizen's Discount to people 62 years of age and older. Download this handy list of California State Parks Camping Fees.
Don't want to camp in a tent? Why not rent an RV?
There is only one permitted business for delivery of RVs in this state park. That is 101 RV Rental. They will deliver, set-up and retrieve your rented RV. Contact them at 877-392-2674 for carefree RV rental.
One of the best things about camping at Carpinteria State Beach is having complete access to all the amenities of civilization within walking distance.
Carpinteria California's cute business district is less than a half mile away. With shops, restaurants and theaters nearby, you can take a break from "roughing it" whenever you want.
There's even an electric Seaside Shuttle from the waterfront to town if you don't feel like walking! Download a Seaside Shuttle Map & Schedule.
The Coastal Vista Trail is not to be missed! This is an easy, level trail for hikers & bicyclists of all skill levels.
You'll have an excellent view of marine wildlife along the way. The large island in the distance is Santa Cruz Island.
Pack a picnic for Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve or plan to stop at Carpinteria's famous hot dog stand for lunch.
The Coastal Vista Trail begins at Linden Avenue in Carpinteria. It runs through the State Park along the Carpinteria Bluffs to Bailard Avenue.
Continue east past Casitas Pier and you'll find Carpinteria's Harbor Seal Rookery.
East of the rookery there is a beach access path. At low tide, you can walk from here all the way along the beach to Rincon Beach County Park.
Before you cross the railroad tracks, the bluff-top trail splits. Both paths run parallel to the tracks.
The right fork on the ocean side of the tracks is very narrow and precipitous. I'm not sure how far this path goes.
I am sure, though, that the ocean view from there must be magnificent!
The left fork goes inland over the railroad tracks, through Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve to the Bailard Avenue parking lot and Billy Connell's hot dog stand.
There is a remote Day-Use parking lot at the far southeast end of Carpinteria State Beach. They call this the Jelly Bowl area. Download this map to find it.
Very few Day-Users venture this far into Carpinteria State Beach. Even on a crowded day, this parking lot wasn't full. And the beach felt practically deserted.
Jelly Bowl Beach is a local's favorite kind of place. Pack a picnic lunch or something to grill. There are
bathroom facilities here, but no general store. So bring everything you'll need for the day.
Tar Pits Park is accessible only from the Coastal Vista Trail. This aerial shot gives you an idea of what Tar Pits Park is like. You can clearly see what looks to be an asphalt pit.
This short film about Tar Pits Park is very informative about the history of this area. The natural tar found here has been pivotal to Californians for generations.
Carpinteria Seal Sanctuary is east of the Casitas oil pier on the Coastal Vista Trail. The rookery is an easy hike from the parking lot at Bailard Avenue.
This rookery has been used by the same colony of seals for more than 100 years. These Harbor Seals probably live and feed within a day's swim of this rookery.
Harbor Seals can live to be more than 40 years old! They generally return to the same haul-out area year after year.
Pregnant mothers come ashore to give birth in December. Though some births are earlier or later, most seal pups are born in February and March.
Public access to the rookery beach is prohibited from December through May. In late February, there are lots of pups on the beach in addition to many pregnant females.
If you're persistent, you may be lucky enough to witness the birth of a new pup. Bring binoculars to get a closer look...
The Carpinteria rookery is one of four remaining rookeries on the Southern California coast. The only other publicly available rookery in Southern California is Casa Beach rookery in La Jolla.
To visit Carpinteria Seal Rookery, take Exit 85 - Bailard Avenue from US Hwy 101. Go south toward the ocean and park in the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve parking lot. Follow the trail along the coast. Signs indicate the rookery lookout just before you reach the oil pier.
Billy Connell sold hot dogs on the ocean side of the freeway at Bailard and Carpenteria Avenues from 1993 to 2016. Visiting Surf Dog hot dog stand was a habit for many locals and tourists alike. Billy passed away unexpectedly in February 2016. He was truly a patriotic hero and will be sorely missed.
For $5 you got a hot dog with all the fixin's, soda, chips and some Red Vine candy. And here, you never paid sales tax!
Billy was a Veteran (thanks for your service, Billy!). So his vending business qualified for a Veteran's exemption from sales tax.
The California State Board of Equalization tried to deny Billy his rightful exemption. After many legal confrontations with the state, our Hot Dog Man prevailed!
Billy was an interesting guy and had a great outlook on life. He said, "You miss 100% of the chances you don't take." Isn't that the truth? Watch this short video for more wisdom from the Hot Dog Man.
Billy lived in this area for over 20 years. You were sure to learn something new about Santa Barbara County every time you visited.
No doubt I'll catch myself looking for the Surf Dog cart at Bailard Avenue & 101 for years to come.
Carpinteria State Park is off US 101, twelve miles south of Santa Barbara, California. From US 101, take Exit 86 - Casitas Pass. Look for McDonald's golden arches.
Go south (toward the ocean) to Carpenteria Avenue and turn right. Make the next left on Palm Avenue, follow Palm 3 blocks to the park's entrance.
You will have a great time at Carpinteria State Beach. Whether visiting just for the day or camping overnight, there is plenty to keep you busy. Bring sunscreen & have fun!