When you think of camping, some immediate images come to mind. Grilled trees, hikes and marshmallows. What if some of these images also included white sandy beaches, surfing and tidal pools? Well, at Carpinteria State Beach, you can get all of these things.
If you want to camp on the beach, hunt sand crab and watch harbor seal pups, then Carpinteria State Beach should be your next stop. This campsite is located in the quaint little town of Carpinteria, CA. The weather is mild all year round, making it an ideal place to visit at any time. It is located 12 miles south of beautiful Santa Barbara and offers a unique environment that passes from typical woodland forests to a southern California paradise.
There are four large loops in the campsite which bears the name of the Channel Islands located seventeen miles offshore. With a choice of 200 campsites, you can decide the level of luxury you want. All campsites are at the back only and parallel parking is not allowed. The longest caravan or motorhome allowed is 35 feet, but it depends on the site and not all sites allow vehicles of the same length. Check-in is 2 p.m. and check-out is 12 p.m.
Drain stations are available and although there is no water connection on each site, there are jet showers with hot water, bathrooms and water taps nearby for all your watering needs.
A reservation fee of $ 7.99 is charged on each site. The sites can accommodate up to 8 people, but for each additional vehicle, there is a charge of $ 7 per night. For anyone over 62, you get a reduction of $ 2 per night on the campsite.
Anacapa and Santa Cruz Loop
These campsites do not offer any possibility of connection. These sites are ideal for tent camping, but can also be used for dry camping with trailers or caravans. Many tent campers reside on these sites. The locations for this loop start at $ 45 and can go up to $ 60 per night.
Santa Rosa Loop
Complete connections are available, notably for water, sewers and electricity. Electrical connections are available in 20 and 30 amps. These campsites fill up quickly and cost $ 70 per night.
San Miguel Loop
Only half of these sites offer connections that only include water and electricity. These sites cost between 60 and 70 dollars per night.
If you are hoping to book one of these sites for a week in the summer, be sure to give yourself 6 months as it is a popular campsite. Not all campsites have fireplaces, but they all have a picnic bench.
Since there are not many wild animals, other than seagulls, there are no food lockers and there is no need to lock your food. No bears in these neighborhoods! However, it is recommended to keep food safe. Squirrels and birds are very brave here.
Dogs are not allowed on the state beach. On the campsite, dogs must be kept on a leash for a maximum length of six feet and can never be left unattended. At night, animals must be confined in a tent or a vehicle. Next to the campgrounds is a large open grassy area that many people use to throw the ball and let their dogs roam. However, there is no fence to prevent them from running on the street.
However, a quick drive south for a few kilometers leads you to Rincon Beach Park. It’s an expansive beach with tons of space to let your dog run and run after tennis balls in the ocean. With the steep cliffs behind you, you don’t have to worry about your dog running around the parking lot.
This beach does not have a lot of traffic, which makes it an ideal place if you take your dog with you. Forgot the tennis ball? No problem. There are lots of driftwood to choose from!
For thousands of years, the Chumash Indians have been the only inhabitants of this beautiful region. The Chumash used natural tar which seeps into the sand to seal the water baskets, attach the arrowheads and spears to the wells and repair their canoes. When the explorer Gaspar de Portolá visited the region in 1769, he came across a group of Indians who split driftwood and shaped it to form canoes. The travelers from Gaspar de Portolá named the village La Carpinteria, which means the carpentry workshop.
Canoes were made to reach the islands which were seventeen miles from the coast. They collected resources there and hunted animals that were not available on the continent.
The Spanish and European colonies had devastating effects on the Chumash people. The diseases spread quickly and the settlers were not treated well.
Until now, asphalt mines Natural deposits of tar have infiltrated the surface of coastal cliffs and sand, forming large black mounds that resemble large rocks. The locals used the soaking black tar for various purposes. One of them is the construction of the first paved roads in Santa Barbara County.
As a child, I grew up in Carpinteria. Our summers were filled with games at the beach, swimming on the docks and games in the tide pools. Beach activities are endless, there are hiking and biking trails, fishing, and dining. So much to eat.
The seal hunt
During the months of December to May, the seal colony is filled with newborn harbor seals and is closed to the public. During this period, hundreds of harbor seals congregate to give birth and feed. You can admire this spectacular view from the top of the cliffs overlooking the ocean and the colony. Bring your binoculars for close-up action!
You can cycle or hike on the Coastal Vista Trail which will take you to the sanctuary. The trail stretches for several kilometers along the cliffs. The views are breathtaking and offer superb views to admire the Channel Islands on a clear day. The Carpinteria Harbor Seal Preserve is one of only four remaining harbor seal colonies off the southern California coast.
At low tide, the rock formations are exposed and allow people to explore the tidal pools. In the basin, you will see starfish, mussels, crabs, anemones and, on occasion, octopuses. If you’re lucky, you’ll see California sea lions and harbor seals feeding and playing in the waves or lounging on nearby rocks.
Sometimes you can see common dolphins swimming alongside surfers at Rincon Beach. Between December and mid-May, gray whales migrate from their breeding areas off the coast of Baja California, where the water is warmer for their newborn babies.
Kelp forests are abundant in these waters and we often find seaweed washed ashore. If you’re feeling adventurous, sift through the crampon of kelp, which is the root part of the body. There you will find all kinds of interesting creatures, including kelp crabs and brittle stars.
Carpinteria State Beach is considered one of the safest beaches due to the protection of the Channel Islands and the offshore reef. The tide is fairly gentle and remains shallow for a good outing. The beach is made up of fine sand but be tired of the drift of the wood if you are barefoot.
Boogie boarding or body surfing are encouraged and very fun. I recently returned to my small hometown and decided to get my toes wet in the sand. This quickly led me to go all the way in the water with my shorts and my shirt. I redoed body surfing as if I were a child. It was the most invigorating feeling I had felt in a long time. Swimming at sea is not just for children!
During the summer months, the city sets up floating docks about 100 meters from the shore. You can swim to these docks, but they are usually covered in bird droppings. Anyway, when we were children, we swam to them and we stayed there for hours.
Tomol’s interpretive play area was built in 2011 and allows children and adults to learn more about the history of the Carpinteria and the native species of the region. The play area represents a Chumash village that once existed on the Channel Islands and the mammals that inhabit the ocean. Concrete replicas of the built huts in which the Chumash lived were located on the “shore” next to a Tomol which is a traditional plank boat or canoe.
A bald eagle is perched in its nest and teaches children the materials used to make their nest. The park has rocks on which you can see cave paintings and tactile sea creatures that reside in tidal pools that children can touch. There are also concrete statues representing a harbor seal and a sea lion to show the differences between the two species.
The park is quite large and is a short walk from the campgrounds. It is right next to the island’s brewery, allowing you to sit on the patio and watch your kids while having fun.
Carpinteria State Beach offers a Junior Rangers program designed for children ages seven to twelve. Children receive a logbook which is stamped each day they participate in the program. As part of this program, they learn about the safety of the oceans, animals and the environment.
Wherever you go in Carpinteria, you are one kilometer on foot from where you need to be, if not shorter. Downtown Linden Avenue is a quarter of a mile away, with more than twenty restaurants. All are within walking distance of the campgrounds.
If you don’t like the sand between your toes, downtown is one block from the campsites. Explore the pretty antique shops, have a beer at the island brewery or eat in the famous hamburger restaurant – The Spot.
If you love Mexican cuisine, there is no shortage in Carpinteria! Tacos to Go offers the best burritos for breakfast in town, Reynaldo’s Mexican bakery, Senior Frogs and Oaxaca Fresh never fail to deliver exceptional food. And these are just the Mexican restaurants on Linden Avenue …
Do you feel more exotic? Siam Elephant offers a delicious range of Thai cuisine and is ranked third best restaurant in Carpinteria. They offer a year-round pumpkin curry that is absolutely to die for and a pineapple fried rice that will change your world.
Do you want good wines and cheeses during your camping stay? Corktree Cellars offers an exceptional menu with nine different cheese platters. With twenty kinds of wine, there is something for everyone. They also offer a traditional menu.
But if you prefer a beer, Carpinteria has two local breweries. The Rincon brewery and the island brewery. You can see the island’s brewery from the campsites. They have wide open doors that allow you to see the railroad tracks through the field of grass to the edge of the ocean. The fresh ocean air combined with delicious food and beer will surely warm your heart. Don’t forget to taste the phenomenal avocado beer!
Fun fact: the Carpinteria hosts an avocado festival every year during the first weekend in October. The small town has about 13,000 inhabitants, but during this weekend, the city welcomes more than 100,000 people. If you’re in town in October, don’t miss the avocado festival where you can taste avocado ice cream, listen to live music and try out a variety of guacamole that the competitors bring to be judged.
Whatever your choice of food, Carpinteria will provide it for you, and all that at a short distance. Forgot to take marshmallows? No problem, the local supermarket is half a mile away.
You haven’t brought your camping bike? No problem. There is a bicycle rental a 16-minute walk away. All hiking trails are also suitable for bikes. As it is a beach town, you will see tons of beach cruisers and even skateboarders in the town.
If you are looking for a challenge, try the Franklin Trail. It is also a hiking trail, but I have seen cyclists and riders on this trail. Before the Thomas fire in December 2017, the buttresses were covered with chaparral. After having recently climbed the trail myself, the devastation is unreal. However, since there are fewer shrubs, the view of the ocean and the islands is less obstructed. There is also a lot of regrowth. The side of the mountain slowly turns green again.
The trail begins at the local high school and takes you past avocado orchards and greenhouses before you really “start” the trail and end up in the wilderness. The trail currently has two phases and the Franklin Trail project is working on opening the third phase.
Keep in mind that this trail is not a loop and that it goes straight up with many changes of direction and peaks at 1,703 feet. It is 5.2 miles up and 5.2 miles down. Bring lots of water, snacks and sunscreen!
Hikers can go back and forth along the coast and enjoy picturesque views of the ocean. Heading southeast, hikers pass through Jellybowl, Tar Pits Park, the oil company pier and finally the Carpinteria Harbor Seal Preserve. At the colony, you must turn inland so as not to disturb the seals if it is during the birth season.
You can return to the beach beyond the reserve and continue to Rincon Point, which is a 3-mile one-way adventure. Another option is to turn inland, cross the train tracks and pass through the Carpinteria Bluffs nature reserve.
However, if you prefer a guided tour, volunteers at Carpinteria State Beach organize nature walks and bird watching walks once a month on Saturdays. The walks start at the visitor center around 8:30 am and last about two hours. If you don’t have your own binoculars for bird watching, volunteers have several to lend you.
Kayak and paddleboard
Because of the offshore reef that makes the waves break away from the shore, the water is fairly gentle. Exploring the kelp forest by kayak or paddle board is a great way to see these underwater forests. You can rent equipment at the Boathouse for 15 dollars an hour from 12 years old and 10 dollars an hour for children under 12 years old. Rental includes a paddle, life jacket and helmet.
In conclusion, Carpinteria State Beach is a small town with lots of things to do and explore. Take a few days to enjoy this adorable place and discover all it has to offer. This unique city will certainly delight you. You will not be disappointed with your seaside camping experience