Palm Ave., Carpinteria, CA
12 miles south of Santa Barbara
Exit Hwy. 101 at Casitas Pass Rd.
Day Use per vehicle: $10
Park Hours: 7:00 AM to sunset
Carpinteria Beach is popular with families and swimmers because the gentle slope of the ocean floor makes it one of the safest beaches on the California coast. Visitors enjoy sunbathing, exploring the coast line and tide pools, camping, and surfing.
Located at the site of an early Chumash Indian village, Carpinteria State Beach has woven the Native American history into the fabric of the state beach with interpretive programs, information signs, the Tomol Interpretive Play Area, and the visitor center exhibits. The tar found along the beach was used by the Chumash to seal their canoes. The villagers living at the mouth of Carpinteria Creek were admired for their skill at building canoes.
Observant visitors to Carpinteria State Beach will find wildlife in several different habitats. Carpinteria Creek and its tidal lagoon are home to a variety of birds and small animals. Among the birds you may spot there are marsh wrens, great blue herons, and ducks. Out along the beach watch for shore birds, from gulls to California brown pelicans. The Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve, a short distance to the northwest, offers even more great opportunities for birding. Access is limited, however, so check their website for information.
The tide pools are home to a myriad of sea creatures, including sea stars, anemones, crabs, snails, chitons, octopi, sea urchins, and periwinkles.
By following hiking along the Coastal Vista Trail to the east, visitors reach the Harbor Seal Preserve. It is located beyond the Chevron Oil Pier. The beach is closed during the birthing season from December 1 through May 31, but seals can be seen basking in the sun there year-round from nearby observation points. Bring binoculars for a close up view.
You will likely encounter a member of Seal Watch, volunteers who keep watch on the seals to protect them from any intrusion that might disturb them. The harbor seal colony is protected by law. Care should be taken not to disturb them in any manner, including making loud noises or approaching past the warning signs.
Tar Pits Park is located southeast of Carpinteria State Beach, before the oil company pier. There are no facilities at the 8-acre park except a few benches and hiking trails. Signs of the underground asphalt lakes are evident as the tars leak up through fissures in the earth. The area was once an open asphalt mine.
Rincon Point is one of the most popular surfing spots in California. Located 2½ miles southeast of Carpinteria Beach, Rincon Point marks the dividing line between Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. On the Santa Barbara County side of the line is Rincon Beach County Park.
The park features a mile-long sandy beach, parking, picnic tables, restrooms, and a ramp or stairway leading down to the beach. To reach the park take Bates Road off Highway 101. The park is open from 8:00 AM to sunset.
Work on improvements at Carpinteria State Beach began in the fall 2014 and will continue through the spring of 2015. The impact will be minimal on visitors during this time.
Project elements include a children's outdoor learning center, amphitheater, boardwalk and viewing areas; as well as native plant and bluff restoration. The new features, including the beach boardwalk and visitor center, will be ADA compliant to provide a truly enriched experience that is accessible to everybody.
Jellybowl Vista Point is at the southeastern end of the state beach. A parking lot just beyond the San Miguel Campground makes a convenient starting point for the short walk to the point. Overlooks there offer nice views of a tranquil cove, the ocean, and the Channel Islands. Surf fishermen often gather there to try their luck.
In the northwest corner of Carpinteria State Beach is the Tomol Interpretive Play Area. The play area features a replica Chumash Village where children can climb, play, and explore while at the same time learning about life in an early Chumash community. Among the items in the play area are Chumash huts, Rainbow Bridge, and life-size animal statues.
The play area was the result of years of work by the Rotary Club of Carpinteria Morning, the City of Carpinteria, California State Parks, and the local community.
At the foot of Ash Avenue is Carpinteria City Beach, 500 yards of ocean front with a safe swimming beach, lifeguards, and restrooms. The beach connects with Carpinteria State Beach. Behind the city beach, north of Ash Avenue, spreads the Carpinteria Bluffs Public Open Space. It contains 53 acres of natural preserve with trails and great views of the ocean.
The AMTRAK station in Carpinteria is located at 475 Linden Avenue, at the northwestern corner of the State Beach property. There are no services at the station other than a platform shelter and a Quik-Trak Kiosk.
The Metropolitan Transit District's Carpinteria Express Bus 21x connects the Transit Center in Santa Barbara and several other in-between stops with Carpinteria stops at Carpinteria and 7th, Carpinteria and Palm (walking distance from beach), and on Mark Avenue. Buses leave regularly throughout the day.
California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly." Learn more about ocean safety at CA State Parks: Ocean Safety