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Santa Barbara Beach Camping

Feast your senses castaway-style!

In the slide show above, you're viewing pictures of Santa Barbara-area beach campgrounds. The Santa Barbara coastal campgrounds are quite popular...and rightly so; this area is teeming with abundant natural beauty!

Santa Barbara beach camping is ultra-scenic

Choose from several lovely state campgrounds dotting the coastline!

View Santa Barbara Camping in a larger map

Photo of a camping space at Refugio State Beach near Santa Barbara, California Santa Barbara County is a spectacular location to go camping on the beach. You'll find 4 California State Parks which feature beach camping in this area. Another interesting camping possibility is a shiny new private camping ground high on the bluffs with a terrific Pacific Ocean view.

The weather is mild enough that you'll be able to camp year round at the Santa Barbara beaches. (Yes, it can get quite chilly during winter nights, but there's never any snow in this area.) The palms are green, the sand is golden, and the ocean is a magnificent azure blue. You'll be able to relax and feast your eyes on nature's beauty as your ears enjoy the sounds of the surf breaking in the distance and rolling up onto the clean, wide beaches.

On this page, you'll discover the information you'll need to plan your camping vacation to the beaches near Santa Barbara, California, including contact information for the campgrounds and maps for finding exactly where you need to go. And, in the Google Custom Map above, you can see the locations of the campgrounds mentioned on this page to help you find their locations.

Santa Barbara oceanfront camping at 4 state beaches--

1.) Refugio State Beach Campground

Photo of a camping space at Refugio State Beach near Santa Barbara, California You'll find 4 state beaches in Santa Barbara County which offer camping. These are (from south to north): Carpinteria State Beach, El Capitan State Beach, Refugio State Beach, and Gaviota State Beach.

Each campground is similar to the others in many ways. For example, they all accept both tents and RV's. They all offer individual parking at the campsites, and each camping spot has its own picnic table and BBQ grill.

Yet, each Santa Barbara state campground has its own characteristics, as well. In this section section of the page, we'll be talking about the camping facilities at Refugio State Park.

As you can tell from the photo to your left, Refugio State Beach has some of the "closest to the sands" camping spots of any California State Park that you'll encounter!

Before you begin to get excited about camping at the gorgeous Refugio State Beach campgrounds, you must realize that the campground fills up very quickly during the summer vacation months. If you do decide that you'd like to camp at Refugio State Beach, be sure to make your reservations as far in advance as possible for popular vacation periods.

This state campground takes reservations through the Reserve California system. You can find out for yourself if the date you want to camp at Refugio is available by clicking on the link to Refugio State Beach official website at the end of this section. From the official website, you can link directly to the Refugio campground page of the Reserve California website.

Photo of Refugio State Beach near Santa Barbara, California Refugio State Beach welcomes people camping in both tents and RV's. However, there is a maximum length of 30 ft long for motor homes and 27 ft long for trailers. RV campers should note that there are no hook-ups at Refugio State Beach. Most of the sites are back-in style, but a few pull-through campsites are available.

Most camping spots are near or underneath some type of shade tree, however some camping sites sit in a lawn-type area. There's a maximum of 8 persons and 3 vehicles per campsite.

Amenities include bathrooms with flush toilets (some bathroom buildings are newer than others), running water for drinking and showering off the sand, a small children's play area and a basketball court. Cyclists and joggers will be happy to know that there's a bike path leading from Refugio State Beach to the nearby El Capitan State Beach. There is a camp store on-site, though it's only open during the busy vacation season. There is 24 hour security (park ranger) at Refugio State Park. Group campsites are available.

Photo of the Refugio State Beach restrooms The Refugio State Beach phone number is 805-968-1033.

The Refugio State Beach address is: 10 Refugio Beach Road, Goleta CA 93117. Directions: Refugio State Beach is easy to find; simply head west from Santa Barbara on the US 101 Freeway to Exit 120. You'll reach the campground at Refugio SB in about 20 miles; you will see signs pointing the way as you draw near.

Refugio State Beach Map: You may use the following link to view a Google map to the Refugio Beach campground.

Refugio Campground Map: Before making reservations, you may wish to see an overview of the get an idea of the layout. Here's the link to a PDF map of the Refugio SB campground from the California State Parks website.

Refugio Campground Reservations: For making reservations, you'll want to view the Reserve California website. (You'll need to type in "Refugio SB" and your proposed camping dates once you arrive on Home Page.) While you're selecting a good-looking campsite from the site's map of Refugio SB, why not make your camping reservations, at the same time? Don't forget: this campground fills to capacity nearly every day of the busy summer vacation season! Those campgrounds on the first row by the beach fill up even faster than the rest of the campground. (Note: Refugio State Beach, like the other California state campgrounds, no longer uses the Reserve California website for its reservations.)

Refugio State Beach camping prices: Camping fees at Refugio SB are $35 to $50 year-round. There is no longer an off-season discount. That was eliminated due to the California budget problems.

If you would like to learn more about this delightful California State Park, you may use the following link to access the Refugio SB campground page of the California State Parks website.

Other Santa Barbara State Beach Camping

Photo of the attractive scene at Refugio State Beach near Santa Barbara, California

As mentioned in the introduction to this page, there are 4 state beaches with campgrounds in the immediate areas surrounding Santa Barbara, California. Each one features similar-looking campsites, yet each state beach has its own different "personality." (Please see the slide show at the top of this page to view the different types of scenery each campground has to offer.)

All 4 state beaches are open for campers during the summer tourist season; every wintertime, one or more of the beaches will be closed for off-season maintenance work. You've already discovered information about Refugio State Beach in the section above. Now, here's info about the other 3 Santa Barbara County state campgrounds:


El Capitan State Beach is a popular campsite for RVers because the park offers allows a longer vehicle length than does Refugio. (At El Capitan, your RV or trailer can be up to 42 feet long.) There are both back-in and pull-through styles of RV campsites at El Capitan campground. However, if you have a long RV you should note that while MOST of the campsites at El Capitan can accommodate a 35 foot rig, only a few of the campsites can fit a 42 footer. Thus, if you have a motorhome over the 35 foot length, you'll need to make your reservations even earlier than normal.

Unlike Refugio State Beach, the camping sites are not at beach-level, but sit up high on a bluff, instead. El Capitan's tree-filled camping area feels more "woodsy;" in fact, some visitors feel that at El Capitan they get the "best of both worlds." That is, they get to enjoy both a mountain AND a beach vacation in one trip! (You may easily drive or walk down to the beach from the campsite area.)

The El Capitan State Beach phone number is 805-968-1033. Directions to El Capitan State Beach and camping ground: Head west from Santa Barbara for approximately 17 miles. Signs will direct your way once you get close.

Map to El Capitan State Beach: Here's a Google map to the El Capitan SB campground. As you can tell by this map, you will be taking US Hwy 101, you should take Exit 117.

El Capitan camping reservations and campground map: Here's the link to a PDF map of the El Capitan SB campground from the California State Parks website. You can also view an interactive map of the campsites at the Reserve California website. Type into the searchbox: "El Capitan SB" and your planned camping dates. Then, you'll get to see a map & current listing of availabilities. You may make reservations while you're on this site...or at least return to reserve your site as soon as possible ahead of time. And if you'll be camping during the summer vacation season, you'll need to reserve even sooner than you would if you were camping in the off-season.

El Capitan State Beach website: To learn more about this beautiful beach and campground, you may follow the upcoming link to view the El Capitan SB page of the California State Parks website.


Camping at Gaviota State Park is popular with sportsmen because of its boat hoist and its fishing pier...the only one of the Santa Barbara-area state beaches which can make such a claim.

Campsites: RV'ers should note that the length-limit for motorhomes is only 27 feet (and for trailers, only 25 feet.)

Gaviota State Park uses the same phone number (805-968-1033) as does El Capitan State Beach. Directions to Gaviota State Park: Head west approximately 33 miles from Santa Barbara on US Hwy 101; you'll enjoy a scenic drive with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean on your way to the park.

Map to Gaviota State Park: Here's a Google map to the Gaviota SP entrance. As you can see, you'll start to veer inland away from the beach before you reach the campground's entrance drive. Then you'll head back towards the ocean once you're inside the park.

Gaviota camping reservations and campground map: If you'd like to view a campground map of Gaviota State Park before making your reservations, here's a link to a PDF map of the Gaviota campground from the California State Parks website. When you're ready to make your reservations, you'll need to go to the Reserve California website. Type into the searchbox: "Gaviota SP" and your planned camping dates. (Notice that you'll need to type SP, not SB. Even though Gaviota has a beach, it's actual title is State Park, not State Beach.) Then, you'll be shown a campground map that's interactive. You can choose your campground from the GREEN spaces. Campsites marked in RED have already been reserved.

Gaviota State Park website: For further information, you may use the next link to visit the Gaviota SP page of the California State Parks website.


Good news---Carpinteria State Beach now has its own campground page on our website! If you'd like to see pictures of scenic Carpinteria SB, including a photo slide show of both the beach and the camping areas of the park, please visit the Carpinteria Beach Camping Pictures page of this website. You'll also find maps of Carpinteria State Beach, contact information and other practical details for planning your campout at this lovely oceanfront suburban campground.

Santa Barbara Beach Camping--Ocean Mesa Campground

This private campground features stunning ocean views from its hillside location

Photo of the ocean view from the Ocean Mesa Campground just north of Santa Barbara, California It's wonderful that Santa Barbara's 4 state campgrounds are so lovely...BUT, this very fact means that they are the favorite camping spots for many families! While you won't have trouble finding a camping spot in them during the "off season," it's really difficult to get into the public beach campsites during the busy summer vacation season.

In fact, every summer, most camping spots are pre-reserved at the state beaches---leaving many would-be camping enthusiasts without a spot. The more expensive private campgrounds are more likely to have a last-minute opening. Therefore, we'll start this page by talking about a Santa Barbara beach private camping ground which overlooks the ocean...a good choice when the private campgrounds fill up in the summer!

The Ocean Mesa Campground opened in October, 2006. Therefore, it's still relatively new, and it's kept sparkling clean. The landscaping is attractive and this campground's Pacific Ocean views are absolutely spectacular.

Photo of a tent camping space at the Ocean Mesa Campground just north of Santa Barbara, California

As you can see in the photo to your right, tent camping spots are available at the Ocean Mesa campground.

There are 20 tent camping spaces at Ocean Mesa. Each tent camp site has its own picnic table and fire pit. (Wood is available for purchase at the Camp Store.) The sites aren't very private, but they do have a good ocean view.

Camping rates for tents are $55 to $70/night per space (as of 2019,) depending on the season you'll be staying there. Reservations are not really necessary during the off-season, but are highly recommended during the summertime. (Note: The price varies because slow-season camping fees are lower from December through March each year.)

Your camping fee allows you to have up to 6 persons at your site. Naturally, your fee also allows you to enjoy the park's amenities, including the pool, spa, shower buildings, etc.

Photo of an RV camping space at the Ocean Mesa Campground in Santa Barbara County, California In the image to your left, you see some typical RV campsites at the Ocean Mesa Campground. Since the camping area is built on a hill, the RV campsites are terraced. This is the view of the Pacific Ocean that you'll see from one of the RV camp sites on the lower tiers; the view from higher up is even more spectacular.

There are 80 camping sites at Ocean View which feature full hook-ups for RV's, camping vans, pop-up campers, etc. Hookups feature 30 and 50-amp service. A very good feature of this up-to-date campground is that it was built with modern RV's in mind; each camping site is wide enough to accommodate slide-outs on BOTH sides of the RV at the same time.

There are different styles of RV camping sites at Ocean Mesa, depending on what type of camper you are using. There are 30 back-in/pull-in sites for camping vehicles up to 35 feet in length. There are 18 pull-in sites and 32 pull-through RV sites for vehicles up to 50 feet in length.

RV camping spaces during the cost $95 to $125 per night (as of this update in 2019), with fees being lowest in the winter and highest in the summer. Each site will will accommodate up to 6 people and a pet. Reservations are highly recommended during the summer vacation months. During the fall, winter and spring, you may wish to make reservations for weekend and holiday camping, but you probably won't have difficulty finding a last-minute camping spot on weekdays during these months.

Photo of the camp store, laundry and shower buildings at the Ocean Mesa Campground in Santa Barbara, California

Amenities at the Ocean Mesa Campground include the lovely camp store, laundry and bathroom/shower buildings that you see in this picture to your right. There is also a pool and hot tub (spa) nestled among this cluster.

There are both men's and women's shower and bathroom buildings which were sparkling clean on the day of my visit. There were about a half dozen individual shower stalls (with curtains) in the women's room, as well as an equal number of sinks. "Real" mirrors were above the sinks; no polished steel at this resort! There are also private family shower rooms which contain only one shower in each room, which would be great for parents trying to bathe the entire brood at once.

Other amenities are available at the Ocean Mesa Campground because of the fact that it's a part of the El Capitan Canyon resort. (El Capitan Canyon offers both cabins and luxury tent accommodations at their facility just south of the camping grounds.) El Capitan Canyon offers docent-led walks, an even-larger grocery & supply store, and a summer concert series---all of which are open for campground guests to use & attend free of charge!

Ocean Mesa hiking fun: If you're interested in hiking, the Bill Wallace Trailhead (which leads up into the hills) begins from the campground. Also, you'll find a trail which leads from the campground to the beach.

The Ocean Mesa Campground phone number is 805/879-5751. Ocean Mesa's toll-free telephone number is 866/410-5783. The Ocean Mesa Campground address is: 100 El Capitan Terrace Lane, Santa Barbara, CA 93117.

If you'd like further information about the campground itself, you may use the following link to view the Ocean Mesa Campground official website.

Or, if you'd like to learn more about the El Capitan Canyon resort's cabins or amenities, you may follow the upcoming link to see the El Capitan Canyon resort's official website.

Other good camping near Santa Barbara

Picture: Beachside RV campsite at Carpinteria State BeachLovely campgrounds abound within a short drive of Santa Barbara which would make great places to stay if you're taking a California Coast road trip. Here are some ideas:

  • Carpinteria State Beach campground

  • Morro Bay State Park campground

  • The Pismo Beach State Park's Oceano campground

  • The San Simeon state park campgrounds ::

  • Ventura's McGrath State Beach campground

  • Big Sur Campgrounds If you're headed northwards along California's Central Coast, you may also wish to find some interesting things to do along your route. If so, then perhaps our Central California Coast Road Trip Ideas page can help you find attractions that you'd like to explore along your way.

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