My #sbbeaches2018 Challenge: Visit All Santa Barbara County Public Beaches In One Year!


At the end of 2017, I read The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau. The author made some good points about the value of setting yourself some personal challenges. As the title explains, there is happiness in the pursuit of a goal. Since it was the end of 2017 and 2018 was upon us, I figured it was the perfect time to start a challenge of my own. But what?


Then a conversation with a friend reminded me of a frequent point of frustration for me. He was talking about playing with his kids in the tide pools at Devereux Beach and he was surprised to learn I had never heard of that beach. Despite having lived in Santa Barbara since 2005 and spending so much of those years at various beaches around town, I was still often hearing about some beach or another that I was unfamiliar with. How many beaches can one town have?!

It turns out, a lot! I did some research and found a great website called California Beaches, which lists all beaches by county and city. I took the list of all beaches (around 60, if I recall correctly) and eliminated a few based on accessibility. Some are only accessible by boat, some via dangerous hikes, others are well protected by private land owners. This left me with a list of 49 accessible, public beaches.


This sparked the perfect challenge for me: visiting all of them in one year.

Setbacks & complications

Unfortunately, Mother Nature wasn’t totally on my side. After the large Thomas fire in late 2017, Santa Barbara suffered torrential rains in early 2018 with catastrophic results. Homes and lives were lost, and both the community and the environment suffered greatly.

Not only did the immediate debris flow wash downhill to the ocean, but the following emergency clean up dumped tons and tons of mud directly at Goleta Beach and Carpinteria City Beach. This caused most of the beaches of Santa Barbara county to close for weeks due to unsafe levels of bacterial contamination—some beaches were even closed for multiple months.

Add to that the complication that multiple beaches close from March to October due to the nesting period of the threatened Snow Plover, my challenge had some challenges of its own.

Nevertheless, beaches were cleaned up, snow plovers nested, and the community is slowly healing. Meanwhile, I continued toward my goal as best I could and caught up to my list in the nick of time.


The Rules

I gave myself some loose rules to follow. I didn’t want to just visit every beach, but also learn how to get to each beach and the nearest place to park. For example, I did not count a beach unless I actually drove up to its nearest access point. For example, if I parked at Butterfly Beach and walked east all the way to Hammonds Beach and back, I did not count Hammonds during that trip. I only counted Hammonds once I had figured out the best/nearest place to access it directly. Maybe that sounds finicky, but my goal was that if someone said “how do I go to Hammonds Beach?” or “hey, let’s meet at Hammonds Beach!” I wouldn’t be stuck thinking/saying “the only way I know how to get there is parking at Butterfly Beach and walking 1 hour east at low-tide.” Makes sense, right?

Best Tools of the Trade

Do yourself a favor and download the NOAA Buoy and Tide Data app. If you’re a Santa Barbara resident, this is a must! Since a majority of Santa Barbara’s coastline consists of cliffs, many (if not most) beaches are only available at low tide. Don’t get caught driving/biking all the way there just to find out it’s currently high tide and the beach you wanted to visit is one foot underwater! I’ve gotten into the habit of checking the tides every morning (like the weather). If I notice a particularly low tide at a convenient time (usually around the full moon), I’ll make sure to plan a tide pool visit that day!

So, without further ado, here’s the list of all 49 beaches in the order I visited them.


Beaches 1 to 10

Haskell’s Beach at Bacara Resort (Goleta), Goleta Beach Park (Goleta), Gaviota State Park Beach (Goleta), Mesa Lane Beach (Santa Barbara), Arroyo Burro Beach (Santa Barbara), Devereux Beach (Isla Vista), Ellwood Beach (Goleta), Summerland Beach at Lookout Park (Summerland), Thousand Steps Beach (Santa Barbara), Shoreline Park Beach (Santa Barbara).

Beaches 11 to 20

El Capitan State Beach (Goleta), Refugio State Beach (Goleta), Santa Barbara Harbor Beach a.k.a. Sandspit (Santa Barbara), Campus Point Beach (Isla Vista), Loon Point Beach (Summerland), Jalama Beach County Park (Lompoc), Sands Beach (Isla Vista), Butterfly Beach (Montecito), Leadbetter Beach (Santa Barbara), East Beach (Santa Barbara).

Beaches 21 to 30

Carpinteria State Beach (Carpinteria), West Beach (Santa Barbara), Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve (Guadalupe), Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge (Guadalupe), Camino Pescadero Park Beach Access (Isla Vista), El Embarcadero Beach Access (Isla Vista), Camino Del Sur Beach Access (Isla Vista), Depressions Beach (Isla Vista), Ocean Beach Park (Lompoc), Surf Beach at Vandenberg AFB (Lompoc).

Beaches 31 to 40

Camino Majorca Beach Access (Isla Vista), More Mesa Beach (Santa Barbara), Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve (Carpinteria), Carpinteria Seal Sanctuary (Carpinteria), Arroyo Hondo Beach (Goleta), Tajiguas Beach (Goleta), Arroyo Quemada Beach (Goleta), Vista Del Mar Beach (Goleta), San Onofre Beach at Gaviota State Park (Goleta), Isla Vista Park Beach (Isla Vista).

Beaches 41 to 49

Rincon Point State Beach (Carpinteria), Rincon Park County Beach (Carpinteria), Miramar Beach (Montecito), Hammonds Beach (Montecito), Tar Pits Beach (Carpinteria), Carpinteria City Beach (Carpinteria), Sandyland Cove Beach (Carpinteria), Padaro Beach (Carpinteria), Naples Point Beach (Goleta).

The Results

The result of this challenge for me is a greater understanding of Santa Barbara’s landscape and a greater appreciation for how different one beach can be from another!

We also found a lot of new “friends” along the way. In the last year, we’ve spotted in Santa Barbara county beaches: 3 octopuses, 1 nudibranch, 2 large sea stars, 1 tiny brittle star, 1 live sea urchin, 4 swell shark eggs (empty!), 1 gathering of swell sharks in very shallow water, and countless fish, sand dollars, sea hares, crabs, anemones, snails, and birds!

I hope this encourages you to explore your own neighborhood, regardless of where you live, and to set your own challenges for 2019!

Ariane Coffin