Gaviota's stretch of coast

Relax on unspoiled beaches, hike in hidden canyons, and stay close to nature in Santa Barbara County, California

Matthew Jaffe

The sandstone bluffs sparkle like bars of gold at Gaviota State Park, while the great mass of Santa Cruz Island looms in the distance. But it's the ocean's hue that most dazzles the eye, a shimmering cerulean surface broken only by beds of kelp and the gentle rise of low swells that move without urgency toward shore. Full story »

GETTING THERE

The Gaviota Coast runs about 25 miles up the coast from Santa Barbara along U.S. 101, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles and 300 miles south of San Francisco.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

Though lodging is limited to two resorts, the Gaviota Coast offers some of California's premier coastal camping (for info see " Beaches"). Dining options are limited on the coast but abundant in the nearby Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara.

Bacara Resort & Spa Super-posh, it brings a Spanish colonial setting to an oceanfront location in Goleta. Its three restaurants ― The Bistro ( $$$$), Miró ( $$$$), and Spa Café ( $$$) ― all use fresh produce from the resort's 1,000-acre ranch. INFO: 360 rooms from $475; 877/422-4245.

El Capitan Canyon Resort North of Santa Barbara, choices range from the new tent and RV sites at Ocean Mesa (866/410-5783) to cedar cabins with whirlpool tubs. Activities include a summer concert series, yoga, and horseback riding. Pick up sandwiches and salads at the resort's Canyon Market ( $). INFO: 134 units from $145; 866/352-2729.

Head to Santa Barbara's waterfront
Santa Barbara's Milpas Street
Undersea world
Secret sand
WHAT TO DO

Arroyo Hondo Preserve Open for hiking and guided walks by reservation only. INFO: 10-4 the first and third Sat-Sun monthly; 805/567-1115.

Beaches Refugio and El Capitan State Beaches and Gaviota State Park all have excellent campsites ― so excellent that they must be booked months in advance for summer (from $25 a night). But be prepared for noise; freight trains pass just yards from the campgrounds in the middle of the night. For more information, visit www.parks.ca.gov or call 805/968-1033.

Gaviota State Park Outstanding hiking trails into the backcountry include the 6-mile round-trip to and from the commanding views on 2,458-foot Gaviota Peak. From U.S. 101, take the State 1/Lompoc exit, turn right and follow the frontage road to parking ($2 per vehicle); for the fishing pier, from U.S. 101, take the Gaviota State Beach turnoff ($8 per vehicle); 805/968-1033.

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