The coast is clear

Near Santa Barbara, find an unspoiled
beach paradise

Spend time on Ellwood Mesa, and it's easy to see why so many people spent decades trying to save it. There aren't many places like it left on the California coast.

It's a place of wild contrasts: To reach the sun-washed mesa, you must first enter a dark and mysterious eucalyptus forest. Come late fall, that forest fills with thousands of monarch butterflies. But until then, these woods have a spooky, Wizard of Oz-type quality that in no way hints at the sunny meadow just beyond.

Thanks to local groups and individuals led by the Trust for Public Land, that meadow is now open space owned by the city of Goleta. Known as the Sperling Preserve, the 137-acre parcel is laced with paths that are popular with joggers and walkers. Red-shouldered hawks prowl the meadow, and from the mesa's shale bluffs, you can look out on shoreline that stretches east to waves rolling onto Coal Oil Point. There's also access down to a wild beach ideal for walks along the surf's edge.

INFO: From U.S. 101 just west of Goleta, take the Storke Rd./Glen Annie exit and go south. Turn right on Hollister Ave. and after about 1 mile turn left on Coronado Dr.