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Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds

Before we get into our list of best Santa Barbara campgrounds, we’d like to introduce you to the “American Riviera”.  Santa Barbara is located on a beautiful stretch of California’s central coastline and is known for its pristine beaches and upscale lifestyle. Often referred to as the American Riviera, this world-class destination doesn’t disappoint when it comes to dining, wine tasting, shopping and embracing nature.

If you’re into the outdoors, you can spend your time surfing, swimming, fishing, beach combing, whale watching, hiking and biking (to name a few).  Campers can also find some excellent campgrounds both along the coastline and inland in the Los Padres National Forest.

Santa Barbara Best Campgrounds - Santa Barbara

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds

Our list of best Santa Barbara campgrounds includes Carpinteria State Beach, El Capitan State Beach, Refugio State BeachGaviota State ParkFremont, Paradise, Los Preitos, and Sage Hill (group).  There are also a few other campgrounds in the area worthy of consideration including Jalama Beach County Park to the north, and Cachuma Lake Recreation Area.

Carpinteria State Beach

Carpinteria State Beach is just 12 miles south of Santa Barbara and features an amazing mile-long beach. The large campground has 216 campsites for tents, trailers and RVs. There are a few choice sites offering spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.  About 105 of the sites have water/electric hookups, and there are also 80 with full hookups. The campground also has water, flush toilets, hot showers and a dump station.

View of Carpinteria State Beach

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-Carpinteria State Beach

Carpinteria State Beach Creek

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-Carpinteria State Beach Creek

Campsite 377

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-Carpinteria State Beach Site 377

El Capitan State Beach

El Capitan State Beach is probably little changed from when its namesake, Capitan Jose Francisco Ortega, retired from the Spanish Army in 1795. That is, except for the beautiful campground that is perched on a hill overlooking the central California coastline.  The area also offers a variety of outdoor fun including all the stuff you can do at the beach. Wildlife viewing is particularly good hear with opportunities to see dolphins, elephant sales, sea lions and migrating whales.  The campground has 142 campsites for tents, trailers and RVs. Campground amenities include drinking water, flush toilets, hot showers, a laundry, picnic area and dump station.

Campsite 84

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-El Capitan State Beach Site 84

 Campsite 34

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-El Capitan State Beach Site 34

El Capitan State Beach View

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-El Capitan State Beach

Refugio State Beach

Refugio campground has 66 campsites and all are a short walk to the beautiful beach and cove. Campsites are flat and relatively close together, but the laid-back beach vibe more than makes up for having close neighbors. Kayaking and snorkeling are very popular here, as is beach combing and tide pool exploring. There’s also some nice mountain bike riding just inland from the campground.

View of Refugio State Beach

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-Refugio State Beach

 Campsite 39

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-Refugio-Site 39

 Campsite 35

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-Refugio_Site 35

Gaviota State Park

Gaviota may not be the prettiest campground, but it is perhaps the only one located underneath an iconic train trestle. It’s also just a skip and a jump to the beach and pier. Located about 39 miles north of Santa Barbara, the campground has 39 campsites that are fairly close together. Gaviota also has a camp store, drinking water, flush toilets and hot showers ($).  Outdoor recreation includes surfing, fishing, swimming, beach-combing, hiking, biking and wildlife viewing. Train spotting is also really popular here!

Gaviota State Park Train Trestle

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-Gaviota State Park Trestle-Train

Campsite 21

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-Gaviota-Site 21


Fremont campground is located in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley and about about 20 miles inland from Santa Barbara.  It’s offers a great basecamp for mountain biking, horseback riding and hiking. Campsites are fairly large and spread out among large Oak trees. There are about 14 campsites and a few are walk-in / tent only. Campground amenities include drinking water and flush toilets. Firewood is also available for sale from the camp host.

Fremont Campground

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-Fremont Sign

Campsite 6

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-Fremont-Site 6


Paradise campground is also in the Santa Ynez Valley and close to the Santa Ynez river. There are 14 campsites set among giant oak trees that provide nice shade to most sites. Most sites are single-family, but there are a few double-sites available. Drinking water, flush toilets and firewood are available to campers.

Paradise Campground Picnic Area

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-Paradise Picnic Area

Campsite 7

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-Paradise-Site 7

Los Prietos

Ancient giant Oak Trees await you in this peaceful campground located in the Santa Ynez Valley. Los Prietos campground is in the same area as Fremont and Paradise. It’s a popular area for mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking and picnicking.  There are 37 campsites, drinking water, flush toilets and a dandy picnic area. Cachuma Lake is also about 10 miles away and offers boating, kayaking and fishing.

Campsite 30

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-Los Prietos-Site 30

Campsite 27

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-Los Prietos-Site 27

Sage Hill

Sage Hill has 5 group sites and is located right along the Santa Ynez river. There is also one equestrian group campsite with 12 corrals. Campsites can accommodate up to 50 people. The campground is usually open year round, except when the Santa Ynez river is high making the camp road impassable. Amenities include drinking water and flush toilets. Each site also has tables, fire rings and grates.

Sage Hill Group Campsite 5

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-Sage Hill Group Site 5

Hope you enjoyed our short article on best Santa Barbara campgrounds. Remember these are popular so make sure you get reservations well in advance.

Santa Ynez Valley

Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds-Santa Ynez Valley View

And also Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds.

Camp Ranger

Also Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds.

One Reply to “Best Santa Barbara Campgrounds”

  1. This looks like a perfect campground to find peaceful place by the beach!

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