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6 Best Beaches in Santa Barbara

Need a break from Isla Vista’s beaches? The Santa Barbara coast has plenty to choose from! Check out these fabulous alternatives right in your backyard.

While there are a number of perks about the UCSB campus that all Gauchos have come to love, one of our favorites would have to be living a mere stroll away from the beach. Whether you spend your days searching for the best surf spot or soaking up the sunshine on the sand, you’ll find that Santa Barbara has more gorgeous beaches to offer than just the well-known options in Isla Vista. Take a break from getting tar on your feet down at Sands Beach, expand your bubble, and enjoy even more of our stunning California coast—without having to stray far from campus.

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1. Arroyo Burro Beach

Distance from campus: 9.4 miles

Why we love it: IV dog lovers, rejoice! With a grassy area perfect for picnicking and an off-leash, friendly environment for your pooch, Arroyo Burro is perfect for tossing a frisbee on a sunny afternoon. You won’t even have to worry about your pup getting your car dirty on the ride back, thanks to the self-serve dog-washing station in the parking lot. And if you’re homesick for your furry friend who’s back home, it’s the ideal spot for dog watching.

2. Goleta Beach

Distance from campus: 0.9 miles

Why we love it: Goleta Beach Park lies just beyond Henley Gate, and it is by far the easiest spot to venture to from campus—as simple as a one-mile bike ride. Walk down Goleta Pier for some fishing or enjoy the picnic areas and barbeque pits on the grassy oceanfront lawns. Pack a cooler with your friends and make a day out of it—this beach even has volleyball and horseshoe pits!

3. Refugio State Beach

Distance from campus: 16 miles

Why we love it: While Refugio State Beach is a bit further away, the journey is well worth it for a daytime or weekend getaway. With a coast lined with palm trees and beachside overnight camping available, you can pack up your tent and wake up in paradise. The campgrounds include a small store, RV campsites, and great spots for surfing and fishing. Plan the ideal evening away without having to drive more than 20 minutes.

4. Butterfly Beach

Distance from campus: 14 miles

Why we love it: Butterfly Beach faces westward in Montecito, making it the ultimate sunset-watching spot. During low tide you can enjoy a lazy stroll on the long stretch of sand, or pack a book to indulge in a relaxing read at this quieter location. Parking is free (but limited), and you’ll find easy access to the shore via a staircase near the Biltmore Hotel.

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5. East Beach

Distance from campus: 14 miles

Why we love it: East Beach is located right next to Stearn’s Wharf, making it the perfect pit stop after an afternoon strolling the streets of downtown Santa Barbara. Grab a bite at one of the tasty cafes or ice cream shops on the pier, ride your bike along the oceanside paths, or check out one of the competitive volleyball games happening at the courts. Due to the large, grassy picnic areas and ideal location, special community events such as art shows are often held here as well.

6. Leadbetter Beach

Distance from campus: 11.4 miles

Why we love it: Located near Santa Barbara City College, Leadbetter Beach is the go-to spot for surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, windsurfing, and sailing. The active Gaucho will love the energy of this location, which includes sidewalks perfect for a jog with an ocean view. With Shoreline Park just adjacent to the beach, you can end your day at the picnic and barbeque sites while watching the sunset from the large, grassy lawns. Talk about relaxing….

Do you have a favorite Santa Barbara beach spot we didn’t include on our list?

Let us know where you love to soak up the sun in the comment section below!

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