When Spanish explorers arrived a few miles south of Santa Barbara in 1769, Chumash Native Americans lived in the area and made canoes, called tomols. The Chumash waterproofed their boats with naturally occurring tar seeping from the ground. Visiting Spanish explorers referred to this area as a “carpentry shop,” translated as “La Carpinteria.” Specifically, the 1769 Portola expedition camped near the Carpinteria Pier, a short distance from where Carpinteria State Beach is located today.
Because those oil seeps still exist in Carpinteria, you will find a lot of tar on the sand at Carpinteria State Beach. Note that Tar Pit Park, within Carpinteria State Beach, is a very large tar pit, older and second in size to the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. In fact, the large, black “rocks’ spread across the sand is dried tar.
Today, Carpinteria State Beach is best known for gentle waves and wildlife viewing. Tidepools are exposed during low tide, protected Harbor Seals can be viewed from a lookout point on the bluffs, and bird watching at the Salt Marsh Nature Park is rewarding. Also adjacent to the state beach is the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve, Rincon Bike Trail,Tar Pits Park, Tomol Interpretive Play area, Island Brewing Company, and downtown Carpinteria.
Some of the campground sites include picnic tables and fire pits set right on the sand.
A Note about Dogs
Note that dogs are not allowed on the beach, but may be kept on leash or in a kennel at campsites. Dogs may be walked on leash along the bluffs trail towards the Harbor Seal Sanctuary in one direction, and to town in the other direction. Island Brewery is located just between the campground and town, right by the railroad tracks. Dogs are, also, allowed in the brewery.