Leaving Santa Barbara, my family hopped on Highway 101, following my trusty guidebook, Road Trip USA. Our intention was to drive until we found a beach that we wanted to stop and explore. We found it about a half hour after leaving the Oasis Inn & Suites, where we’d slept the night before.
Entrance to El Capitan State Beach was a reasonable $10 for a carload, making this a very affordable stop for my family of five.
After a quick drive through the park, we parked in the lower parking lot and made our way towards the beach. We were pleased to see that the tide was out, providing the perfect beach combing opportunity.
Even though our journey for the day had just begun, my kids were excited to get out of the vehicle- and they didn’t keep it a secret!
The boys’ had fun goofing – and showing- off.
We left our mark on the beach and were almost ready to make our way back to the vehicle when we spotted something in the water.
At first I thought my eyes had deceived me and my family thought I was crazy since they’d not seen what I had.
But I kept looking and this time I knew what I was looking at. And my family had spotted them too! We spent the next 40 minutes watching the dolphins swim just off the shore. I admit that I’ve always enjoyed watching dolphins in captivity, but the first time I saw them in their natural habitat was a thrilling experience.
I didn’t find any shells, but did spot some birds. By now my husband was ready to get back on the road.
But I didn’t want to leave without one more glimpse of those dolphins. And just in time…the dolphins made another appearance as they made their way back up the shore.
On the way back to the parking area, we found placards that familiarized us to the history of the area.
We also noticed a bike/walking trail that ran along the beach to a picnic area.
The view made me wish that we’d thought ahead and packed a lunch. Doesn’t this look like the perfect picnic spot?
On the way to the vehicle, we noticed a short nature trail that made my husband want to delay our departure and explore a bit more. Unfortunately for him, the kids were ready to get back on the road.
El Capitan State Beach is open dawn to dusk and offers camping sites, modern bathrooms, a bike/walking trail, some nature trails, picnic area and beach access. It is located 17 miles from Santa Barbara in Goleta, California. It is also one of my family’s favorite stops on our 5,000 mile road trip from Ohio to California and back.
You can read about our road trip here:
Road Trip to California Day 1: Viewing the St. Louis Arch
Road Trip to California Day 2: To Texas and Beyond
Road Trip to California Day 3: A Day Full of Surprises
Road Trip to California Day 4 & 5: We Made It!
Road Trip to California Day 6: The Never-Ending Day
Road Trip to California Day 7: It’s All Downhill from Here
Road Trip from California: The End