Santa Maria 

Santa Maria Pines, 2210 Preisker Lane, phone 928-9534. This is mostly for RVs, but has a tent camping area with a special rate of $20/person-night for those without cars. Water, wi-fi, flush toilets, showers, groceries, playground, coin laundry, and pool. 


Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground, 180 Avenue of the Flags, phone 877-783-5247, email [email protected] This is a large campground with many amenities—a heated swimming pool, spa, laundry facilities, store, Internet workstations, children’s playground and clean restrooms. Cabins and airstream trailers are available. Fees $22 a night and up (depending on the season) in tent area for up to six people at one tent site, with nearby rest rooms, a dish-cleaning sink, and dog-washing stand. 


River Park, Highway 246 at Sweeny Road, phone 315-7883. This 45-acre park is along the Santa Ynez River, east of Lompoc. It has a bike-in camping area for $5 per person. You’ll find restrooms, water, campground hosts, walking trails and sand volleyball courts. There’s no campground store; however there is shopping a mile away in Lompoc. 


Jalama Beach County Park, 9999 Jalama Road (15 miles off of Highway 1), phone 736-3504. Camping for individuals is on a first come, first served basis; groups, however, can reserve campsites in advance. They cost $23 and up, depending on time of year and location. Previously a Chumash Indian settlement, the 24-acre park was given to the county in 1943. Unlike other bustling seaside parks, Jalama offers solitude while the park store and snack bar have food, groceries, firewood, fishing bait and tackle, ice, drinks—and don’t miss the Jalamaburgers. 

Cachuma Lake 

Cachuma Lake Recreation Area, 2225 Highway 154, phone 686-5055. This is a Santa Barbara county park. They have a separate area for bike-in camping, at $5 per person per night, with a maximum stay of 14 nights. Cabins and yurts can be reserved in advance. There is a general store, snack bar, gas station, coin laundry, nature center, swimming pool, video game area, miniature golf course, lake cruises, and children’s playground. Be aware, however, that two miles of the road to the park from the north—Highway 154—are dangerous for cyclists. Traffic is heavy, the road shoulders come and go, while hills and curves hide cyclists from motorists. Highway 154 south of the lake is even worse.


Gaviota State Park, exit Highway 101 at Gaviota, phone 968-1033. Special bike-in area for $10 per person per night. No maximum stay limit. Despite high winds that sometimes blow down the Gaviota Pass and over the campgrounds, the area is a popular spot for swimming, picnicking, surf fishing and camping. Ambitious hikers can climb to Gaviota Peak that offers a spectacular view of the coast and the Channel Islands. Cycling along this section of Highway 101 is legal, between Buellton on the north and Goleta to the south.


Refugio State Beach, exit highway 101 at Refugio Road, head toward the ocean, phone 968-1033. Bike-in area is $10 a night per person, with a 2-night limit. Refugio State Beach offers fine coastal fishing as well as trails and picnic sites. Palm trees planted near Refugio Creek give a distinctive look to the beach and camping area. There is a bike trail between Refugio and El Capitán parks, although sometimes sections slip into the ocean. 

El Capitán

El Capitán State Beach, exit from Highway 101 at El Capitán, turn toward the ocean; phone 968-1033. Bike-in camping area for $10 a night per person. Two night maximum stay, check out before noon. El Capitán State Beach has a sandy beach accessible down stairs from the bluff, rocky tidepools, and stands of sycamore and oaks along Capitan Creek.

Ocean Mesa at El Capitan, exit from Highway 101 at El Capitán, turn toward the mountains, then left on Calle Real, phone 410-5783, email [email protected] Excellent camping area overlooking the ocean, separated sites with tables, benches, fire pits, smoothed tent area for $40 per night for up to six people at one site. Ocean Mesa is surrounded by Los Padres National Forest. It has 15 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, a heated pool and spa, laundry facilities, WiFi, a convenience store, and free beach cruiser bikes that you can ride to the nearby state beach.


Carpinteria State Beach, phone 968-1033. Bike-in camping for $10 a night. Sadly, there is a one-night limit, no occupancy before 6:00 PM, and you must break camp by 9:00 AM. The Spanish named the area “Carpinteria” because the Chumash Indians had a carpenter shop there to build their large seagoing canoes, using natural surface tar to caulk the boats