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Coal Oil Point and Sands Beach

Santa Barbara, CA
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Coal Oil Point and Sands Beach, Santa Barbara California

Description

There are many different things you can do at Coal Oil Point!
From the parking on Camino Majorca, you can walk left, straight, or to the right to Coal Oil Point (the most popular walk- more about this later).
If you take the pathway to the left (east), you will pass tall Pampas grasses that catch the sunlight, on a short beautiful walk to Del Playa Park in Isla Vista, where UCSB students lay out in the sun to work on their tans.
Or if you walk straight ahead from the parking, you can descend the wooden stairs down to the sand when the tide is low. My son likes to build sand castles here and watch the oil ooze out from the rocks. You can walk along the beach to the east if the tide isn't too high and see the beachhouses above. They look like they are about to fall down the cliff! Students party hard in these Isla Vista beach houses.
The walk most people do is the clifftop path to the right (west) that leads to a magical place, Coal Oil Point! The wide expansive clifftop makes you feel renewed from the very beginning of this walk. There are little benches positioned in perfect spots where you can take in the views of the cliffs. Surfers and joggers will pass you by. As you walk, UCSB Faculty Housing, a damp misty place, will be on your right. You will pass through eucalyptus groves and beside some lovely plants and flowers. In spring it is particularly pretty here. Along the way, you will get to some breaks in the trees where you can see surfers waiting for the waves at Yucca's, a slow, mellow surf spot. I've seen dolphins swimming here, to my delight! Continue on and you will see the ruins of an old bath house that the wealthy oil families used. Nowadays, the ruins are covered in graffiti. The path veers to the left and you come to an area where you can look out over Jailhouse, another surfspot, and white cliffs in the distance. Here you can see surfers catching waves pretty close up. There are lovely cactus growing on the cliffs.
Continue to the right and you pass through a gate. Then you are at Sands Beach at Coal Oil Point! Explore the white soft dunes that are decorated with patches of yellow and purple wildflowers. Kids love to play on these dunes and watch the surfers walk by. The Devereux Slough, a lagoon, will be ahead of you, fenced off. Notice the huge white oil tanks near the lagoon. These were built in 1929 to hold oil drilled at Ellwood and are still in use today. At Coal Oil Point, the near-extinct Snowy Plover bird is being protected. These are cute small chubby birds that feed on beach hoppers (that's an insect, not your toddler!) and kelp flies that are abundant here because of the kelp that is continuously washed up on shore. The fenced off areas are for them to roost and breed in peace. The snowy plovers had died out in this area until they were protected. Now there are four hundred that feed and rest here, the largest group of snowy plovers in America! Please don't bring dogs to the beach (which scare the plovers) or leave trash (which attracts crows that eat the plover eggs). In March, you can see the tiny baby plovers that have hatched! Call the docent program coordinator at (805) 880-1195 and you can be led to the best place to see them.
Coal Oil Point is a popular spot for surfers. Devereux, on the right, is a winter surf break for longboarders. See them with their wetsuits from head to toe (boots, hoods, and all!) They are keen to catch waves no matter the cold! Sands, on the left, is a windy high-tide break that draws crowds of happy surfers. If you want to surf here, check the water quality before you go.
There's a little bench carved into a bent Monterey cypress. Sit and watch for a while!
Coal Oil Point is interesting because oil and natural gases are emitted from the area, as much as 5,000,000 cubic feet of natural gases and 7,140 gallons of oil a day! Scientific studies have shown that half the oil that lands on Los Angeles beaches comes from Coal Oil Point! According to Venoco, the oil company that operates the rigs offshore, the prolific oil seepage here is a natural phenomenon. There are two stories one hears: many people in Santa Barbara say that the oil and natural-gas odor (it sometimes smells so bad you think you're in a tire shop) are due to natural seepage. Other people, like a professor I talked to who smells it all the time from her home at Faculty Housing said, "It's the drilling out there. Call and complain- they are killing us!" Who is right? We may never know for sure...A recent newstory in the Santa Barbara Independent reported that Venoco is fracking along the coast so this makes one think the large amount of seepage might not be natural.
There are no restrooms at Coal Oil Point.
If you're hungry, you could check out beachy Isla Vista town and its many student-filled cafes and coffee shops, or go to Camino Real shopping Center with its super yummy Anna's Bakery.
If you walk up Camino Majorca you will come to a playground with a huge dinosaur, a merry-go-round, a tire swing and plenty of trees and vines. It's called Dinosaur Park- highly recommended!

[continued...]

Photo Gallery

Click on photo to see large version
The wooden stairs at high tide!
The wooden stairs at high tide!
A nice spot to sit and gaze at the sea.
A nice spot to sit and gaze at the sea.
Little benches with perfect views abound.
Little benches with perfect views abound.
Exotic cactus plants reach up to the sunny California sky.
Exotic cactus plants reach up to the sunny California sky.
The ruins of the bathhouse.
The ruins of the bathhouse.
The smooth slow ride at Yucca's.
The smooth slow ride at Yucca's.
Pretty view at Coal Oil Point!
Pretty view at Coal Oil Point!
Surfers wait for the waves. White cliffs in background.
Surfers wait for the waves. White cliffs in background.
Surfers check out the swell at Sands Beach.
Surfers check out the swell at Sands Beach.
Checking out the scene below from the bench carved into the cypress tree.
Checking out the scene below from the bench carved into the cypress tree.
The dunes, with the lagoon behind.
The dunes, with the lagoon behind.
Cute couples on the dunes at Coal Oil Point on a warm summer evening.
Cute couples on the dunes at Coal Oil Point on a warm summer evening.
Snowy Plover chick with parent, at Coal Oil Point.
Photo used by permission, Snowy Plover Docent Program.
Snowy Plover chick with parent, at Coal Oil Point. Photo used by permission, Snowy Plover Docent Program.
Great waves!
Great waves!
November day at Sands Beach.
November day at Sands Beach.
Riding the waves on a beautiful November day in 2016.
Riding the waves on a beautiful November day in 2016.
Wonderful Pampas grass at the staircase at the end of Camino Majorca.
Wonderful Pampas grass at the staircase at the end of Camino Majorca.
February flowers above Sands Beach in front of faculty housing.
February flowers above Sands Beach in front of faculty housing.
Looking toward faculty housing from the cliff over the sea.
Looking toward faculty housing from the cliff over the sea.
Path to the sea, and island in the distance.
Path to the sea, and island in the distance.
Bench for pondering life.
Bench for pondering life.
Surfers on bikes riding into a misty sunset.
Surfers on bikes riding into a misty sunset.
Jogging along the shore.
Jogging along the shore.
Exploring the mud flats at sunset.
Exploring the mud flats at sunset.
A couple watches dogs playing on the shore.
A couple watches dogs playing on the shore.
Group of friends at Coal Oil Point at sunset.
Group of friends at Coal Oil Point at sunset.
Orange shoreline.
Orange shoreline.
A student reads while a pink cloud hangs overhead.
A student reads while a pink cloud hangs overhead.
Sliver of silver moon and canary palm silhouette.
Sliver of silver moon and canary palm silhouette.
Moon and curve of beach, at nightfall.
Moon and curve of beach, at nightfall.
Friends sit on a bench over the sea at night.
Friends sit on a bench over the sea at night.
Foggy night.
Foggy night.
 

Directions

Coal Oil Point is located at Slough Rd, Goleta CA 93117.
From Highway 101, exit at Glen Annie/ Storke Rd. Turn towards the ocean. Follow Storke Road to the end until it turns left and becomes El Colegio Rd. Turn right on Camino Corto. Turn right on Pasado Rd. Turn left on Camino Majorca. Park to your right along the road. At the end of Camino Majorca the pathway begins. Take the pathway to the right to get to Coal Oil Point. You can also follow the pathway on a short beautiful walk to the left.

This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.

Visitor Ratings

Overall Visitor Rating:


Sally
05/09/2011 15:41
This is absolutely the coolest website: exactly the information I was looking for about planning a walk through this stretch of land to Devereux Slough. The Coal Oil Point (text & directions) info with interactive map -- and photos = all so wonderfully done. (And, I enjoyed the comments from others.) Yippee!

Jeff
10/06/2009 13:53
This is awesome! Way to go lots o' fun! Keep up the good work.

Sandro
10/01/2009 14:02
make sure you really check out all of the seashore along Goleta!

Sophie
09/19/2009 20:30
If you want to show out-of-town buddies the beaches, this is a great place to take 'em. And it's a very pleasant walk year-round.

Sonja
04/02/2008 10:39
This is one of my favorite places on the planet. Good walks, spectacular views, awesome and usually mellow surfing. Beautiful in any weather, maybe best just after sunset.

Last Updated Sun, 18 Sep 2016 01:35:46 GMT