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Ellwood Butterfly Preserve and Beach

Santa Barbara, California, United States


Note: The butterflies have left because of the drought. Also trees are falling because of the drought. Some of the preserve is closed because of the dangerous trees, but there are still plenty of lovely paths to walk along.
Ellwood Butterfly Preserve, or Goleta Butterfly Grove, located in a grove of blue gum eucalyptus trees, is a magical place to be between November and February, when thousands upon thousands of monarch butterflies return here to mate. If you don't see the butterflies at first, look up at the trees. There are so many of them that they look like leaves! Sometimes they will be quietly hanging like leaves, but other times, late in the morning, they will be fluttering all about, making this area a wonderously beautiful spot. Little children will enjoy seeing the butterflies land right by them! Don't touch them though, because they can die from the oil on your skin. The light filtering in through the tall eucalyptus trees and catching the colors on the butterflies' wings is so lovely! It's hard to describe how nice it is! Our friend even asked his wife to marry him here.
If you walk up the hill out of the forest, you can go for a nice walk over the wide, flat Ellwood bluffs toward the ocean. There you can look down on rugged Ellwood Beach. You can take a short trail down to the beach. Walking the sandy beach is a pleasant way to spend a few hours, breathing in the salt spray and looking up at the white cliffs. There's plenty of driftwood to keep kids busy! However, the walk from the forest to the beach is too long for small children.
Don't wear nice sneakers on this walk as they'll be covered in fine dirt.
If you're hungry after your walk, head over to Camino Real Marketplace and have an oatmeal blueberry muffin at Anna's Bakery. They have a sunny brick patio. Or, eat a chicken kebob at Kahuna Grill, an inexpensive cafe. There are really clean restrooms in the archway next to Starbucks.
For a playground nearby, check out the unusual play structures and beautiful natural setting of Dinosaur Park in Isla Vista.

Photo Gallery

A lone monarch butterfly might land right beside you!

Hundreds of butterflies!!!

Beautiful Ellwood Beach, as viewed from the bluffs.

View of Ellwood Beach.

Ellwood Beach.

Santa Ynez mountains, as viewed from Ellwood Bluffs.

A place to sit at a trail entrance on Coronado Dr- see the eucalyptus forest behind.

It's lovely to walk in the forest.

Tree covered in bougainvillea.

Friends taking a morning walk in the forest that surrounds the butterfly grove.

Butterflies mating at Ellwood Butterfly Preserve.

Butterflies in the sunlight.

Signs lead the way.

Yellow flowers in early February.

Yellow flowers galore!

A cute young couple go for a Sunday walk.

A pleasant stream.

Purple succulent flowers on the cliffs over the beach, in April.

Purple and yellow flowers, in April.

Purple flowers- a delight!

The beach is covered in driftwood.

Looking down at the beach.

A shady spot at the top of the bluffs, before you get to the path down to the beach.


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

The parking lot for Ellwood Butterfly Preserve, which is called Goleta Butterfly Grove Parking, is located at 7559 Palos Verdes Dr, Goleta CA 93117.
From Highway 101, exit at Glen Annie/ Storke Rd and head toward the ocean. Turn right on Hollister Avenue. Drive for 2 miles and then turn left into the large parking lot across from Ellwood Elementary School. Parking is free. This is where the trail starts. It's a very short walk to the forest preserve. Once at the preserve, go left up the hill and you will come to the bluffs.
There are no restrooms.
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