Located just a few miles north of Santa Barbara and Goleta , the beachfront campground at Refugio is a great spot for a weekend getaway, especially when you don’t have time and money to actually “get away.”
Back in February we were fortunate enough to have a warm weekend matched with some prime diving conditions. Refugio was the spot to go.
The campsites are literally feet away from the water. There’s a nice little creek that runs through the middle of the grounds, and most campsites come with a nice array of big, shady trees perfect for a hammock or swing.
The railroad tracks are just next to the campgrounds, so bring earplugs if the train may be bothersome at night. Most campsites are also equipped with a firepit, picnic table, and bathrooms and showers nearby (don’t forget quarters for the showers!) There is also a small general store on-site.
The best beachfront sites are reserved for the hike and bike campers. These are also the least expensive.
For the bikers: there’s a fun path called the Aniso Trail that goes to El Capitan and back from the campsite; the official trail closed a few years ago, but you can go around the closures and still get a great view of the bluffs!
For the beach strollers: There’s lots to find in the washed up kelp, including shark’s “mermaid purses” if you have a keen eye! You can also climb around the rocks and see what is hiding there during low tide. We found an octopus, fish, lots of mussels, and a few crabs!
For the actives: Relax on the swingset, play frisbee on the beach, shoot hoops in the basketball court, or volleyball on the grass field.
For the divers: Our first dive, we headed out North towards the kelp beds in the right of the cove, but found nothing but a couple of crabs and starfish on a desolate sandy bottom (Turns out, we did not swim far enough out.) The second dive, we finned straight out from the lifeguard station pretty far before going down, and even then had to fumble our way through some green, churned up water before it cleared up to 15ft viz and awesome shelf. There was lots of color and life on this reef, and it was worth the swim. Max depth was 25-30 ft.
For everybody: don’t forget the s’mores, music, good company, and to watch the glorious sunsets that usually accompany a fun day at Refugio!