While beautiful silky-sand beaches may be the primary reason for visiting Carpinteria, it’s also fun to explore the laid-back city’s parks, unpretentious downtown and seaside neighborhoods.
The electric Seaside Shuttle costs 50 cents per ride, and makes a loop around town and to the Amtrak platform, offering a car-free option for your visit.
Show up at The Spot (389 Linden Ave.; 805-684-6311) in your bathing suit and flip-flops (or even barefoot). This landmark food shack steps from the beach serves burgers, sandwiches, Mexican food, chicken, fish and chips, and shakes. Eat on the patio or bring the food back to the beach for a picnic. There’s usually a line to order, but it moves quickly.
Save room for homemade fudge, mints, taffy and other sweets at Robitaille’s Fine Candies (900 Linden Ave.; 805-684-9340; www.robitaillescandies.com).
The Palms (701 Linden Ave.; 805-684-3811; www.thepalmscarpinteria.com) is a good choice for dinner, with the unique option to grill your own meat, chicken and seafood – or let the chef prepare your meal. Established in 1910, The Palms is a family-friendly Carpinteria staple known for good meals, signature cocktails and live music.
Carpinteria Shores (4979 Sandyland Rd.; 800-964-8540; www.carpinteriashores.com) rents two-bedroom, one-bath oceanfront condos with balconies or patios with views of the Pacific. A three-night stay is $300-$500 per night, while weeklong rates run $1,500-$1,800. Or consider the corner beach house on Sandyland and Ash avenues (www.vrbo.com/1254) that’s been in the same family for 40 years. The three-bedroom, two-bath house rents for $1,800-$2,500 per week.
Beach camping is popular at Carpinteria State Beach (on Highway 224 off the 101 Freeway, 800-444-7275; www.parks.ca.gov), which has four campground loops with tables and fire rings from $45 per night. Walk to tide pools to see starfish, sea anemones, crabs, snails, octopuses and sea urchins.
You’ll probably notice many people bike riding. It’s how locals get around. Bring your own or rent bikes at Rincon Cycles (5100 Carpinteria Ave.; 805-684-9466; www.rinconcycles.com).
Carpinteria is also ideal for exploring on foot. Go on a family hike along a scenic trail that starts at Carpinteria Bluffs (at Bailard Avenue), continues through the campgrounds, crosses Linden Avenue (a nice lunch stop) and ends at the Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Park (Sandyland and Ash avenues).
Carpinteria’s beaches (considered among the country’s safest) have small waves just the right size for boogie-boarding, surfing, standup paddling and kayaking. The city beach at Sandyland and Ash avenues has free parking, restrooms and outdoor showers. The beach at the end of Linden Avenue is a few sandy steps from restaurants, shops and the Tomol Interpretive Play Area. Designed as a Chumash village, the playground is an excellent place to dole out area history to kids as they climb and slide on structures replicating a tomol boat, native huts and more.
Let’s Go columnist Mimi Slawoff is a mother of three of who writes about family fun.