Twenty miles from downtown Santa Barbara, Goleta’s crescent-shaped Refugio State Beach is lined with large palm trees that offer majestic mountain views to the east and views of the Channel Islands to the west. The 66 dry campsites (no RV hookups) are located steps from the sand, providing an ideal access point for swimming, fishing, scuba diving, surfing, and kayaking. (Roughly Memorial Day through August, state lifeguards will periodically lead kayak tours of the coastline, so ask a park attendant when you arrive.)
The beach itself is a busy spot year-round, especially for families, as the waves are generally on the mellow side, and the California Coastal Trail that runs right through the campground is a beautiful route for leisurely walks and bike rides. Other perks: Each campsite includes a picnic table and a fire pit (firewood is available for sale by the camp hosts), and there is a small camp store in case you forget any essentials (read: s’mores fixings). Also, wine enthusiasts take note: Refugio State Beach is only about a 20-minute drive from the heart of Santa Barbara Wine Country.