Gaviota Beach, California

A Peaceful Gaviota Beach
T he nearby Gaviota Coast is a very special place. Here the Santa Ynez Mountains parallel the coast only a half mile inland rising to over 3,000 feet. The mountains and coast run east to west so that the entire area faces south and is bathed by sunlight the entire day. There are only a handful of such special coastlines in the entire world. Highway 101 merges with Coast Highway 1 which travels along the headland.

T he ocean here is sheltered from the offshore winds and the powerful California Current by a series of four large islands. These Channel Islands of California lie 10-30 miles offshore and create their own currents and environment along this area of Santa Barbara County. The marine life is remarkably different here from the coastline just 30 miles away. For instance, here is the northernmost range of the California Spiny Lobster (Panulirus interruptus). The waters here are warm, clear, and very peaceful.

Gaviota Seagull
B rown Pelicans ride the cliff thermals and dive for fish just past the surfline. Grey Whales can be seen just past the surfline and close offshore in the winter months, and dolphins play in the waves all year long within a few yards of the beach. It is not uncommon to find Northern Fur Seals, hauled up on the beach and resting in the sun. The coast is easily accessed but is usually deserted. Most of the time the only footprints will be your own. To me it is like walking through a zen garden. It is best to time your visit to coincide with the lower tides.

G aviota, which is Spanish for Sea Gull, was so named by The Gaspar de Portolá Expedition, who camped at the mouth of Gaviota Creek on August 24, 1769, as they passed through on their way to Monterey. One of his soldiers had shot a seagull here and so the camp, the creek, and later the coast, became known as Gaviota. Portolá and his men were the first Europeans to set foot here. The expedition was cordially greeted by the local Chumash Indians.

The Gaviota Coast and Santa Ynez Mountains
Looking East Along The Gaviota Coast
Looking West Along The Gaviota Coast
A Beach Access Point
Beach Path in July
The Gaviota Creek & Beach, and Santa Rosa Island on the Horizon - From a Mountain Cave
A Natural Arch
Low Tide at Sunset
Panorama of Gaviota Beach (Click to View In New Window)
Retreating Wave Patterns
Gaviota Cliffs
Solitary Footprints
Wash Pattern
A Zen Garden
Gossamer Sea Foam
Razorbacks Exposed After A Storm
A Lone Sentinel Rock At Minus Tide
Pelicans & Commorants Resting Just Past the Surf Line
Pelican Formation Over the Sea
Pelicans Riding the Cliff Thermals
A Sea Tangle of Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera)
& Feather Boa Kelp (Egregia menziesii)
Intertidal Rocks at Extreme Low Tide
Anemones, Mussels, Barnacles, Limpets, Chitons, Bryozoans, Starfish, and Sea Lettuce
Clonal Elegant Anemones (Anthopleura elegantissima)
A Large Intertidal Elegant Anemone (Anthopleura elegantissima)
Center Orb Of The Elegant Anemone (Anthopleura elegantissima)
A Striped Shore Crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes)
Two Striped Shore Crabs (Pachygrapsus crassipes) in a Tide Pool
A Swirl of Eelgrass (Phyllospadix scouleri)
Southern Kelp Crabs Mating (Taliepus nuttallii)
Western Sand Dollar, juvenile (Dendraster excentricus)
This specimum was only 12mm wide, the smallest I have seen (compared to a dime)
The Uplifted Flat Sediments of Gaviota Beach
Prominent Near Vertical Sedimentary Rocks at Gaviota
A Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis) A Few Yards Offshore
Shallow Tide Pool Teaming with Life
Striped Shore Crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes), Hydrozoan Colony, center (Family Plumaria)
Black Turban Snails (Tegula funebralis), Blueband Hermit Crab, right shell (Pagurus samuelis)