Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve and Tar Pits 

Harbor seals resting on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, in Carp

Located a little more than an hour from Santa Clarita is the coastal town of Carpinteria with beautiful beaches and breathtaking mountain views. It covers 2.6 square miles with an ocean area of 4.7 square miles. 

That coastline is known for surfing, swimming and hiking. And, it is a favorite camping spot with four campgrounds.  

In 1912 the city embraced the slogan “World’s Safest Beach.” In fact, the city beach, which is located just north of the state beach, has been named the number one swimming beach in the state. 


In 1769, the Spanish military officer Gaspar de Portola was exploring the Santa Barbara coast when he came upon the Chumash village of Mishopshnow. There he observed the Chumash building planked boats called Tomols. The Chumash had picked that location because of the naturally occurring surface tar which they used to waterproof the boats. 

Members of the expedition referred to the area as La Carpinteria or The Carpenter Shop. The town later became known simply as Carpinteria. 

Portola eventually became the first governor of the Californias. His expedition laid the foundations of San Diego and Monterey. 

Avocado Festival 

Santa Barbara County is the third largest avocado producer in North America, according to the City of Carpinteria. With that, Carpinteria is a major contributor. 

To no surprise, the California Avocado Festival, which is held in downtown Carpinteria, was begun. Today, it has grown into a three-day event celebrating all things avocado. 

Last year’s festival, held in October, benefited more than 40 non-profit groups and the attendance was 100,000. 

Unusual Attractions 

According to Atlas Obscura, there are four cool, hidden and unusual things to do in Carpinteria. 

Harbor Seal Preserve 

The sanctuary is home to about 100 adult seals who give birth to their cubs along the shoreline. And, according to the preserve, is only one of four Harbor Seal rookeries remaining on the southern California coast. 

The preserve is located at 5669 Carpinteria Avenue. If you go to the bluffs above the preserve, you can watch the seals playing and sunbathing. There is a sign indicating the best spot for viewing and also a bench for resting. It is a protected birthing habitat from December 1 through May 31st. Bring binoculars for the best view. 

Tar Pits 

Appropriately named because of the inky sludge that oozes out, these tar pits in Carpinteria are only one of five located in the world. Californians are probably most familiar with the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. However, there is another in California called the McKittrick Tar Pits, located just south of the Kern County city of McKittrick. The other two are Tierra de Brea in Trinidad and Tobago and Lake Guanoco in Venezuela. 

According to Atlas Obscura, the area is known as an “asphalt lake” and is formed by the seepage up to the surface along a geologic fault. The sludge eventually turns to asphalt as it is cooled by the air and ocean water. 

The tar pits are located at the southeast end of the Carpinteria State Beach. Parking is $10.  

Wardholme Torrey Pine 

The Torrey Pine was planted as a seedling in 1888 by Judge Thomas Ward at his home. It was designated a California Historical Point of Interest in 1968. According to the Historical Marker Database, the tree is 130 feet tall and more than 130 years. The average Torrey Pine is only 30 feet tall and lives to be around 100 years. Torrey Pines are rare and endangered and only live in some coastal areas of Southern California. The Wardholme Torrey Pine is Historical Landmark No. 1.

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