If you’re a fan of roly-poly, fatty, plumpy, furry, kelp-eating seals, you have to visit the Carpenteria Seal Sanctuary! If you’re in this area between December and May, you should be able to see seals. These pictures were taken in March. The viewing point to see the seals is a short walk and if you would like to do more exploring, the beach and the Carpenteria bluffs offer more opportunities for strolling. Of course, you can’t walk anywhere near the seals, so do observe them from a safe distance. It’s a pleasant place to sit and observe the seals in their natural habitat–I could’ve spent hours here just watching them frolic on the beach! It’s a great trip on its own or as a detour on the way to Santa Barbara.
More info from this site. The Carpinteria Seal Sanctuary is an easy hike or bike ride from town by way of the Coastal Vista Trail. The trail runs for miles along the bluffs offering great views overlooking the ocean. Several lookout points offer a picturesque view of Anacapa, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands along with the local community of harbor seals sunbathing on the shore. The Carpinteria Harbor Seal Preserve is home to almost 100 adult seals who give birth to their cubs on the Carpinteria shoreline; one of the four harbor seal rookeries remaining along the southern California coast.
Directions from Linden Avenue: Hike or bike south along the bluffs (the Coastal Vista Trail) that leads through Tar Pits State Park, then along the railroad tracks out to the seal rookery. This amazing trail stretches just over a mile without ever leaving the waters edge. Stop on the bluffs above the seal preserve, to quietly watch the seals playing in the water and sunbathing on the shoreline. The best spot for viewing is well marked with a sign, and has a bench for resting. The sanctuary is a protected birthing habitat for harbor seals from December 1 through May 31st. Tip: Bring binoculars for the best view, please be respectful and do not attempt to approach the seals from the beach.
More info on the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve from this site. Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve is an open space park above the ocean waves south of Carpinteria, CA. The land in the preserve was purchased with donations to protect it from development and to provide a prime spot for community recreation. From the hiking trails there are views north to the Santa Ynez Mountains and south to the Channel Islands. Many birds and other animals can be spotted along these paths. The trails also lead to the bluff’s edge with views down upon the Carpinteria Harbor Seal Rookery. At this spot next to Carpinteria Oil Pier, the seals are present year-round but the females give birth to their pups and wean them December through May. During this time the beach is closed 750 feet in both directions. To get to the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve, take the Bailard Avenue Exit off Highway 101 in Carpinteria and drive toward the ocean where you’ll find a parking lot. It requires a walk to get from the parking lot to the Carpinteria Bluff Trail which parallels the railroad tracks. Go right when you get to the Bluffs Trail and look for a beach access route soon after crossing the tracks. The beach south of the access is open year-round as it is not close to the rookery. It’s a great place for beachcombing. The Bluff Trail continues to the seal rookery overlook and then continues to Carpinteria State Beach. Restroom facilities are available at the Viola Fields sports complex on-site at the Preserve.