Ellwood Beach, accessible from Santa Barbara Shores Drive, Phelps Road, the community of Isla Vista, and a variety of other access points, is surrounded by the popular Ellwood Mesa Open Space. Ellwood Mesa is also home to the Monarch Butterfly Grove. There are trails for biking and hiking throughout Ellwood Mesa which is the area between Sandpiper Golf Course to the north and Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve.
- Amenities: Butterfly Preserve, No Facilities, Tide Pools, Trails
- Activities: Beachcombing, Hiking, Horseback Riding, Kiteboarding, Mountain Biking, Running, Walking, Windsurfing
- Dog Policy: Dogs allowed on leash
The closest parking to Ellwood Beach is at the southern end of Santa Barbara Shores Drive (1/3rd mile walk). The Phelps Road parking area is 2/3rds of a mile from the beach. Due to walking distances Ellwood Beach is rarely crowded like other Goleta beaches.
The next beach to the north is Haskell's Beach next to the Bacara resort. If you walk south you will encounter Sands Beach and the Devereux Slough Lagoon. If you wish to visit the Monarch Butterfly Grove (active November - February), park at the south end of Coronado Drive (which runs parallel to Santa Barbara Shores Drive), and follow the signs to the grove before continuing across Ellwood Mesa to Ellwood Beach.
When the tide and sand level is low at Ellwood Beach you can seen remnants of oil pier pilings emerge from the sand. It is a great beach for collecting beach glass. As is the case at most South Coast beaches there is an abundance of tar from natural oil seepage so be sure to have some Goo Gone handy. Frequent winds attract windsurfers and kiteboarders to Ellwood Beach. The bluffs at Ellwood Beach is also one of the best local places to watch rocket launches that start at Vandenberg Air Force Base and arc across the sky. Ellwood Mesa is also popular with remote control glider enthusiasts (when it is windy) and for model rocket launching (when it is not windy).