Santa Barbara beaches: From a mermaid to dogs

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — A visit here has to include shopping. And dining. And sightseeing. But your itinerary has a hole in it if it doesn't include a beach.

Beach explorations start at Stearns Wharf, the city's most visited landmark. Nearby on West Beach you might find Scott Dosch, who for 25 years has been creating sand sculptures across California. On this evening he was next to a mermaid he created — a five- to six-hour project — using plastic eating utensils. Sadly, though, his artwork has a short life span.

"If you come in the next morning and it's still there, I'd be tempted to work on it," he explained. "I'll knock it down so I can do something new."

Dosch is just one of the attractions of the beaches of Santa Barbara. Here's a look at four of them.

West Beach: Situated between Stearns Wharf and the harbor, it has swimming, sunbathing, beach volleyball, a bike path and more. There's parking as well as numerous dining options at the harbor. (If there are any beach events scheduled for the city, they're generally held on West or East Beach.)

East Beach: On the other side of Stearns Wharf, East Beach has swimming, volleyball courts, a skate park and picnic facilities. There's also a free exercise facility with showers, lockers and a weight room. The East Beach Grill is a good dining destination, according to locals.

Hendry's Beach: Five miles west of city center on Cliff Drive, Hendry's has high bluffs, sun, sand and surf. And dogs. Canines, most off leash and all on their best behavior, have the run of things. There's also surfing, swimming, a picnic area, public restrooms and a restaurant.

Butterfly Beach: Farther east in unincorporated Montecito, it's a great walking beach, where crowds come just to experience the sunset. There are no food or public facilities, but if you want peace, this is the spot.

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