I often describe Carpinteria as one of the last sleepy little beach towns in California. It is vibrant enough to offer a happy blend of events like its farmers’ market every week, plus a beer festival, a car show, and even a world-renowned avocado festival every year. Yet Carp is still small enough that you can practically walk from one end of town to the other. If you do choose to drive, you’re always going to find a parking spot, and you’re never going to hit traffic.

It’s not too big, not too small, and it’s got something for everyone — including, of course, its renowned World’s Safest Beach. But there’s one part of Carpinteria that not everyone gets to experience. Down a private road and through a gated and guarded entrance is Sandyland Cove — or to locals, just “The Cove.”

Built in the 1940s as a private enclave of summer homes for families who had the means and desire to escape the heat of their primary residences in the Los Angeles area, The Cove became a tight-knit community as well as a place to get away. The 37 homes that compose The Cove are now owned by fewer than 30 families. On the rare occasion that a home at The Cove goes on the market, it’s likely that a current resident will try to snap it up to keep it in the family.

This exclusivity is one of the reasons that I jumped at the chance to visit an open house at The Cove last week, not knowing when I’ll have the opportunity again.

I turned off Carpinteria Avenue and through the archway marked Sandyland Cove. Several signs reminded me that I was entering a private road that only residents were authorized to use. This unfamiliar territory was actually very familiar terrain: The road runs right through the Carpinteria Salt Marsh. Sure enough, I spied a great blue heron posing on a rock in the estuary, a picturesque, postcard-style view right on cue of a familiar place but from an unfamiliar perspective.

The first house anyone sees when entering The Cove is the gatehouse. It is a dreamy, little yellow wooden house with shuttered windows behind a white picket fence covered in pink roses. It serves as the official sentry for the entire Sandyland Cove community, and at the same time, it’s the cutest welcoming cottage imaginable. 

Turning left down the one-and-only street in The Cove, I noticed the variety of styles, sizes, and ages of the residences as I drove past. Many of the original houses have been replaced or extensively renovated, so there is no typical Sandyland Cove–type home. When I pulled up to the appointed address, a simple wooden fence with a gate shielded the property from my view. A sign by the gate with “Sandy Shack” hand-painted on with a drawing of a wave pointed me inside. 

I stepped through onto a great expanse of green grass with a towering cypress tree in the center. The house lay straight ahead of me with a separate guesthouse to my left. The purist in me was delighted to see that both houses are original, board-and-batten cottages. Both one-story and neutral gray in color, they are as authentic and rustic as the gatehouse and are the original residence at this address.

I crossed the lawn on the red brick pathway and entered the main house. A simple, efficient kitchen gave way to the central room of the house: a great room with beamed cathedral ceilings, wood floors, a charming brick fireplace, and huge glass doors leading out to the main attraction — unobstructed sand, sky, and ocean as far as the eye can see.

The house itself has three bedrooms and two baths, all situated to take best advantage of the setting. With approximately 78 feet of ocean frontage, simple and weathered wood decking leads to several different levels of patio space for sitting, sunning, playing, or entertaining. I found it impossible not to pause for a few minutes longer than I had intended to gaze out at the horizon and listen to the pounding surf.

Back inside, it was easy to take a quick tour of the guesthouse. While fully self-contained, the one bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen take up a total of 600 square feet. The style might be too basic for some folks’ taste, but the rustic simplicity felt perfect to me.

Walking through either the main house or the guesthouse, it’s easy to feel like you’ve traveled back in time to a less complicated existence with a slower pace. The houses and yard are an idyllic refuge, and of course the ocean view is absolutely timeless. 

I’d love to think that a new owner will choose to preserve this property exactly as it is: a rustic jewel in one of the most enviable locations in the world. However, realizing not everyone’s idea of the perfect beach house is the same as mine, I’m content to know that no matter how grand the house may become, the surf, sand, and view will remain the same for many generations to enjoy.

4555 Avenue Del Mar is for sale in Carpinteria, listed by Gregg Leach of Village Properties Realtors. Reach Gregg at 565-8873 or gregg@villagesite.com.


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