The region presently known as the Hollister Ranch is defined by 14,400 acres (58 km2) of fallow and fertile fields, mountains and valleys along the Pacific coast of California between Gaviota State Park and Point Conception. It was the site of some of the oldest known human settlements in the new world, the last “native” population of which was the Chumash. The Spanish Portolà expedition, first European land explorers of California, traveled along its coast in 1769. It became part of the extensive Spanish land grant known as Rancho Nuestra Señora del Refugio, operated by the family of José Francisco Ortega from 1794.
The land was purchased by William Welles Hollister after the Civil War as part of a large acquisition, the center of which was at Glen Annie, Tecolotito canyon.
Today recreational use of the beach and surrounding area is restricted to both the owners of the Hollister and Bixby Ranches, and the public, who access the area by foot along the beach and by boat in the offshore waters that surfers find much safer than crossing the Santa Barbara Channel to reach the surf spots in the Channel Islands National Park. California law allows public access to all land below the mean high tide line, and many surfers, divers, and fisherman access the State waters by boating along the shoreline of the coast from Gaviota to Jalama Beach Parks, mainly from Gaviota State Park.
Hollister Ranch owners are currently restricted in terms of development in a situation that many say[attribution needed] will result in efficient preservation of one of the last vestiges of the natural California coastline. In the view of Hollister Ranch property owners, they (private owners) are judged better stewards than regional public, state or national preservation projects.