Santa Barbara – Gem of the California Coast

posted by Sharon June 7, 2019 32 Comments
Santa Barbara Stearns Wharf

Santa Barbara is known for its harbor full of bobbing boats, its clean sand beaches, and dining for all tastes. Called the “American Riviera,” Santa Barbara is the perfect place to stay while driving up or down the coast of California. And it’s just a two-hour drive north of Los Angeles, which makes it an ideal getaway from the bustle of big city life. You can relax on the shore, rent a kayak, ride a bicycle along the paved waterfront path. There’s history here to explore, too.

Planning Your Seaside Adventures

The heart of Santa Barbara is the waterfront, ringed by gently rising foothills. While it’s a compact area, it offers so much to see and do, and of course you may want to spend time just relaxing on the beach or the grassy park areas. Santa Barbara Stearns Wharf

You will also want to walk or drive north of the water to the downtown area. Here you can shop, eat, stroll, visit the old fort, and tour the historic courthouse. Santa Barbara

I spent one day by the water and the next day in the town on a recent short visit. Here are some highlights I enjoyed.

The Harbor

This is such a fun place for a long walk. First you see the various boats. Even though I live in the coastal city of San Diego, I always enjoy a harbor. Santa Barbara Harbor

Santa Barbara HarborCan you spot the rubber ducky swimming alongside the boat? Santa Barbara Harbor

The Fisherman’s Walk takes you past countless vessels. Santa Barbara developed due to its fishing industry. There’s even a “museum” of older fishing boats in the water. You’ll also find restaurants, a maritime museum, and kayaks for rent. Santa Barbara Harbor

As you reach the ocean, the path turns onto the breakwater. If you look over the wall, you will get wet! Santa Barbara Harbor

The Lost at Sea Memorial is at the end of the breakwater. Pause here to remember those lost, and watch the surfers, too. Santa Barbara HarborSanta Barbara HarborSanta Barbara Harbor

Stearns Wharf

The wharf is a symbol of Santa Barbara. It’s suffered 4 major fires, one closing it for as long as 9 years. Every time, the city rebuilds and reopens the destroyed restaurants and shops. Today, the wharf thrives.  You can walk here from the harbor or take the water taxi from Fisherman’s Walk. Santa Barbara Stearns Wharf

Santa Barbara Stearns WharfSanta Barbara Stearns WharfSanta Barbara Stearns Wharf

 

 

 

 

 

 

Santa Barbara Stearns Wharf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Downtown

Walk up State Street from Stearn’s Wharf and in a few blocks, you will be in the downtown. Shops and restaurants abound, and you can take in a movie at one of several theaters. Santa Barbara

Explore the side alleys. The Arcada is modern, while El Paseo dates back to the 1920s . You never know what you’ll discover. Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraSanta Barbara

The Courthouse

This National Historic Landmark looks like a Spanish castle. Santa Barbara Courthouse

It is a fully functioning courthouse, and it’s worth a tour to see its beauty. Built in 1929, its architecture is Spanish Colonial Revival. Artists copied tile patterns from Italy and Spain. The white adobe walls topped by red clay roofs sit amid lush gardens of palms and pines. Santa Barbara Courthouse

Tours are offered every day at 2:00 and weekdays at 10:30 for no charge. You meet in the mural room. Our docent Gerry told us about the history of the courthouse as we sat with the paintings of California history on the walls. Santa Barbara CourthouseSanta Barbara Courthouse

The tour is fascinating, both during the interior and in the gardens.  Santa Barbara CourthouseSanta Barbara CourthouseSanta Barbara Courthouse

Santa Barbara CourthouseThe clock tower is open, with a 360-degree view of Santa Barbara from the outside walkway.

Santa Barbara CourthouseSanta Barbara CourthouseSanta Barbara Courthouse

The Presidio

The remnants of the one of the 4 forts in early California history lie right off the main street through downtown. Wander around here and you may happen onto chickens in the “livestock” pen. Not much of the original fort survived, but it’s worth a look. Santa Barbara PresidioSanta Barbara Presidio

 

 

 

Santa Barbara PresidioSanta Barbara PresidioWhere to Stay

Santa Barbara caters to visitors and has a wealth of choices when it comes to a hotel. We stayed at the Mason Beach Inn and found it ideal as a base for exploring the city. It’s a short block from the water, on a quiet residential street. We loved walking the neighborhood and greeting people out with their pups. Santa Barbara Mason Beach Inn

We parked on arrival and walked everywhere from here – the harbor, Stearn’s Wharf, the Presidio, the Courthouse, and restaurants.

The Mason Beach Inn is comfortable, and, with its Spanish architecture, you will feel like you are in someone’s Santa Barbara home. Santa Barbara Mason Beach InnSanta BarbaraSanta Barbara Mason Beach Inn

Where to Eat

Our favorite meal this visit was definitely the Enterprise Fish Company on State Street, just a short walk from the water. The building was once a commercial laundromat. The new owner bought a giant grill in Mexico, hauled it up here, and opened the restaurant. The crusted mahi mahi was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraSanta BarbaraSanta Barbara

Whether you are coming to Santa Barbara from across the ocean or from nearby cities, you will find this city a great place to relax, wander, and refresh.

How about you? Is there a place you love to visit where you can totally relax?

Santa Barbara

Disclosure: Exploring Our World was welcomed as a guest at the Mason Beach Inn. As always, all opinions are my own.

Linking up with Image-in-ing, The Good, the Random, the Fun, Through My Lens, Seasons, Our World Tuesday, Weekend Wanderlust, Faraway Files, Wanderful Wednesday, Feet Do Travel, My Corner of the World, Monday Escapes, and Weekend Travel Inspiration.

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PIN IT FOR LATER!!! Santa Barbara California - Exploringrworld.com

 

 

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32 Comments

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Tamar Strauss-Benjamin June 8, 2019 at 2:55 am

What an amazing place to visit! I love all the tile work.

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Candy June 8, 2019 at 7:27 am

Lovely photos! Thanks for sharing!

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William Kendall June 8, 2019 at 10:19 am

Beautiful shots! The memorial is particularly poignant.

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Lissy L'Amoreaux June 9, 2019 at 9:00 am

Santa Barbara is one of my favorite cities to visit! I live in LA, and it’s the perfect weekend away. I still need to do the harbor/Fisherman’s walk and the Lost Sea Memorial as you suggest. Great, fun city!

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Kathryn Dickson June 9, 2019 at 9:25 am

Looks like the kids of beautiful place that combines the best of mountain views with a lively water scene with the right balance of Spanish influenced food and architecture.

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Cindy ladage June 9, 2019 at 1:18 pm

i’ve been to this beautiful work I love it I didn’t know you took a tour of the courthouse I will definitely have to go back into those lovely mosaic times !

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Karletta June 9, 2019 at 1:27 pm

Looks like a wonderful place to get away. Nothing more calming that the sight of bots nestled in a Marina. Thank you for sharing

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Jenn | By Land and Sea June 9, 2019 at 2:15 pm

We were supposed to go to Santa Barbara but couldn’t due to the wildfires. One day we will have our chance to visit this lovely city!

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Obligatory Traveler June 9, 2019 at 3:01 pm

What a lovely looking place. I’m a fan of Spanish architecture, so I know I would enjoy looking at all of the buildings. You also really can’t beat the beach for a bit of relaxation. This is one of the spots in California I need to get to someday. Thanks for sharing. #WeekendWanderlust

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Erik the Hungry Traveller June 9, 2019 at 5:53 pm

This looks so marvelous! I love a good sea side adventure. Also the buildings are very rustic which is really great

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Akriti June 9, 2019 at 10:34 pm

The architecture in the downtown alleys seems very appealing. I would love to walk around such an area that’s full of shops and restaurants.

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Rhonda Albom June 9, 2019 at 11:54 pm

While I have passed through Santa Barbara, I have never actually stopped and looked around. I like walking around marinas and looking at all the boats and activity. I would pick the fresh fish restaurant in a seaside community every day.

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California Globetrotter June 10, 2019 at 2:51 am

Clearly I missed a lot on my first college visit to Santa Barbara! I would love a do-over and explore it deeper! #FeetDoTravel

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Shona June 10, 2019 at 4:26 am

The pic from the clock-tower is great to give a bird’s eye view of Santa Barbara. What a lovely town. There’s actually a lot to see and anywhere next to the sea grabs my attention. Have pinned for later. 🙂

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Garth June 10, 2019 at 4:50 am

Great photos, I’ve always been curious about Santa Barbara. Love the mountains and Spanish influence 🙂 #feetdotravel

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Debra Jean June 10, 2019 at 6:24 am

I live only about 45 min north of Santa Barbara, so I know the city well. Nice summary. For your next visit, you really should do a whale watching trip, it is an amazing experience. There is also a beautiful zoo, yes a great place to relax or bring the kids, and beautiful views. I also love the Sea Center (on the Warf), the botanical gardens and the museum of natural history. Visiting from “The Good the Random the Fun” Link up. Many Thanks 8)

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Eileen Wise June 10, 2019 at 10:19 am

Hello Santa Barbara looks like a fun city to visit. I love the coastal and water views. Gorgeous photos. Thanks for sharing your visit.
Wishing you a happy day and a great new week!

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Fun60 June 10, 2019 at 10:44 am

Great photos. There seems to be lots to do and admire in Santa Barbara

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image-in-ing: weekly photo linkup June 10, 2019 at 10:58 am

That’s not a gem – it’s a treasure chest full of them!
Thanks for linking up at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2019/06/boo.html

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Alan Bates June 10, 2019 at 11:12 am

Santa Barbara is a charming town to visit. You have done a great job describing it, I haven’t been there in decades so I appreciate all the info and great photos.

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Mother of 3 June 10, 2019 at 12:14 pm

That looks amazing! I have always wanted to visit Santa Barbara; mostly because of the TV show I used to watch in the 80’s… It looked so pretty.

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Su-sieee! Mac June 10, 2019 at 12:59 pm

Reading your post had me thinking of my two fun visits to Santa Barbara. Thanks for the memories, Sharon! 🙂

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riitta k June 10, 2019 at 9:29 pm

What a beautiful photo tour Sharon! I am not a seaside person (grew up on one of Finland’s thousand lakes) but enjoyed a lot the harbour views. And making genealogy research I found some distant relatives from Santa Barbara. So fun.

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Photo Cache June 11, 2019 at 1:56 pm

Beautiful city. I would love to revisit again.

Worth a Thousand Words

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Lady Fi June 11, 2019 at 9:14 pm

It looks so lovely!

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Anna June 12, 2019 at 6:07 am

I haven´t been to the “American Riviera” yet, but I´d love to visit! Your photos are so beautiful, I really feel the Santa Barbara vibe through them! In fact, the waterfronts are my favorite places to relax! Thanks for the inspiration #FeetDoTravel

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Mandy June 12, 2019 at 6:35 am

Santa Barbara is gorgeous. I’ve only gotten to explore a little of it in passing through doing the PCH. One day I’d like to return and see more. This was a fantastic post on what all there is to do there. Thank you for sharing Sharon!

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Sam June 14, 2019 at 3:46 am

Great photographs. Santa Barbara was my favourite town on our California road trip from San Francisco to LA.

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beatravelling June 17, 2019 at 9:20 am

The “only time” I’ve heard of Santa Barbara, is from the same name soap opera that was on TV when I was teen 🙂 Looks very idyllic. Would definitely visit if in the area. #farawayfiles

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Jatin Arora June 17, 2019 at 9:25 pm

Hi! Sharon, I’ve never visited California before and this place looks like amazing. I would definitely plan to visit California with my family this year. Thanks for sharing this amazing post.

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Tomasz June 18, 2019 at 1:06 am

Beautiful photos! Places full of charm. I want to go there and feel this amazing atmosphere.

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Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net) July 3, 2019 at 12:42 pm

We love Santa Barbara, but don’t get to visit often enough. We’ve seen the courthouse, but had no idea there were tours available! Making a note of that for our next visit, along with the Mason Beach Inn. It looks fab! You’ve definitely got us dreaming of our next trip out west. Thanks for the wanderlust! 🙂

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