The Ultimate Santa Barbara Road Trip Guide: Exploring the American Riviera
A Santa Barbara road trip provides a glimpse at one of the most scenic and iconic roads in the world, the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). The PCH offers stunning views of the ocean and coastline, with plenty of opportunities to pull over and take in the views. The drive is especially beautiful during sunset, when the sky is painted with vibrant colors and clouds that often look like cotton candy. The PCH also offers access to many of the city’s beaches, including East Beach and West Beach, which are popular spots for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports.
Soak in the Cultural Heritage of Santa Barbara
The city has a rich cultural heritage. The Santa Barbara Mission, a National Historic Landmark, was founded in 1786 and offers a glimpse into the city’s Spanish colonial past. The Santa Barbara County Courthouse, a Spanish Colonial Revival-style building, is also worth visiting for its beautiful architecture and gardens. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art features an impressive collection of American and European art, and the Santa Barbara Historical Museum offers exhibits on the history of the city and the surrounding area.
Santa Barbara is also well known for its wine country, visitors can take a tour of the wineries and taste the local wines. The wine industry has fostered many excellent restaurants, serving a variety of cuisines, and a vibrant nightlife scene. A Santa Barbara road trip is a great starting point for an adventure along the California coast. You can drive north to experience the rugged beauty of Big Sur or head south to explore the charming coastal towns of Los Angeles. The options are endless, making a Santa Barbara road trip an ideal home base for those who want to explore this area of southern California.
Top Santa Barbara Road Trips
- The Santa Ynez Valley – This beautiful valley is home to many of Santa Barbara’s wineries and is a great place to go wine tasting. Visitors can also explore the charming towns of Solvang and Los Olivos.
- The Ojai Valley – Located just a short drive from Santa Barbara, the Ojai Valley is known for its beautiful scenery, art, and architecture. Visitors can explore the Ojai Valley Trail, which offers breathtaking views of the valley, or take a stroll through the charming town of Ojai.
- Carpinteria – This small coastal town is located just 15 miles south of Santa Barbara and is known for its beautiful beaches, such as Rincon Beach, which is a popular spot for surfers. It also has many nurseries, gardens and farm stands, perfect for a leisurely drive with plenty of opportunities to stop and explore.
- Solvang – This Danish-inspired village is located just a short drive from Santa Barbara and is known for its charming architecture, delicious bakeries, and wine tasting opportunities.
- Montecito – This upscale coastal community is located just a few miles from Santa Barbara and is known for its celebrity residents, beautiful homes, and high-end shopping and dining options.
- Santa Maria – Located about an hour north of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria is known for its delicious BBQ and wine country. Visitors can explore the many wineries in the area and enjoy the delicious food.
- The Channel Islands – A short boat ride from Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands offer a unique chance to explore five of California’s eight Channel Islands. These islands are home to an abundance of wildlife, including sea lions, seals and dolphins.
Top Things to do in Santa Barbara
- Stearns Wharf is the oldest working wharf in California and offers a variety of shops, restaurants and a sea center. Visitors can also take a tour of the wharf and enjoy the beautiful views of the ocean and the city.
- State Street, the most renowned avenue in Santa Barbara, is the city’s premier destination for shopping, dining, and nightlife. Exploring the area by foot on State Street will give you a quick introduction to the city. Most tours of Santa Barbara will include a stop on State Street. The street boasts a variety of local shops, art galleries, theaters, bookstores, and even a mall. Every Tuesday afternoon, the street is home to the Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market, a great place to grab a bite or interact with locals as they purchase fresh produce.
- Old Mission Santa Barbara is known as the “Queen of the Missions,” it is a historic landmark and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Santa Barbara. The mission was founded in 1786 by Spanish Franciscan friars and is the tenth of the 21 missions established in California. The mission features beautiful Spanish colonial architecture, an impressive church, and a museum that tells the story of the mission and the indigenous people who lived there. Visitors can also explore the mission’s beautiful gardens, which feature a variety of native plants and flowers. The Santa Barbara Mission is a must-see for anyone interested in California’s history and culture.
- The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is a 78-acre garden that features over 1,000 species of plants, including native Californian plants. Visitors can take guided tours, attend educational programs and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
- The beach loop is a beachfront path that offers views of the ocean, the beach and the city. Visitors can walk or bike along the path and enjoy the sun, sand and sea.
- The Santa Barbara Museum of Art features an impressive collection of American and European art, including works by Rembrandt, Monet and Picasso. Visitors can take guided tours, attend lectures and enjoy the beautiful galleries.
- The Santa Barbara County Courthouse is a Spanish Colonial Revival-style building that is known for its beautiful architecture and gardens. Visitors can take a tour of the courthouse, explore the sunken gardens full of plants and flowers and learn about the history of the building.
- Santa Barbara’s wineries offer a variety of wine-tasting tours where visitors can sample local wines and learn about the wine-making process.
- The Santa Barbara Zoo features over 500 animals from more than 150 different species. Visitors can explore the zoo, see the animals, and attend educational programs.
- The Los Padres National Forest offers a variety of hiking trails, where visitors can explore the beautiful wilderness and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
- Whale-watching tours provide visitors the opportunity to see whales and other marine life in their natural habitat. Visitors can take a boat tour and observe the whales from a safe distance.
- The Santa Barbara Natural History Museum features exhibits on the natural history of the area, including the local flora and fauna, geology, and human history. Visitors can explore the museum, attend lectures and educational programs.
- The Santa Barbara Historical Museum offers exhibits on the history of the city and the surrounding area. Visitors can learn about the Chumash people, the Spanish mission era, and the city’s development over time.
- Kayak and Paddleboard tours offer visitors the opportunity to explore the coast from a different perspective. Visitors can paddle along the coast and enjoy the beautiful views of the ocean and the coastline.
- The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum offers exhibits on the maritime history of the area, including the local fishing industry and the history of shipbuilding. Visitors can explore the museum, attend lectures, and learn about the history of the area.
- Hot air balloon rides offer visitors the opportunity to see the city and the surrounding area from a different perspective. Visitors can take a ride and enjoy the beautiful views of the city and the countryside.
- Surf lessons in Santa Barbara offer visitors the opportunity to learn how to surf in a safe and fun environment. Visitors can take a lesson, learn how to surf and enjoy the beautiful waves.
In conclusion, Santa Barbara is a fantastic destination for a road trip, with a wealth of scenic drives, beautiful beaches, delicious wineries, and charming towns to explore. From the Pacific Coast Highway to the Santa Ynez Valley, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The Santa Barbara Mission is also a must-see, providing a glimpse into the area’s history and culture. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach getaway or an adventure-packed trip, Santa Barbara offers it all. With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder that Santa Barbara is such a popular road trip destination.
If you have any questions about doing a Santa Barbara road trip, leave question in the comment section. So, until next time, we’ll see ya on the road…