Santa Barbara on the South Coast of California Travel guide
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South Coast - Santa Barbara

The Southern California coast starts in Santa Barbara County and majestically sweeps down to Ventura, Malibu, Los Angeles and San Diego. From south of Santa Barbara the beaches are part of resort scenes on many big and small cities along Pacific Coast Highway 1. Golden beaches, surfing, volleyball, shopping, art galleries, and restaurants share vibrant part of Southern California coastal scenes.

  • Santa Barbara

  • Santa Barbara, "the American Riviera", nestled between palm-lined Pacific beaches and the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains, is just one of those places that seems to have it all. It's beautiful, has a lot of history, a great climate, good beaches, a relaxed attitude and some of America's best vineyards are only miles away. Downtown Santa Barbara is distinctive for its Spanish-Mediterranean architecture, a stylish planned community that continues to enforce strict building codes. Santa Barbara is ideal for lying back on white-sand beaches, visiting the shops and galleries that line the village's historic streets, and relaxing over a meal in one of many top-notch cafes and restaurants.
    Santa Barbara has many areas of historical and cultural interest, listed below are some of the favourite attractions of the discerning visitors to this jewel of the Pacific coast.
  • Santa Barbara County Courthouse

  • Built in 1929, this grand "palace" is a flamboyant example of Spanish Santa Barbra county courthouse Colonial Revival architecture. It's certainly the most photographed, with impressive facades, beamed ceilings, striking murals, an 85-foot-high observation clock tower, and formal sunken gardens. Free guided tours are offered on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday at 10:30am and Monday through Saturday at 2pm.
  • Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

  • The Botanic Gardens were established in 1926. The gardens are devoted entirely to indigenous California plants. You can walk through the sixty five acres that constitute the park on any of the more than five miles of meandering trails and look in wonder at the plethora of cacti, redwoods, wildflowers, and much more, many arranged in representational habitats or landscapes.
  • Santa Barbara Mission

  • Established in 1786 by Father Junípero Serra, the Majorcan-born Santa Barbra Mission Franciscan monk who founded all the California missions. It is a rare example in physical form of the blending of Indian and Hispanic spirituality. The hilltop structure is called the "Queen of the Missions" for its twin bell towers and graceful beauty. It overlooks the town and the Channel Islands.
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art

  • This little jewel of a museum feels more like the private gallery of a wealthy collector. Its leaning is toward early-20th-century Western American paintings and 19th- and 20th-century Asian art, but the best displays might be the antiquities and Chinese ceramics collections. In addition, there are often visiting exhibits featuring small but excellent collections from other establishments.
  • Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens

  • This zoo is a thoroughly charming, pint-size place, where all 600 animals can be seen in about 30 minutes. Most of the animals live in natural, open settings. There are also a children's Discovery Area, a miniature train ride, and a small carousel. The picnic areas (complete with barbecue pits) are especially recommended as they are never too busy.
  • Stearns Wharf

  • Since its beginning, Stearns Wharf has had its share of natural and economic disasters, from the big earthquake in 1925 to a fire in 1973 which caused its closing. The wharf stayed closed for six years until restorations began, and in the fall of 1981 it finally reopened. Yet another fire in the winter of 1998 devastated the last hundred and fifty feet of the wharf, including the Moby Dick Restaurant. Though the rest of the wharf remained open during this period, the rebuilding took over two years. The new Stearns Wharf stands today as Santa Barbara's most visited landmark. California's oldest working wharf attracts visitors for strolling, shopping, and snacking. There's also a Sea Center with aquariums, an outdoor touch-tank, and other exhibits. The wharf has a family-friendly atmosphere, and it's not as touristy as San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. Although the wharf no longer functions for passenger and freight shipping as it did when built by local lumberman John C. Stearns in 1872, you might still see local fishing boats unloading their daily catch.

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