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
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
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.