Turn your two-day Santa Barbara stop into four with this Santa Barbara South Coast itinerary, featuring the best hidden gems along The American Riviera®.
Trip length: 4 days
Total distance: approximately 41mi
Santa Barbara . Embodying the character of “true California”, Santa Barbara is truly original—a world-class destination that combines approachable elegance, boundless opportunities and an inviting, laid-back community. The Spanish-inspired architecture, vibrant downtown and array of seasonal festivals and events make it an entertaining destination for so many. It’s worth spending a day or two enjoying the pedestrian-friendly downtown with its array of boutique shopping, cafés, sunny patio dining and vibrant night life.
History buffs will enjoy the self-guided Red Tile Walking Tour while outdoor enthusiasts will revel in the endless mountain trails and ocean activities. And there are plenty of family-friendly options, including Stearns Wharf, a visit to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and parks and gardens aplenty.
Goleta. Known for its bountiful agriculture and farm-fresh scene, Goleta is the perfect place to spend a day exploring. Stop by Fairview Gardens for a visit to one of California’s first organic farms, where garden and cooking classes are also available. With a bounty of farm-fresh goodies in tow, it’s time to visit the Coronado Butterfly Preserve , which is seasonally home to thousands of Monarch butterflies.
The outdoor recreation in Goleta is unsurpassed. Fish on the pier, surf Campus Point , kayak and spot wildlife in Goleta Slough and hike the bluffs above miles of beaches. Kids will want to take their parents to the Goleta Valley Depot and Railroad Museum to ride a miniature train.
Goleta also touts another mighty California feature: University of California, Santa Barbara , one of the sunniest college campuses in the country. Schedule your trip to coincide with one of the acclaimed UCSB Arts & Lectures events.
On your third day of California dreamin’, enjoy a visit to Montecito and Summerland. Tucked into the bluffs above the Pacific, Montecito is best known for its star-studded citizens, including Oprah, Rob Lowe and Jeff Bridges, but this quaint coastal sanctuary is much more than just a celebrity haven. Stately trees and rambling stone walls are the brick and mortar of this tucked-away town, where you’ll find fantastic shopping, glassy ocean (stop by Butterfly Beach for a glassy canvas perfect for a quick dip or SUP session) before heading to the Montecito Café at the Montecito Inn for some delectable California coastal apps.
Just south of Montecito is Summerland. For its small size, Summerland’s boutique shopping scene is anything but. For that special antique piece, head to Lillie Avenue where you’re sure to find it at shops such as Mediterranee and The Sacred Space . Finish the day with a dish at Summerland Beach Café , featuring home-style cooking and friendly service with a side of ocean breeze.
At the southern most point of Santa Barbara’s South Coast, you’ll find Carpinteria, or Carp as the locals like to call it. This compact beach community is one of those places you won’t want to leave. The long, sandy Carpinteria State Beach is said to be one of the world’s safest beaches. Parents will love watching kids tromp through the Tomol Interpretive Play Area, a replica Chumash Indian village on Linden Avenue. December through May, head to the Carpinteria Bluffs and peek over the cliffs to see the Harbor Seal Sanctuary, home to about 365 adult seals who give birth to their pups right on the shoreline during those winter and spring months.
Of course, no trip to Carpinteria would be complete without stomping a few divots á la the Duke and Duchess during their Santa Barbara visit to the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club .
After four days of exploring Santa Barbara’s South Coast you’ll realize that there’s always more to discover in this rich region of central California. INFO SantaBarbaraCA.com ; 800-676-1266