A perfect stop roughly midway between the Bay Area and Los Angeles, the Santa Maria Valley blends its historic ranching and farming traditions with an ever-growing reputation as one of California’s top wine regions. Come to this northern Santa Barbara County region for succulent Santa Maria–style barbecue and tastings of premium wines along the Santa Maria Valley Wine Trail.
Step back into the past at La Purisima Mission
California history comes alive at La Purisima Mission State Historic Park outside of nearby Lompoc. The most fully restored of the state’s missions, La Purisima takes you inside buildings with rustic beamed ceilings and sacred art that dates to the early 19th century. Hike trails that explore the park’s nearly 2,000 acres, a landscape little changed over the centuries.
Tee off at a top golf course
Called “a total hidden gem” and honored as one of America’s 50 Toughest Golf Courses by Golf Digest, La Purisima Golf Course near Lompoc is as challenging as it is beautiful. Play among the oaks on this hilly, wine country course as you test your game on the 18 holes designed by acclaimed golf course architect Robert Muir Graves.
Find that perfect something at a huge antiques mall
With more than 35 leading dealers, Deja Vu Antiques Mall in Old Orcutt lets you search for everything from traditional furniture to mid-century modern designs. Wander among the dealers displaying their wares in a cavernous loading-dock structure built in 1906. You never know what you’ll find while browsing through collections that include vintage clothing, classic lunch boxes, and fine china.
Bite into a perfect steak at Far Western Tavern
Delicately seasoned and slow-grilled over red oak, there’s nothing like a steak barbecued Santa Maria–style. For more than five decades, the Far Western Tavern has been the place to go for this Central Coast delicacy. Order up a rib eye or the tri-tip while enjoying western art, stained glass, and other decorative details brought over to the tavern’s Old Orcutt location from the original restaurant in Guadalupe.
Visit a dramatic, contemporary winery
Strikingly modern with a V-shaped roofline, Presqu’ile Winery is as surprising as its distinctive name (pronounced press-KEEL, it’s Creole for “almost an island”). Visit this breezy spot overlooking the Santa Maria Valley and you can sample the winery’s celebrated Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in a light-filled tasting room constructed of beautiful woods with walls of handlaid local stone. Check the winery’s events calendar and sip a Syrah while watching a live outdoor concert.
Also, don’t miss…
To experience the best of the local wine scene, follow the Santa Maria Valley Wine Trail, which leads to 15 area wineries. Take a ride on the Wine Trolley, which on Saturdays and Sundays makes a 75-minute circuit through the valley to reach both leading wineries and foodie destinations in the area. Speaking of food, you’ll want to pair some of that great local wine with a big plate of Santa Maria–style barbecue at valley restaurants that specialize in this regional tradition.