It is a quaint little Californian city lapping on the shores of the Pacific Ocean and one that you imagine about while leafing through Nicholas Sparks’ romance novel. If nothing the former Spanish colony will most definitely remind you of the Greek Santorini cityscapes. Winding alleys, tucked white houses, and acres of beach coastline make this Southern Californian place an ideal summer destination for visitors.
Visas, flights and currency guide
However, September-October are touted as the perfect months for tourists to take a dip in the lukewarm Pacific waters with a mild breeze harbouring over the pier. Santa Barbara is usually a day-trip planned during a dreamlike Californian getaway. Beach schnapps, summer dresses, indulging in gelato ice-creams under a canopy of trees with toes dipped in the ocean water, is casually spent lazying on after a hectic trek at the Yosemite National Park. Direct buses from Greyhound operate from as minimal as $16 per person from other Californian cities into Santa Barbara.
However, if you wish to swoop in directly into the city then frequent flights operate from London Heathrow to Los Angeles, California or even San Francisco with a round-trip starting from as little as £550 per person. 1GBP= 1.29 USD* (at the time of writing) and whilst Santa Barbara will appear to be a regular quaint Californian city, it actually is quite expensive.
The City is celebrated as the American Riviera because of its Spanish colonial revival architecture, heritage, food and wine scene, breathtaking pier and wait for it water sports adventures. From the farmers’ market to the little trinket stores to the popular Spanish Church, Santa Barbara is a simple yet charismatic Spanish beauty.
Walking down the Sterns Wharf
Every beach city boasts of yachts, piers and sailboats. The Sterns Wharf is a rough wooden pier lined with souvenir shops, snack vendors and shacks at the southern end of the State. The Wharf also boasts of a proud history. It is built in 1872 serving as the oldest operating wooden wharf in California. The Sea Centre at the Wharf is essentially for kids which means you can take a hike down the pier with your children. Although the first 90 minutes at the Wharf is free, time spent at the pier is later on chargeable with a nominal fee.
Exploring artefacts at the Antique Alley
The Antique Alley is located just down the road from the pier and nestled amidst Spanish and Indian cafe. Like any other antique store, this place houses collectibles from pre World War 1 era. Expect to spend an entire afternoon thumbing through warrior jewellery, postcards from faraway, dated musical vinyl records and fairytale costumes. Pro-tip: If you visit the city during Halloween then you might in for a little surprise with the colourful wigs, masks and other prolific accessories.
Old Mission Santa Barbara
The Old Mission was established on December 4 (the feast day of St Barbara), 1786, as the 10th California mission. Of California’s original 21 Spanish Colonial missions, it’s the only one that escaped secularisation under the Mexican rule. Now it is believed to be the only active parish church in the city.
The self-guided tour starts in the pretty garden before heading to the cemetery (where Juana María, the Chumash girl made famous in Scott O'Dell's 1960 children's novel Island of the Blue Dolphins was buried behind the tower).
Other guided tours in Santa Barbara include wine tasting sessions starting from 130 USD, food, wine and nightlife bar hopping sessions which start from as minimal as $100.
If nothing be prepared to pack your swimming trunks, bikini bottoms and beach towels for cliff jumping, diving and kayaking.