About Santa Barbara and the Central Coast
Balmy weather, glorious beaches, crystal clear air, and serene landscapes have lured people to the Central Coast since prehistoric times. Today it’s also known for its farm-fresh bounty, from grapes vintners craft into world-class wines to strawberries and other produce chefs incorporate into distinctive cuisine. The scenic variety along the Pacific coast is equally impressive—you'll see everything from dramatic cliffs and grass-tufted bluffs to wildlife estuaries and miles of dunes. It's an ideal place to relax, slow down, and appreciate the sheer abundance of beauty.Offshore, a pristine national park and a vast marine sanctuary protect the wild, wonderful underwater resources of this incredible corner of the planet. But not all of the Central Coast's top attractions are natural: Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo are filled with sparkling examples of Spanish-Mediterranean architecture, bustling shopping districts, and first-rate restaurants showcasing regional foods and wines.
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Things You Can't Miss
The Old Mission Santa Barbara, dating from 1786, is an architectural and cultural landmark. Tour the church and gardens, and enjoy the interpretive displays.
Alan Tobey/Getty Images
The garden preserves and displays 65 acres of trees, wildflowers and cacti, including rare native plants. Take a tour or stroll solo.
The County Courthouse, in all its Spanish-Moorish glory, has been in business for 160 years. The tower offers a 360-degree view of the city’s red-tile roofs.
Getty Images/Robert Harding World Imagery
East Beach, with white sand and warm water, is the best spot around to watch serious volleyball. The playground and bike path are great for families.
Blaine Harrington III/Alamy
Take a lesson at Santa Barbara Fitness Tours, then go paddleboarding in the bay. Feel the fresh salt air on your face and gaze up at the mountains.
Gunter Marx Photography/Corbis
Winter is whale-watching season, when thousands of gray whales pass by on their way to calving grounds in the Baja lagoons of Mexico.
George D. Lepp/Corbis
One of my favorite drives in the United States is the winding mountain pass of Painted Cave Road, where you’ll see jaw-dropping views of the Pacific.
Shared Trips to this Destination
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