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.
Copyright ©2014 by Fodor's Travel, a division of Random House, LLC. All rights reserved.
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 self-guided tour takes you around 12 blocks of the city’s landmarks and architectural gems, including 22 adobe buildings dating from the 1700s.
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
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.
For a bit of the Old West try dinner at Cold Spring Tavern, opened as a stagecoach stop in 1886. Meat and house-baked breads are specialties.
Shared Trips to this Destination
|Trips||Places Of Interest|