First visited by Portuguese settler, Joao Cabrilho, while on a voyage for Spain in 1542, Santa Barbara is about 95 miles to the west of Los Angeles. This coastal city sits on the beautiful California coast between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Inez Mountains, just west of Malibu.
Arriving from Los Angeles, we drove into Santa Barbara and were immediately captured by the city’s beautiful architecture, as it maintains its Spanish colonial look. The city was founded in 1782 and in 1786, one of its most famous sites was founded, the Santa Barbara Mission. Known as the “Queen Of The Missions,” it sits at the foot of the Santa Inez Mountains. From the front door of the mission church, you get a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean with the Mission’s beautiful gardens in the foreground.
The Mission is very well preserved. It is still used today by Franciscans and is also used as a retreat house. A visit to the church is a must if visiting Santa Barbara, so that you can see what this Mission was like in the days of the settlers.
Another amazing Spanish colonial style building in the city that you should visit is the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. This building was completed in 1929. Not your typical Courthouse, walking through its corridors you will walk on its Spanish tiles and see its incredible mosaics. The most impressive room is its Main Courtroom. Entering this room is like a step back in time. Its antique furniture, chandeliers and the murals on the walls will take you back in time.
The most important stop on your visit is up on the clock tower at El Mirador. This 85 foot tower offers 360 degree views of the city. You could spend several hours up here just soaking in the spectacular views. The tower features some photo guides on the railings which show you what you are looking at in every angle.
The area around the Courthouse is full of shops and street side cafes. Its a great place to take a stroll and enjoy the afternoon while doing some shopping or enjoy a coffee or snack while people watching.
Making your way down to the Pacific Ocean you will find the Santa Barbara Pier. Although not as popular as the Santa Monica Pier, the Pier offers shopping and dining. Restaurants here offer great seafood with the added bonus of panoramic views of the California coastline.
With plenty to do, Santa Barbara is a great place to spend a pleasant afternoon!