“As I travel around the world, everybody knows where Santa Barbara is. They’ve either been here or want to visit here.”
That’s Kyle Kemp, branch manager of our Santa Barbara office, describing his hometown. He’s one of the approximately 90,000 residents who love their beachside city–not to mention the millions more who enjoy visiting “The American Riviera” year round.
Santa Barbara and its surrounding communities have so many perfect places to spend a vacation–or a lifetime.
We asked Kyle to tell us what makes Santa Barbara so special, and some of his recommendations that might be better known to locals than the rest of us.
We’re one of only three places in the world that have the combination of mountains behind, islands in front, and south-facing beaches, which gives us some of the most miraculous sunsets on the planet. The climate typically runs about 70 degrees all year without much variance high or low, which tends to attract a lot of Europeans during spring and summer.
People from Los Angeles come here for weekend getaways. We also attract a lot of artists because of the terrain and natural setting that gives them a unique palette.
Because we have the ocean at our doorstep, we have lots of sailing and water sports. You can take sailing classes, sunset cruises, tall ships voyages, whale watching excursions, and even go camping overnight on the Channel Islands.
In the Santa Ynez Mountains behind us, we have hiking, a lot of trail riding, and Jeep tours. We have some of the best golf courses by the ocean and in the hills. They are very easy to get on to and open to the public.
Traffic is usually very light, even with 35,000 average visitors on a summer weekend, so a lot of the places you want to visit and things to do have very small crowds. There are lots of festivals and parades that cater to our history. The weeklong Old Spanish Fiesta Days each August celebrates the Spanish and Mexican heritage of Santa Barbara from the 1700s, with the largest equestrian parade west of the Mississippi River.
There are plenty of opportunities for people who like horseback riding, wine tasting, or just kind of a country feel. Within a half-hour, you can be in a place that looks like western U.S. cowboy country.
Butterfly Beach in Montecito is one of the most famous, right in front of the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore. It’s also one of the most picturesque oceanfront walks you could ever have. The small town of Summerland has some pretty secluded beaches. At Carpinteria there’s Loon Point Beach, where people can walk dogs and ride horses on the relatively vacant sands. In lots of places along the coast, you can walk up to 10 miles and never see another person on the beach.
There are several hiking trails in town and nearby. Red Rock Loop is great for hiking in summer, where you can jump off the rocks and into streams. Cold Spring Trail goes from Santa Barbara to the top of Montecito Peak, and has some of the best views.
Belmond El Canto resort in the foothills is known for its sunset views and deck for happy hour. The Boathouse at Henry’s Beach is great for going to the beach and then to dinner afterwards, or just for cocktails and watching the sun set.
In Santa Ynez, about 30 to 40 minutes away, is renowned Pinot Noir wine country for some of the best wine-growing grapes in California. It’s also famous for its Chardonnay grapes, which produce some of the best wine in California.
There are many restaurants at the end of pier at Stearns Wharf. One of my favorites is Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, where you can get local lobster and crab along with one of the best views. Cold Spring Tavern is the oldest tavern in Santa Barbara County, originally built as a Wells Fargo stagecoach rest station. It’s well-known for the best tri-tip anywhere.
Funk Zone is an old warehouse area converted to restaurants and wineries. The Lark restaurant is newer and caters to families. The Zone is easily accessible by walking, bicycle, and is close to the train station so a lot of tourists will come up for the day.
Jeanine’s in Montecito is perfect for anyone visiting from out of the area, and very commonly you’ll see movie stars there. If you want a sighting of somebody famous, it’s a place they are known to visit.
Speaking of celebrities, it’s no secret that Oprah Winfrey has an expansive estate in Montecito. Others reported to have residences in the area include Kevin Costner, Tim Allen, Ellen DeGeneres, Whoopi Goldberg, and Steve Martin.
One of the misconceptions is that Santa Barbara is only a high-end real estate market. In fact, it services all markets. In our office, we like to say “We sell mobile homes to mansions.” People can and have the ability to buy affordable housing. You can buy condominiums in the $400,000s up to the $600,000s. We do have housing that starts at about $600,000 and goes to $900,000. Stop by our offices in Santa Barbara, Montecito, or Santa Ynez Valley, and any of our agents will be glad to introduce you to the area.