Santa Barbara: Visiting the Loveliest Place in California

When we first hit the Pacific Coast, it was in Ventura, California.  It was a nice town, but there was a thick marine layer during our stay that was a real disappointment for our first views of the Pacific. Then, we went to Santa Barbara, and all the beauty of California was restored before our eyes.  Santa Barbara may just be the loveliest place we have ever been.  From the mountains above rolling down to the Pacific Ocean below and the beautiful white buildings with Spanish tile roofs; Santa Barbara offers vistas incomparable to other places.  The sunshine on the palms, citrus and fig trees is so inviting and cheery.  The green and camel colored mountains contrast the Pacific blue.  Every view is so aesthetically pleasing that the word “lovely” is the best way to sum up the experience. View from Santa Barbara, CA

During our visit, we had a chance to visit some of the historical sites of Santa Barbara.  When visiting historical sites in California, expect to find Spanish missions and presidios.

Mission Santa Barbara

Founded in 1786 by the Franciscan order, this mission was the tenth of the California missions.  It was built for converting the area’s Chumash Indians.  We have already looked at Spanish missions in other parts of the country, and have already discussed the overall history and concept of these missions, so we won’t go in to all of the details again.  Instead, let’s take a look at what makes this mission unique.  First, the Mission is still owned and directed by the Franciscan Friars.  Second, there are beautiful gardens on the grounds for perusing.  Third, there is an active cemetery on the grounds.  Fourth and finally, this mission has undergone major repairs due to earthquakes. Mission Santa Barbara

Here is a look at the church…Mission Santa Barbara Church

There are exhibits explaining the history of the mission, and all of the tile work reminded me of my time studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain…Mission Santa Barbara 2

Mission Santa Barbara 3

El Presidio

A presidio is a Spanish fort built to protect their interests on the frontier.  While the missions were run by friars to bring the Indians in to a farming community and convert them; the presidios were built as military outposts.  Santa Barbara’s presidio was built in the 1780s, before the mission was constructed.  While most of the original structures are gone, there are two surviving buildings, as well as some original foundations.  One of the in-tact original buildings is the Cuartel, or soldier’s quarters, was completed in 1788 and is the oldest building in Santa Barbara, and the second oldest standing adobe in California.  Santa Barbara has worked hard at reconstructing some of the other portions of the presidio.  El Presidio. Santa Barbara, CA 3

Here, Chris stands before a painting of what the actual presidio would have looked like.  Today, the presidio grounds are broken up over several blocks and only partially reconstructed.El Presidio. Santa Barbara, CA 2

There are exhibits in some of the presidio buildings to further educate the visitor.  This board on chocolate caught my eye.

History of Chocolate. El Presidio. Santa Barbara, CA

This room is part of the Comandancia, or administrative center of the presidio.El Presidio. Santa Barbara, CA

The grounds are lovely too.  Look like Sevilla?  Absolutely.Orange Trees in El Presidio Santa Barbara

And some figs to go along with the orange trees…Fig Tree


Jumping ahead through time, we come to the Courthouse, completed in 1929 in the Spanish Colonial Revival style.       Courthouse. Santa Barbara, CAVisitors may tour the interior for free.  Highlights include the Mural Room on the second floor depicting the history of California and climbing the stairs of the tower past the visible clock workings to the views from the top.  Mural Room. Santa Barbara Courthouse

View from Courthouse. Santa Barbara, cA View from Courthouse. Santa Barbara, cA

We also took a drive up in to the surrounding hills to see some of the houses and their views of the water below.  The roads are narrow, winding and steep – like a lot of other places along California’s coast.  It seems impractical for a place prone to earthquakes, but there the homes sit, precariously on the edge. Santa Barbara California

We walked around some of the shopping areas downtown, and even those streets are just lovely.Santa Barbara, CA 3 Santa Barbara, CA 3

Finally, we parked by the beach and took a walk out on to the wharf.  There are shops and restaurants to enjoy, and there is a deep beach and walkway for admiring the Pacific blue water.

Santa Barbara Beach

Santa Barbara Wharf

And that, my friends, is Santa Barbara.  Lovely, lovely, lovely.


Fun Facts & Tips:

  • There are fees for both the mission and the presidio, but the courthouse is free.
  • We did not stay in Santa Barbara, we stayed in Ventura and drove to Santa Barbara for a day.  If you have the money, I would stay closer to Santa Barbara, and spend more time there.  Ventura was in a perpetual state of fog the few days of our stay.  It was a cute town, but not like Santa Barbara.  We stayed at Ventura Beach RV Resort for $78/night for their cheapest spot…yikes!!!  We were in Lake Havasu and it was 115 degrees, so that is when we decided we had to drive to the coast to beat the heat.  This campground was the best we could do at the time – I will wish you better options!
  • Ventura was our first view of the Pacific Ocean!                            Pacific Coast. Ventura CA

About Jen

I love travel, which led me to become a fulltime RVer. I love wellness, which I can talk about 'til the cows come home. I love being self-employed, which means I get to dabble in what interests me from essential oils to RV planners. But most importantly, I love my husband and our life together on the road!

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