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.
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.
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.
There are exhibits in some of the presidio buildings to further educate the visitor. This board on chocolate caught my eye.
Jumping ahead through time, we come to the Courthouse, completed in 1929 in the Spanish Colonial Revival style. Visitors 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.
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.
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.
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!