Okay so we all know the hotspots when travelling to California: San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. But why not take a break from these fast-paced cities and head to a destination where even Californians go when they want to get away?
Enter the beautiful, laid-back city of Santa Barbara, located between San Francisco and Los Angeles, just off Highway 1. With the famously scenic backdrop of the Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara is filled with Spanish-style architecture, long white-sand beaches, fabulous shopping and outstanding restaurants, making it the ultimate weekend destination. There are many activities to suit your fancy (even if that activity is lying on the beach) so here are our recommendations for what to do when visiting Santa Barbara. But take it from this local author – this way of life can get pretty addictive!
1. Roam around State Street
This long street takes you from the beach right into Santa Barbara’s historic downtown. With a goldmine of shopping, restaurants and nearby museums, it’s a good place to kick off your relationship with Santa Barbara and its people.
2. Catch up with the animals at the Santa Barbara Zoo
With over 500 animals, you’ll have a hard time picking a favourite, so definitely give yourself a few hours to meander around the zoo, have some lunch and enjoy the Pacific Ocean views.
3. Have a picnic at the Santa Barbara Mission
Established in 1786 by Spanish Franciscans, this mission is a piece of history – and it’s surrounded by colourful gardens and a massive lawn area, a perfect setting for an afternoon picnic. It’s worth taking a tour of the Mission Museum too.
4. Take a hike
With the Santa Ynez Mountains, there are multiple hikes to choose from. For an easy-going hike with a great view, check out Inspiration Point. If you’re feeling adventurous, the 3 Pools Beyond 7 Falls hike is much more rigorous (there’s some rock climbing involved!) but the pools at the end make it all worthwhile.
Read more: Lonely Planet