Destinations

Santa Barbara travel guide

Los Angeles’ northern neighbour is a sunny mix of Californian attitude and cool-climate wine country. Armed with this travel guide, you'll be enjoying the best that Santa Barbara has to offer on every front.

By Lucy E Cousins
Santa Barbara, framed by the Santa Ynez Mountains, is a perfect mix of urban Californian cool and natural wonders.
Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Mountains

WHERE TO EAT

Loquita

The latest venture by the Santa Barbara Wine Collective brings Spanish flavours to the Funk Zone, serving paellas, hot and cold tapas and an all-Spanish wine list. Order the crowd favourite – seafood paella with squid ink and Venus clams – and sit inside or by a fireplace on the patio. Or take a bar stool at the adjacent pintxos bar, Poquita, for jamón and Manchego tastings.

202 State St, loquitasb.com

*Loquita*
Loquita

Barbareño

Twentysomething owners Julian Martinez and Jesse Gaddy serve a sophisticated farm-to-table menu using only local and organic ingredients in a smart neighbourhood restaurant. A reimagined California roll of spot prawns, avocado, honeydew, wasabi and yuzu exemplifies their work.

205 West Canon Perdido St, barbareno.com

*Barbareno*
Barbareno

Olio Crudo

For crudo and cocktails, or if you're waiting for a table at Sicilian eatery Olio e Limone, take a bar seat next door at Olio Crudo. Expect the likes of bluefin tuna belly with ginger vinaigrette and wasabi shoots, buffalo tartare, and a long list of cocktails includes the Olio Margarita, made with amaretto, and an Italian Old-Fashioned, with whiskey, basil and blood orange.

11 West Victoria St, olioelimone.com

*Olio Crudo*
Olio Crudo

WHERE TO STAY

Kimpton Canary Santa Barbara

The canary theme is evoked by yellow bird motifs and Mediterranean styling in the hotel's 97 rooms, with handpainted tiles, wall tapestries and dark timber floors. The rooftop has views of the ocean and Santa Ynez range, a swimming pool, hot tub and fireplaces. Complimentary local wines are served in the lobby every night.

31 West Carrillo St, canarysantabarbara.com

*Kimpton Canary Santa Barbara*
Kimpton Canary Santa Barbara

WHAT TO DO

Walking tours

The Funk Zone in the former industrial area at the end of State Street is a hub of sleek, modern design in cafés, studios and boutiques spanning about 10 blocks. And while you're on foot, follow the self-guided Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail linking 29 wineries and tasting rooms downtown; many venues stage live music and exhibitions.

*State Street*
State Street

Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park comprises five of eight small uninhabited islands, the closest being 20 kilometres offshore. Known as the "Galápagos of North America", this marine sanctuary has kelp forests, spectacular sea caves and more than 2000 species of animals and plants. Take a day trip or stay overnight in campgrounds to kayak, scuba dive and camp with Santa Barbara Adventure Company.

Photography tours

Eat, drink and shoot during an El Paseo Food and Photo tour of the historic El Presidio neighbourhood, or a similar stroll through the Funk Zone – with guides and the county's most interesting wines.

*Dish from Loquita*
Dish from Loquita
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  • Author: Lucy E Cousins