Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara

Post originally Published November 14, 2023 || Last Updated November 15, 2023

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Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara - Take in the Ocean Views Along the Waterfront

Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara

One of the best ways to experience the beauty of Santa Barbara is to take in the breathtaking ocean views along its scenic waterfront. With sweeping vistas of the Pacific, the Santa Barbara coastline is postcard perfect. Meandering along the waterfront walkway, you’ll be awestruck by the dazzling blue ocean set against a backdrop of palm trees, pristine beaches, and the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Starting at Leadbetter Beach, stroll along the path heading west. Pause frequently to admire the stunning seascape. Watch surfers catching waves and pelicans diving for fish. Lay out a beach towel on the sand and relax while breathing in the refreshing ocean breeze. Further along, take the steps down to paddle at the tide pools around the breakwater at Shoreline Park. Peer into the pools to spot starfish, anemones, and crabs.
Continuing towards Stearns Wharf, soak up the sights of the harbor. Elegant yachts rock gently in their slips as seagulls circle overhead. Pop into a few of the shops and restaurants along the pier, but don’t miss the opportunity to simply stop and appreciate the pacific panorama. At the very end of the wharf, lean on a railing and look out toward the horizon. On a clear day, you may even glimpse the Channel Islands in the distance.

After exploring the bustling wharf, head to West Beach next to the harbor for a change of pace. Far less crowded than other stretches of sand, it’s easy to find a peaceful spot. Lay back on the sand, relax and daydream to the soothing rhythm of the lapping waves. As the afternoon winds down, picnic while watching the glowing sunset over the sea.
When evening sets in, make your way to Shoreline Café. Their large outdoor patio provides the perfect vantage point to soak in a dramatic sunset. Sip local wine while the sky ignites in brilliant hues of orange and pink. Watch pelicans glide by in silhouette as the sun slowly sinks below the horizon.

What else is in this post?

  1. Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara - Take in the Ocean Views Along the Waterfront
  2. Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara - Explore the Quaint Architecture of Downtown
  3. Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara - Indulge in Fresh Seafood at the Harbor
  4. Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara - Wander Through the Beautiful Botanic Garden
  5. Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara - Relax on the White Sand Beaches
  6. Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara - Go Wine Tasting in the Vineyards
  7. Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara - Experience the Funky Vibe of Funk Zone
  8. Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara - Treat Yourself to a Luxury Stay at the Bacara

Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara - Explore the Quaint Architecture of Downtown

With its red-tiled rooftops, whitewashed adobe buildings, and flower-lined streets, downtown Santa Barbara transports visitors to an idyllic Spanish colonial town. Wandering through the historic neighborhoods, you’ll discover exquisitely preserved examples of the city’s iconic architecture around every corner.

Make your way down State Street, the lively pedestrian thoroughfare that serves as the city's main drag. Pop into boutiques housed in Neo-Andalusian buildings with arched windows framed by hand painted tiles. Stop for a café con leche on a restaurant patio shaded by a red umbrella. Further along, the imposing Santa Barbara County Courthouse commands attention with its Mudejar-inspired design featuring a green glazed tile roof and elaborate bell tower.

Stroll down to the weekly Farmers' Market on Cota Street held right next to the courthouse on Tuesday afternoons. Browse rainbow chard and sample fresh juices as a guitarist strums Spanish ballads, enhancing the romantic old-world ambiance. Wander down garden-lined Anacapa Street to peek at adorable bungalows with characterful features like decorative ironwork and outdoor tiled fountains.

Make your way over to the historic El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, site of the original 1782 Spanish fort. Today, it encompasses several reconstructed colonial adobe buildings providing a window into 18th century life. Pop into the chapel with its striking half-barrel arches, peaceful courtyard, and original paintings. Visualize what life was like for the early inhabitants and imagine the dreams and dramas that echoed within these ancient walls.
Afterwards, head to the Santa Barbara Historical Museum to delve deeper into the city’s past. Historic photos, detailed models, and multimedia exhibits chronicle the cultural history from the days of the Chumash people through the Mexican era into the present. Don’t miss the intricate diorama of the 19th century town center, an enlightening glimpse into Santa Barbara’s origins.
Finally, be sure to spend time along the waterfront taking in the architecture of Stearns Wharf. The pier’s combination of exposed timber pilings, gracefully arched steel trusses, and Spanish-style details create a unique seaside atmosphere. Notice how even modern buildings incorporate traditional design elements like red tile roofs, stucco walls, and wrought iron accents to maintain Santa Barbara’s distinctive aesthetic.

Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara - Indulge in Fresh Seafood at the Harbor

After exploring the scenic coastline and admiring downtown's captivating architecture, head to Stearns Wharf to indulge in Santa Barbara's famously fresh seafood. Though touristy, the restaurants on the wharf boast unbeatable views and an authentic harbor vibe that enhances the whole dining experience.

Start at Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, located right at the entrance to the pier. Their emphasis is on local sustainably sourced seafood, with stars of the menu like Chuck's Famous Crab Cakes, wild shrimp ceviche, and the Shellfish Tasting Platter where you can sample a bit of everything. Savor briny local oysters and clams on the half shell paired with a glass of crisp Chardonnay. Sit on the open-air deck and watch fishing boats unload the day's catch as pelicans circle hopefully overhead. The hustle and bustle of this true working harbor sets the ideal scene.
Further down the wharf, check out Harbor Restaurant for more alfresco waterfront dining. Their signature Harbor Platter offers a taste of Santa Barbara's ocean riches - crab, shrimp, mussels, clams, calamari - all prepared with care to highlight the fresh flavors. Complement your meal with one of their famous Bloody Marys, made with hand-infused vodka, fresh horseradish, and local ingredients like strawberries and basil.

Next, grab dessert and a nightcap upstairs at Longboard's Baja Cantina. Share some churros with chocolate dipping sauce as you gaze out at the lights of the harbor sparkling on the water. Sip aflight of artisanal mezcals and listen to live music, soaking in the festive ambiance.
Looking for a more upscale experience? Splurge on dinner at Brophy Bros Restaurant and Clam Bar. The elegant nautical-themed interior provides a refined yet casual backdrop. Start with half a dozen locally farmed Kumamoto oysters topped with a cilantro lime mignonette. Move on to specialties like seafood cioppino or almond crusted barramundi, paired with a crisp glass of Sancerre. Save room for their legendary clam chowder, rich and creamy with huge chunks of clams and potatoes. Request a window table to watch fishing vessels glide in and out of the marina as you dine.
Finally, don't miss the Saturday morning Farmer's Market at the harbor. Sample juicy prawns just hours from being caught, picked up that morning straight from the fishing boats. Chat with local fisherman as they fillet the freshest halibut and snapper right before your eyes. Pick up some smoked salmon, large prawns and fresh oysters for the ultimate beachfront picnic dinner, along with crusty bread, cheese, and a bottle of Santa Barbara wine.

Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara - Wander Through the Beautiful Botanic Garden

Tucked away from the bustling downtown, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden provides a peaceful refuge to commune with nature. Wandering along winding garden paths, you become immersed in the rich diversity of California's native flora. This living museum dedicated to the conservation of regional plants offers informative displays highlighting their ecological and cultural significance.

Enter near the redwood grove, where mighty giants tower overhead. Continue past the Channel Islands section, filled with specimens from Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and Anacapa Islands. Learn about these isolated isles’ rare and endangered plants, 85% of which are found nowhere else in the world. Further along, stroll through sage scrub, chaparral, and marsh habitats showcasing adaptive species like Manzanita, Ceanothus, and Dudleya.

In the meadow, delight in fiery California poppies mingling with purple lupine and yellow goldfields, recreating the colorful spring blooms that carpet hillsides statewide. As you meander uphill through oak woodlands, listen for the rush of water from Mission Creek. Emerging streamside, take in views clear to the Santa Ynez Mountains as dragonflies dance over the water.
Next, explore the Ethnobotany section honoring Chumash Indian traditions. Learn how this indigenous tribe utilized regional plants, like yerba mansa for medicine and willow for basket weaving. See them incorporated into a traditional Chumash village site and sweat lodge. Understanding this deep connection between native Californians and their environment enhances appreciation for the landscape.

Further along, breathe deeply in the fragrant Rose Garden, ablaze in every hue from palest pink to crimson. Over 1,600 varieties grow in this serene oasis, including heirloom Bourbons, Gallicas, and Chinas. Visit in spring when in full lush bloom, or later in the season to appreciate their vivid fall foliage and vividly-colored hips. Stop and smell the flowers as you wander through rows overflowing with petals and perfume.
Finally, conclude your garden stroll at the Audubon Swindle Memorial Butterfly Pavilion. Step inside the glass conservatory filled with tropical plants and hundreds of butterflies gently flitting from flower to flower. Gaze in wonder at diverse species like orange monarchs, iridescent blue morphos, and painted ladies sipping nectar. Take a moment to appreciate their delicate beauty as these ephemeral creatures complete their lifecycle, emerging from chrysalis to fly free.

Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara - Relax on the White Sand Beaches

After exploring the culture, cuisine, and nature of Santa Barbara, it’s time to simply sit back and soak up some vitamin sea on the area’s pristine beaches. With over 5 miles of coastline, Santa Barbara offers plenty of options when it comes to finding that perfect stretch of sand.

Arguably the most iconic is East Beach, located just east of the pier with mountain views framing the horizon. Its wide spacious shore makes it easy to claim your own little piece of paradise. Set up near the volleyball courts to get your social fix, or head down past the bathhouse for more solitude. The gentle slope and moderate waves create ideal swimming conditions for all ages. Or claim a fire pit in the evening to toast s’mores under the stars.

Further along, Leadbetter Beach attracts surfers with its more consistent break. Relax on the sand and watch them catch air on overhead waves, or have a go yourself if you're feeling adventurous. The calmer lagoon at the east end is great for families with little ones. Pack a picnic and make a day of it, rinsing off sandy feet in the tide pools lining the rocky point.

West Beach, tucked just below Stearns Wharf, feels like your own private oasis with smaller crowds. Build an epic sandcastle with the kids, or grab masks and snorkels to explore the kid-friendly cove with its clusters of anemones. Picnic under a palm tree, or unwind on a bench along the bluff-top path shaded by eucalyptus as you gaze out to sea.

Keen to escape the masses? Hidden Beach near the Douglas Family Preserve offers seclusion with sandstone cliffs framing a crescent cove. Pack a book, beach yoga mat, and bluetooth speaker to curate your own relaxing beach day. The summer waters teem with marine life, so bring goggles to spot Garibaldi damselfish and other colorful creatures. Return at sunset to behold an unforgettable burning sky.

Of course, no beach day is complete without stopping at an iconic seaside snack shack for sustenance. Scarborough Deli at East Beach dishes up monster sandwiches ideal for fueling fun in the sun. Sit at the counter under nautical-themed decor, or grab your grub to go picnic oceanside. For an ultra-fresh fish taco fix, Summerland Beach Cafe can’t be beat. Their Baja-style tacos, burritos and ceviche will transport you (at least gustatorily) south of the border. Don't miss the churros for dessert - the perfect blend of crispy dough and cinnamon sugar.

Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara - Go Wine Tasting in the Vineyards

Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara wine country offers oenophiles an opportunity to sip award-winning vintages against a backdrop of rolling vineyards framed by ocean and mountains. From rustic family-run estates to sleek modern wineries, the tasting rooms pouring Santa Barbara’s famous Pinot Noir and Chardonnay run the gamut. Swirl, sniff, and savor fantastic wines as you chat with passionate winemakers and glimpse behind the scenes into the winemaking process.
Start your wine tasting adventure in the Funk Zone, Santa Barbara’s trendy warehouse arts district near the waterfront. Make your first stop at Riverbench Vineyard and Winery’s tasting room housed in a chic industrial space. Sample their estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as the knowledgeable staff provides insight into Riverbench’s dedication to sustainable winegrowing.

Next, head to Cutler’s Artisan Spirits, where they blend wine with handcrafted botanical spirits for uniquely flavored creations. Sip Lavender Earl Grey Wine or Hibiscus Rose Wine as you take in the sophisticated loft-like ambiance. Finish with a flight of their Agave Wine Spirits for an unexpected twist.
Further inland near Los Olivos, schedule a vineyard tour and tasting at Story of Soil. Their intensive focus on biodynamics and soil health results in wines with a profound sense of place. Taste limited production Pinot Noir and Syrah right in the vineyards, as you gain fascinating understanding into their holistic approach.

Next, enjoy an intimate tasting at Tensley Wines in Santa Maria Valley. Proprietor Joey Tensley shares his passion and deep knowledge of terroir as you sample his meticulously crafted Syrahs and exotic white Rhône style blends. His tireless innovation and experimentation result in complex wines capturing Santa Barbara’s trademark brightness and acidity.

Just down the road, a stop at Presqu’ile Winery is a must for their stylish Mediterranean villa tasting room and vibrant estate Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Linger over the expansive valley views while savoring their rich Dijon clone single vineyard offerings, considered some of Santa Barbara’s finest.

Finish your wine tasting adventure with a reservation at The Hearth and Vine, where an Enomatic wine dispensing system allows you to taste hard-to-find local labels. Complement your pours with artisanal cheese and charcuterie boards, chatting with fellow wine lovers at the community tables in the sleek modern space.

Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara - Experience the Funky Vibe of Funk Zone

Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara

Tucked between the beach and downtown, Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone offers visitors a vibrant arts district filled with urban wineries, craft breweries, galleries, and hip eateries. This eclectic neighborhood brims with creativity and cool, making it a must-see when exploring Santa Barbara.

Wandering the streets of the Funk Zone, you’ll discover a youthful energy unlike anywhere else in the city. Once a gritty industrial quarter filled with warehouses and auto shops, the Funk Zone transformed over the past decade into a thriving hub for artisans and innovators. Empty spaces began filling with tasting rooms, taprooms, and collaborative workspaces. Street art splashed color onto alley walls, and sidewalks came alive with pedestrians popping between creative spaces.

Today, the Funk Zone celebrates Santa Barbara’s contemporary culture with a laidback but lively ambiance. Stop by Art City Gallery to peruse works by local painters, sculptors, and photographers. Check the marquee at the Solvang Theater to catch an indie film screening. Browse records at Paradise Records before catching a show at the indie music venue SOhO Restaurant and Music Club.

The tasting rooms of numerous urban wineries now call the Funk Zone home. Enjoy flights on outdoor patios at places like Kunin Wines, where experimental blends put a modern twist on classic regional varietals. Or explore the natural wine movement atFreq Wines, pouring eccentrically named biodynamic pours like Fantom Blanc and Role Model Red.

Beer lovers can make the rounds of over a dozen breweries and taprooms concentrated within the Funk Zone’s few blocks. Sample creative brews at Third Window Brewing, known for ingredients like blood oranges, sage, and peanut butter. Or sip a flight of crisp lagers and IPAs in the laidback beer garden ambiance of Draughtsmen Aleworks.

With strict zoning prohibiting chains and franchises, the Funk Zone provides a platform for indie restauranteurs and niche food brands. Graze your way through the Bashful Acres General Store, filled with shelves of local jams, honey, jerky, and sweets. Enjoy authentically smoked pastrami sandwiches at The Shop, housed in a converted auto garage with roll-up doors for open-air dining. For the freshest seafood in town, snag a counter seat at Paradise Pantry and select from pristinely iced oysters, Santa Barbara uni, and harissa shrimp.

Wandering the mural-covered passages winding between converted warehouses, you’ll encounter delightful surprises around every corner. Sip espresso at Good Lion, roasted on-site in a vintage shipping container. Sample small-batch ice cream flavors like brown butter almond brittle at Rori’s Artisanal Creamery. Catch an impromptu jazz performance or poetry reading at The Lucky Penny’s community arts patio.

Brunch, Beach, and Bubbly: A Weekend Escape to Santa Barbara - Treat Yourself to a Luxury Stay at the Bacara

After an activity-packed weekend exploring Santa Barbara’s incredible offerings, you’ll be ready to treat yourself to some serious rest and relaxation. Look no further than the Bacara Resort & Spa, a lavish retreat perched dramatically on the edge of the Pacific just north of the city. This Spanish colonial revival style resort exudes luxury, providing an idyllic setting to indulge your senses and nourish your soul.

Upon arriving at the Bacara, you’ll immediately be struck by the stunning oceanfront location. The resort sprawls over 78 pristine acres, with uninterrupted views of the channel, the islands, and crashing surf as far as the eye can see. Meandering the palm-lined pathways and red tile roofs, you’ll feel transported to a tranquil Mediterranean village. Luxurious amenities and impeccable service cater to your every need.
You simply can’t beat the spacious guest rooms, each with a private patio or balcony boasting spectacular vistas. Sink into the plush bedding swathed in high-thread count Frette linens. Soak in the deep soaking tub or pamper yourself with Molton Brown bath products. Slip into the cozy waffle robe and padded slippers, and relax on your terrace sipping complimentary Nespresso as the rolling waves serenade you.

When hunger calls, Bacara’s half-dozen on-site restaurants provide an embarrassment of riches. Paddle out to the Beach House over the lagoon for just-caught seafood with your toes in the sand. Enjoy authentic Spanish cuisine like gambas al ajillo and paella on the terrace at Miró Restaurant. For the ultimate luxury, book a Chef’s Table experience for a personalized multi-course tasting menu paired with fine wines. Of course, 24-hour in-room dining is available to satisfy any late night cravings.

You’ll be spoiled for choice at the 42,000 square foot spa, repeatedly ranked among the world’s best by leading travel publications. Unwind in the massive heated outdoor saltwater pools framed by swaying palms. Detox in the redwood sauna or eucalyptus steam room. Splurge on signature treatments like the Sea Wellness wrap using marine algae, or opt for classic massages and facials to address your specific needs. Return to your room utterly blissed out.

Should you manage to pull yourself away from the Bacara’s lavish amenities, a complimentary shuttle provides easy access to nearby activities. Ride the bike path to the hilltops overlooking the resort and rugged coastline. Head into Santa Barbara for museums, galleries, and boutique shopping. Or lounge on the Bacara’s slice of private beach, strolling into the surf when the mood strikes.

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