Called by some the "American Riviera," Santa Barbara Harbor is a popular destination for people who love the beaches, the mountains, and the local culture. The city offers a wide range of lodgings and attractions for visitors. Just over an hour's drive from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara Harbor offers the world-famous Stearns Wharf, nearby wine country, and the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. Santa Barbara Harbor offers something for everyone from outdoor lovers to those who prefer an exciting nightlife and fine dining.
Santa Barbara Harbor enjoys a mild coastal climate and more than 300 days of sunshine per year. It is particularly pleasant during the winter months from October to March, and many affluent families maintain winter homes here. Protected by the Channel Islands to the west and the mountains to the east, Santa Barbara Harbor is protected from weather and powerful waves. As far as weather is concerned, there is no "off season" in Santa Barbara Harbor. Temperatures range from an average high of 25°C (77°F) in August to an average low of 17°C (64°F) in January.
Stearns Wharf is the best known attraction in Santa Barbara Harbor. Located at the end of State Street on the waterfront, it is the longest deep-water pier between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Hollywood great James Cagney owned the wharf at one time. In addition to shopping and dining at Stearns Wharf, visitors enjoy watching the local fishing boats unload their catches, board the Harbour Queen for a whale watching cruise, and taste outstanding local wines.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is a favorite treat for families visiting Santa Barbara Harbor. Visitors are greeted by an almost 22-meter long Blue Whale skeleton as they enter the museum. The exhibits feature birds, mammals, marine life, insects, paleontology, and the local Chumash peoples. The Maximus Gallery presents natural history antique art. The museum also operates the Ty Warner Sea Center on Stearns Wharf, an interactive marine education center that connects visitors to the marine world.
The "Queen of Missions," Santa Barbara Mission is the best-preserved mission in California and a great example of the colonial Spanish architecture of the period. Today, the mission is a cultural and historic landmark in Santa Barbara Harbor and an active parish. Covering more than four hectares of land, the mission has gorgeous manicured gardens, a museum, and a gift shop. Featured are waterworks that Indian labor built, a Spanish grist mill, remains of aqueducts and reservoirs. Remains of the pottery kiln and tanning vats are also preserved.
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden covers over 26 hectares in the foothills above Santa Barbara Harbor. Visitors enjoy walking through a canyon, a redwood forest, a meadow, across a historic dam, and along ridges that overlook the Channel Islands. The Botanic Garden is home to native plants that include trees, business, wildflowers, and cacti in their native environment. The dam was built in 1806 by the Chumash to provide water for the Santa Barbara Mission and living quarters.
Travelers who want to visit Santa Barbara Harbor by sea can find a list of scheduled cruises by searching for "Santa Barbara" on the Cruise Compete website.