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A pelican near Stearn's Wharf at the base of State Street


Scenic Drives  · Santa Barbara Coast

Santa Barbara Coast - Montecito - Santa Ynez

Some call Santa Barbara the California Riviera with its elegant, Spanish-Mediterranean buildings filling the narrow space between the mountains and the sea. The city boasts one of the prettiest missions of all, a stylish downtown and a large dose of youthful spirit from the nearby UC Santa Barbara. High on a hill, Santa Barbara Mission overlooks the red tile roofs of the town.

This scenic drive takes in the city, the coast and a small wine region nearby surrounded by small towns visitors will enjoy, the most famous being Solvang, the Danish-themed village. The movie Sideways features the same area as the scenic drive to the west of Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara Coast Scenic Drives

Visitor Info
Santa Barbara
Scenic Drive Index Print/Zoom

SCENIC DRIVES: Santa Barbara’s mild climate makes it a great city for walking – especially along State Street as well as the Stearns Wharf area. Self-guided tour maps of the Red Tile Roofs Tour are available at visitor center near the wharf. Santa Barbara has many attractions within the city, along with all the amenities a visitor could want but, if time allows, explore the nearby upland towns and wineries as part of this scenic trip.

This drive starts on State Street. Before heading towards the ocean, consider a quick trip to see Santa Barbara Mission (take Los Olivos 4-5 blocks towards the foothills) for a wonderful view and a history lesson.

The main State St. retail and restaurant blocks are easily walkable and full of diversions on the side streets. When you are ready, follow State all the way to the main harbor area, Stearns Wharf, and relax on the beach, shop, dine or walk to the marina.  

Back to the road to the very scenic Shoreline Dr., heading west. The road turns inland and connects to Cliff Dr. where you’ll turn left and continue on Las Positas until it connects to 101 heading west towards Goleta. Enjoy the coastside drive or stop at one of the three state beaches along the way.

Stay on 101 as it heads north and inland toward Buellton, exiting at Highway 246 – east to Solvang. Windmills, wooden clogs and Danish pastry in California? You have to see it to believe it. There is another one of the California missions here, lending a Spanish touch to the Danish theme. Head east to 154.

SIDETRIP: At Buellton, continue on 101 to Zaca Canyon Rd, just after the exit for 154. Follow the road to Foxen Canyon Rd and the left on Alisos Canyon Rd. to return to 101 – a loop passing by several famous wineries.

SIDETRIP: Take 154 to Los Olivos and Santa Inez and watch for wineries with tours and tastings.

The drive back towards Santa Barbara passes through a bald eagle habitat so keep your eyes on the treetops. Continue on 154 to 101 back to Santa Barbara.

SIDETRIP: From 154 before the 101 connection, make a left on scenic 192, Foothill Rd. for a windy drive to Montecito. At Mission Canyon Dr. , take a left to visit the extensive Botanical Gardens. Continue on 192 - turn left at East Drive and right on San Ysidro to return to 101.


Wernher Krutein/photovault.com
Keeping cool near the beach

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