Sheltered by mountains and smugly wallowing in year-round temperatures in the low 70s, it looks like a place airlifted from southern Spain, its buildings complete with red tiled roofs, stucco walls, wrought iron balconies and brilliant flowers everywhere. ‘If everyone knew what we had out here,’ a local waiter once said, ‘we’d be stampeded.’
There’s a broad sweep of a sandy beach which curves gently around a bay, backed by a prom shaded by palm trees. Be sure to take a walk on the wooden pier, known as Stearns Wharf, timing your stroll to a meal time spent at the no-frills Santa Barbara Shellfish Company (baked clams for shrimp ceviche for starters maybe, followed by crab cakes or lobster tacos?). Santa Barbara has lots of places to eat and drink, interesting shops and, top of the sightseeing, the Mission dedicated to Santa Barbara in the hills.