Santa Barbara County’s 110 miles of Pacific coastline is a destination par excellence! Santa Barbara is a vacation city, and the coast is often called the American Riviera! Eclectic inland towns, wineries, mountains, and valleys, are an allure. County Santa Barbara includes the Channel Islands.
Early Spanish explorers’ voyages 460 years ago led to European settlements in California’s County Santa Barbara. Before the European settlement, the Chumash Indians were here. The landscape changed in the 1800s with mission stations, agriculture, wineries, and in the late 1800, the oil fields.
What Is Santa Barbara County California Known For?
The wealth of County Santa Barbara’s oil production since 1886 has drawn environmentalists’ attention as some of the largest oil spills have been off the Californian coast. The Vandenberg Space Force Base‘s missile testing station here is controversial. Tourism dates to the late 1800s, and today, the County’s coastal and inland cities and towns are booming.
- Santa Barbara
- Los Alamos
- Los Olivos
- Santa Maria
Santa Barbara’s palm-lined beaches, stately homes, high-end hotels, and historic downtown - 18th-century Spanish adobe architecture – lies on Highway 101 between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Santa Barbara, 18.9 square miles square, is the county seat and has a population of 90,412. Santa Barbara County has 448,229 people, with almost a quarter living in Santa Barbara.
Montecito, the Spanish for ‘Little Mountain,’ is near the Santa Ynez Mountains on the Pacific Ocean and has a population of 8,638. Montecito is where celebrities buy. Italian settlers came here in the late 1800s and built a village reminiscent of their Italy. They farmed, made gardens, and wealthy tourists and famous stars have bought land here since the end of the 19th century.
Named after the Spanish word for a sailing ship (Schooner), Goleta was incorporated into Santa Barbara County in the early 2000s after being the largest unincorporated and populated area with 32,690 people. The post-war construction of Lake Cachuma in the Goleta Valley resulted in a housing boom. There’s an aerospace research center here.
In the mid-1880s, spiritualist and real estate speculator H.L. Williams developed Summerland (a term for heaven). He divided the land into 25 x 60 lots. He started a Spiritualist Church with a séance room that was destroyed to make way for Highway 101 in the 1950s.
By the 1890s, oil developments saw Summerland develop into a beach town. It is a popular resort town.
The name of this small seaside city means ‘carpentry.’ Carpintería has a population of 13,264 and is a popular surfing spot. Carpinteria was a Chumash village known as Šujtu before Spanish settlement here in the late 1760s. During an early expedition, traveling Franciscans saw the villagers making canoes. This inspired the name La Carpinteria!
In the Santa Ynez Valley, Ballard is the oldest town and is near the City of Solvang. Two historic buildings from the 1880s are the Ballard School and the Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church. Ballard has less than 500 residents – a curious mixture of a sleepy village with upscale housing in a prized wine region. Interestingly, the award-winning comedy-drama Sideways was filmed here.
Located in the Santa Ynez Valley, Buellton has a population of less than 5 000. It is a town with accommodation, restaurants, parks, and shops and carries the nickname ‘Home of Split Pea Soup!’ The city attracts many travelers with its location at the junction of Route 101 and Route 246.
Environmentalists currently are lobbying against the oil industry in Lompoc with their campaign ‘Get Oil Out!’ They are agitating for the decommissioning of Lompoc oil fields in Santa Barbara’s oldest oilfields in Purisima Hills. Controversy also surrounds the Vandenberg Space Force Base here.
Los Alamos is the Spanish for ‘cottonwoods,’ and this town has less than 2000 people. Los Alamos is notorious as the hideout of the bandito Salomon Pico. Pico has been popularized by the character ‘Zorro’ in films!
From Spanish ‘the olive trees, Los Olivos is a community of under 1 500 people in the Santa Ynez Valley. It is known for its vineyards.
Santa Maria is Santa Barbara’s largest City, with over 107 000 and comparatively old-school in appearance to Santa Barbara. Santa Maria has, however, in recent years been an attractive place for developers of high-end enclaves, like that of La Ventana. Santa Maria has a wine industry and its’ culinary mainstay is the Santa Maria-style barbecue!
This is a little Copenhagen! The name Solvang means ‘sunny field’ and has a population of over 6,000. Solvang has a fascinating history since 1911, when it was founded, and is often called ‘The Danish Capital of America.’
Initially, the site of Solvang was an 1804 Spanish mission, Mission Santa Inés. In the early 1900s, a group of Danish-Americans bought 9,000 acres and started a Danish community. By the late 1940s well-known international tourists and the Danish royalty visited here.
What’s In Santa Barbara County?
The scenic mountains of Santa Ynez and Raphael, the South Coast shoreline, the historic towns, and fashionable cities have appeal. Delving into the lives of original inhabitants dates back to the early 1600s! Santa Barbara County offers explorations on various levels.
Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park
California State Parks, CyArk, and Santa Ynez Valley High School have detailed 3D laser scans of Chumash Painted Cave found. The groups worked with Barbareño Chumash elder Ernestine de Soto and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History for accurate rock art interpretations.
The pictographs are some of the most delicate remaining rock artworks by the Chumash Native Americans and are estimated to date 1600s or earlier.
Cachuma Lake is a reservoir in the Santa Ynez Valley and an artificial lake when the Bradbury Dam was constructed in the 1950s. The ‘Cachuma’ is from the Chumash village name aqitsu’m, meaning ‘sign.’
Curiously, as it is a reservoir for drinking water, no ‘body contact activities’ like swimming, wading, or water skiing are allowed. Since 2011 kayaks and canoes have been allowed, but ‘incidental body contact’ with the water is a punishable offense!
Channel Islands National Park
The eight Channel Islands are part of County Santa Barbara and five are the Channel Islands, National Park. Though the Californian coastline is densely populated, these Pacific islands are relatively pristine and undeveloped. The park covers an area of 249,561 acres, of which 79,019 acres is federal land.
All eight islands have rich natural and cultural resources and have been a UNESCO biosphere reserve since 1976.
Vandenberg Space Force Base
The Vandenberg Space Force base started as an army base in 1941 on 86,000 acres of open ranch lands between Lompoc and Santa Maria. The area’s remoteness, canyons, hills, and plateaus were a drawcard for the base. In the 1950s, there was a need for the United States to have a first combat-ready missile base.
Things To Do In Santa Barbara County?
From walking tours in downtowns, cycling, surfing, skating, and playing golf to hiking, scenic drives, vineyards, and small towns, Santa Barbara County has endless activities to amuse and entertain.
- Santa Barbara
- Wine Country
- Outdoors and urban hikes
Being on foot in Santa Barbara’s downtown is the closest you can get to being a local! The seduction of self-guided tours through the historic part of the City includes passageways, courtyards with restaurants, theatres, and viewing significant government buildings along State Street.
The Santa Barbara County Courthouse is a functioning courthouse and has an 80-foot-tall bell tower that’s the best look-out point across the red-tile district! The famous Sunken Garden used as a bull ring in colonial times is here. The Casa de la Guerra is an adobe residence built between 1818 and 1828 as the Presidio. There’s the Mission Santa Barbara, often called: the ‘Queen of the Missions.’
Many go to Santa Barbara’s Zoo, cycle along the shore, shop, and eat: there’s Funk Zone, Stearns Wharf built-in 1872, and an urban wine trail with 36 tasting rooms downtown! There’s every kind of museum, even a surfing one! Santa Barbara is the original Hollywood – the setting for silent movies and westerns! Santa Barbara continues to be a backdrop for photo shoots, commercials, and films.
With more than 220 wineries and about 23,000 acres of vineyards, the Santa Ynez, Lompoc, and Santa Maria valleys offer lovely day trips. The important stops here are Ballard Canyon, Happy Canyon, Santa Maria, Santa Ynez Valleys, and the Los Olivos District.
Outdoors And Urban Hikes
From the beaches of County Santa Barbara’s 100 miles South Coast, there are whale watching, cycling, sailing, fishing, and seven 18-hole championship golf courses! Santa Maria still has an old-school drive-in that shows the latest released films.
Some of the best trails are Santa Barbara’s Jesusita Trail with a 180-degree view of the city, ocean, islands, and Santa Ynez Mountains, and the San Ysidro Trail’s 80-foot waterfall!
Famous People From Santa Barbara County
The list of the famous in Santa Barbara County is mainly from Hollywood: Oprah Winfrey, Kirk Douglas, George Lucas, Carol Burnett, John Cleese, Drew Barrymore, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Charlize Theron, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Kenny Loggins, Kevin Costner, Rob Lowe, Ellen DeGeneres, and Portia de Rossi, to name just a few.
Ellen Degeneres And Portia De Rossi
The couple’s romantic villa in Montecito was recently sold for $13.5million. Degeneres now owns a $27million mansion in Montecito.
Oprah Winfrey’s Montecito home Promised Land is on 70 acres and worth more than $100million!
Santa Barbara County FAQ
Interesting Facts About Santa Barbara County?
Most of the historic center of Santa Barbara was rebuilt and restored after the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake.
In the 19th century, the celebrity enclave we know as Montecito was a haven for bandits and highway robbers! At the end of the 1860s, the bandit gangs left.
Is Santa Barbara County A Good Place To Live?
Santa Barbara County has a climate of almost 300 days of sunshine each year! Santa Barbara County is one of the world’s most diverse and exciting places.
Is It Expensive In Santa Barbara County?
The City of Santa Barbara is the most expensive of the cities in Central California – and 100% higher than the national average! The City of Santa Barbara ranks fourth out of the 150 most expensive places in the U.S.