When taking the ultimate road trip along Highway 101, Santa Barbara is a stop many consider a must and rightfully so. The Spanish-inspired architecture, vibrant downtown and array of seasonal festivals and events make it an entertaining destination for so many. But it’s the small coastal communities surrounding the more famous town that are also making their mark on the map. During a recent Sunday cruise up the coast, it was easy to see why.
Montecito: Sure, you’ve probably heard the star-studded zip code associated with the likes of Oprah, Rob Lowe or Jeff Bridges, but Montecito is so much more than just a celebrity haven. Stately trees and rambling stone walls are the brick and mortar of the tucked-away town. Our day began with a stop at Butterfly Bay for some stand-up paddleboarding. Sun? Check. Glassy ocean? Check. Dolphins? Check. Our morning exercise justified a visit to the Montecito Café at the Montecito Inn for some fantastic California coastal apps.
Goleta: Next stop was Goleta, home to the beautiful UCSB campus, a variety of well-known shoe and apparel brands, such as Uggs, Teva and Sanuk, the spa-like Santa Barbara Airport and the Sperling Preserve—seasonally home to thousands of Monarch butterflies. But our itinerary called for a visit of the more culinary kind. We swung into Fairview Gardens, one of the oldest organic farms in California, offering more than 12 acres of bountiful produce. Garden and cooking classes are available, but my road trip mate and I opted to peruse the farm-stand produce before heading onto the next destination, fresh berries, kale and tomatoes in- tow.
Summerland: Having hit the northern most point of our Sunday excursion, we turned around and headed south toward Summerland. This tiny town is about 10 minutes down the coast from Santa Barbara. Despite its small size, Summerland’s boutique shopping scene is anything but. For that special antique accent piece, head to Lillie Avenue where you’re sure to find it.
Carpinteria: Lovingly referred to as Carp by many a local, this compact beach community is one of those places you visit and don’t want to leave. Its short streets, cafés, expansive beaches and surf-town culture seem to have it all. It wouldn’t be a complete California road trip without a little wine tasting, so we stopped into the Corktree Cellars Wine Bar & Bistro.
The setting sun provided the perfect focal point for the five inviting communities that make up the South Coast. Whether it’s a day trip or a week-long getaway, these five beach towns comprise a coastal treasure trove of things to do and see during your time in the Santa Barbara Central Coast.