For anyone wanting to make a trip to California, or even for California natives, I am going to suggest a very fun, beautiful coastal drive from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, with a few stops in between. This adventure can be completed in a full day or, for those wanting to spend the night, there is a two-day plan as well.
8:00 a.m. • Shopping Spree (optional)
Drive North on the 101, until you reach Camarillo, which is located just 45 minutes from Los Angeles, and 40 minutes South of your final destination: Santa Barbara. Exit Las Posas Road and follow the signs to the Premium Outlets.
This is one of the best outlets in town, with brand names galore, including Le Creuset, where you can buy discounted cookware that is not harmful for your health.
11:30 a.m. • A stop in Ventura, a walk in the Pier
Don’t shop until you drop because there is still much ground to cover. Shop for a couple of hours and then continue to head North on the 101, until you reach Ventura, about 20 minutes from where you were. Exit California Street, 70A ramp, turn left and go over the freeway reaching California Street, and then turn right onto Harbor. You will then make a left into the parking structure for the Crown Plaza Hotel, which is validated by the restaurants.
After parking, walk over to the beach. Feel free to dip your feet in the water, if you would like, before heading to one of the two restaurants on the pier. For those with kids, this short beach has a very enjoyable park where children can play their little hearts out.
Another very amusing thing to do is to walk on the pier, but I am going to suggest that you first select the restaurant of your choice, sit down for a moment to have lunch, and then walk down the pier to help with your digestion.
The two restaurants are:
Beach House Fish
Beach House Fish offers a combination of fresh fish with local farmers’ market vegetables. marvelous organic salad called Louie salad, and you can order it by itself or accompanied by fresh fish from their fish market or chicken. It is an informal atmosphere, with indoor and outdoor sitting. You place your order, they call your number and you pick up the food. Highly recommended is sitting in front of windows where you can see the ocean or the pier. Now, for sure drinking is not conducive to health, but for those who do not mind a quick drink here and there, there is a full bar with delicious wine from local wineries, a variety of craft beers, and assorted cocktails.
Beach House Tacos
Beach House Tacos is a simpler vibe, but the food is outstanding. It has the same schema of placing your order and them calling your name or number. For those with pets, this place is great because you sit outside and your pet can be by you.
Before you go for your walk on the pier, don’t forget to validate the parking ticket. One sad thing to note is that as of June 1st, the validation will only be for two hours. Luckily, for those following this itinerary, that should be enough.
2:00 p.m. • Next stop: Carpinteria
After the visit to Ventura beach, the next stop is Carpinteria, approximately a half-hour North, continuing on the 101 freeway. This is a magical beach to go for a walk in the afternoon. There is usually parking either directly near the beach or on the adjacent streets. The water there is calm and not necessarily cold, depending on the season.
The Carpinteria beach is a great place to go for a quick swim. Normally, dolphins swim by, along with small seals and sea lions. Below is a what you will see when you look South, then East, and then North. By this time no one should be hungry but for a snack there is a Starbucks on 5436 Carpinteria Road where you can get a Cliff Bar and a small coconut water, or a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf one or two blocks down on 4991 Carpinteria Ave. You can drive to either of these after the beautiful walk on the beach.
5:00 p.m. • Final Destination: Santa Barbara
By now, your trip has been filled with adventure, but it has not reached its final destination: the beautiful town of Santa Barbara. Keep driving North on the 101 freeway and get off on Cabrillo Street. Important note: the exit is on the left, so stay on the left lane once you see a sign that says Montecito.
Depending on the day, Santa Barbara can be very busy, bubbling with life. The city is known around the world as the American Riviera. Its dominant architecture is regulated to maintain the look and feel of Spanish Colonial Revival and Mission Revival. Along Cabrillo Street many artists display and sell their art, reminiscent of “Hippie” outdoor fairs.
There is a huge mall on the famous State Street, along with several restaurants and also rental houses for bicycles, kaiaks, and all sorts of activities.
The Santa Barbara zoo is simply beautiful, and I highly recommend a visit if you get to spend the night.
However, since this is a coastal one-day trip, I am going to stay with the beach theme and let you in on a secret place where you can literally have dinner with your feet on the sand, watch the waves break accompanied by occasional paddlers, and enjoy a beautiful sunset. If you keep on driving up Cabrillo street, pass the Yacht Club, you will see on the left Shoreline Cafe. That’s the place you want to go. Parking is free all along the beach.
This amazing restaurant has a great assortment of salads, sandwiches and Mexican food, which also includes a healthier choice of amazing fish tacos. And if alcohol is your thing, they have a full bar.
Harbor View Inn
If you choose to spend the night, by all means, try the Harbor View Inn first. This sweet inn offers a variety of amenities, but best of all it sits right on Cabrillo street with beach-front views that are astonishing.
Make the best of it
After the sunset, if you still have any stamina left, a drive home all along the coast, following the well-known Highway 1, instead of the 101 freeway, will lead you to Santa Monica. Now that is a complete separate adventure that may be featured here in a future edition. Until then, I hope you enjoy your Santa Barbara trip.