Passport Magazine Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara City Waterfront

Where you can shop, dine & play all day!

There’s something for everyone at the Santa Barbara City Waterfront, the breathtaking span of palm-lined beaches along Cabrillo Boulevard that border the world-famous Stearns Wharf and California’s oldest – and most beautiful - working harbor.

The Waterfront is blessed with three picturesque, golden sand beaches. East Beach, at 1440 Cabrillo Blvd., offers picnic facilities, more than a dozen volleyball courts on the beach, and a full service restaurant. The Cabrillo Pavilion Bathhouse, built in 1927, offers showers, lockers, a weight room, beach wheelchair and volleyball rental. West Beach between Stearns Wharf and the harbor offers a picturesque sandy area for sunbathing, swimming, kayaking, wind surfing and beach volleyball on eleven acres adjoined by the wide palm tree lined walkway and bike path. The family-friendly Leadbetter Beach between the harbor and Shoreline Park offers grassy picnic and barbecue sites and attracts windsurfers, catamaran pilots, surfers and walkers.

Santa Barbara Waterfront

We recommend that you begin your waterfront adventure with a visit to the Santa Barbara Region of Commerce Visitor Center, open daily at the corner of Cabrillo Blvd and Garden Streets, where you can make reservations at hotels and restaurants and get directions and information about the area’s attractions and visitor-serving businesses.

The Waterfront offers a variety of ocean-going activities like coastal cruises, sailing, whale watching, fishing, kayaking, surfing and parasailing. And for those who prefer spend more time on land, the amphibious Land Shark operated by Land & Sea Tours departs from State Street at Stearns Wharf at 12PM, 2PM and 4PM daily for a 90-minute fun-filled, narrated tour of historical landmarks that includes a cruise around the harbor and waterfront. The Santa Barbara Zoo, just off Cabrillo Blvd at East Beach, is home to 160 species of mammals, reptiles, birds and insects on its 30 hilltop acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean. On Sundays, up to 200 resident artists display their original works under the palms along Cabrillo Blvd at the Arts & Crafts Show that is the only continuous, non-juried arts festival of drawings, paintings, graphics, sculpture, crafts and photography in the world.

The historic Stearns Wharf – the longest and oldest working wooden wharf in California- is the most popular visitor attraction in the Santa Barbara area. Built in 1872 by local lumberman J.P. Stearns to unload logging ships on what had just become the longest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the wharf’s 3.8 acres of decking served the passenger and freight shipping needs of California’s South Coast for over a quarter century; and, now supports shops, restaurants, galleries, boating, parasailing facilities and the Ty Warner Sea Center, an interactive marine education facility. Free parking is available in several lots along the waterfront on Cabrillo Boulevard as well as merchant validation on the wharf itself.

Santa Barbara Waterfront

The Santa Barbara Channel is one of best Whale Watching places in the world and the world famous Condor Express, a large jet-powered catamaran that departs from Sea Landing between Stearns Wharf and the harbor, provides the fastest and most comfortable way to get up close and personal with many of the more than 30 species of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and sea lions that frequent the area.

It’s a short trip by foot, bike or water taxi from Stearns Wharf to the picturesque Santa Barbara Harbor, where you can stroll out on the breakwater, savor the smell of the sea, view the boats in the marina, and watch the local fisherman unload their catch on the dock. The Harbor is home to several restaurants, boat charter services, yacht brokerages, shops, and the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum that brings the area’s rich maritime history to life with a variety of exhibits set inside nearly 8,000 square feet of museum space.

There are a variety of excellent restaurants in the Waterfront area. At the back of Stearns Wharf, you can enjoy spectacular views of the mountains, harbor and Channel at the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company that has been a favorite destination for fresh shellfish for over 25 years or savor some of the central coast’s finest fresh seafood and ocean-side dining with patio seating for lunch or dinner at the Santa Barbara FisHouse on Cabrillo Blvd across from East Beach and Stearns Wharf. At the Harbor, Sunset Magazine has named the surfing inspired Endless Summer Bar Café one of the ten best spots around the West to enjoy seafood along with a seaside view, and, Chuck’s Waterfront Grill offers memorable waterfront dining by the boats on their architectural award-winning open air terrace, under the sails with radiant warmth at your feet, glass to help block the breeze, and flames dancing nearby from three fire pits.

From dining and shopping to biking, diving, fishing, kayaking, parasailing, running, sailing, skating, surfing, swimming, volleyball, walking, whale watching, wind surfing and more, you’ll want to put a visit to the Santa Barbara City Waterfront at the top of your list of things to do in paradise on the pacific!

Popular Spots

Endless Summer Bar Café

“Top ten seafood spots by the sea” by Sunset Magazine.

The Natural Café

Consistently voted by locals as the “best health food” restaurant.

Condor Express Whale Watching

Spectacular whale watching trip, sportfishing or island excursion.

Stearns Wharf

Take a short stroll out over the Pacific Ocean and enjoy the fresh ocean breeze.

Qui Si Bella Eco-Wellness Spa

This luxurious eco-wellness spa bring out your beauty.

Wendy Foster - Montecito

A local store with a national reputation

The Natural Café

Consistently voted by locals as the “best health food” restaurant.

Santa Barbara Shellfish Company

This place is for the real shellfish lovers! All varieties of delicacies from the sea.

Village Properties

Santa Barbara largest independent real estate brokerage, serving from Ventura up through Santa Luis Obispo.

Wendy Foster - Montecito

A local store with a national reputation