Think you know the Santa Barbara Region? This Central Coast region best known for its namesake city has plenty to offer beyond its famous beaches and elegant wine countries. It’s also a treasure trove of historical sites, culinary heritage, nature preserves, and more. But you must know where to look—here are six Santa Barbara hidden gems to discover on your next trip to the “American Riviera.”
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden doesn’t get as much attention as the city’s other famous attractions, including Old Mission Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Zoo. But visitors who take the time to explore the botanic garden will discover one of Santa Barbara’s best kept secrets: miles of nature trails with sweeping mountain and ocean views spread across the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s 78 acres. The tranquil garden is home to historic landmarks and more than 1,000 plants on display. Photo: Jay Sinclair
Santa Maria Wine Trolley
The Santa Maria Wine Trolley isn’t just a Santa Barbara hidden gem, it’s also a fun and inexpensive way to explore Santa Maria Valley wineries. On weekends from late May through October, you can hop on and off the trolley as it shuttles among favorite stops including Costa de Oro, Presqu’ile Winery, Cottonwood, and Rooney’s Irish Pub. Book in advance to save even more; your chariot awaits.
Discover a nostalgic world of vintage road-trip memorabilia at the Mendenhall Museum in Buellton. This off-the-beaten-path personal collection of gas station and automobile memorabilia and other antiques includes one of the largest petroliana collections on the West Coast, including gasoline pumps, globes, and porcelain gas, oil, and road signs. Photo: Michelle Rodriguez
The Hitching Post Restaurant
The Hitching Post Restaurant, in the former Old West cow-town of Casmalia, has honed California-style barbecuing to perfection. The restaurant celebrates the traditional red oak wood, indoor barbeque method, bringing fine, aged beef to the ultimate of flavor and tenderness. Housed in a 120-year-old building, The Hitching Post is a Central Coast icon of Old West hospitality.
La Purisima Mission
The most extensively restored mission in California, La Purisima Mission in Lompoc displays California heritage through architecture, exhibitions, and historical recreations. Explore the mission and its surroundings to learn about mission era of early California history. Watch weaving, pottery making, blacksmithing, and other demonstrations; and then explore the surrounding 2,000-acre park.
Buellton is part of Santa Barbara Wine Country’s Sta. Rita Hills wine trail. The trail leads through stunning scenery, but the real Santa Barbara hidden gem is at the end: Industrial Way. Named for its industrial look and feel, visitors can experience an eclectic and unique wine tasting experience with four distinct tasting rooms and a custom crush facility producing wine for mom & pop wineries as well as large productions.
California’s Central Coast consists of:
VENTURA REGION: Ventura County, Camarillo, Conejo Valley, Heritage Valley, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Simi Valley
SANTA BARBARA REGION: Santa Barbara County, Buellton, Carpinteria Valley, Goleta, Lompoc Valley, Los Olivos, Santa Maria Valley, Solvang, Santa Ynez Valley
SAN LUIS OBISPO REGION: San Luis Obispo County, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Cambria, Cayucos, Grover Beach, Harmony, Morro Bay, Nipomo, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, San Simeon
MONTEREY BAY REGION: Monterey County, Santa Cruz County, Carmel, Gilroy, Hollister, San Benito
About Central Coast Tourism Council
The Central Coast Tourism Council (CCTC) is a non-profit organization comprised of Destination Management Organizations (DMOs; Convention & Visitor Bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, etc.) throughout the California Central Coast. Comprised of tourism and hospitality professionals, the mission of CCTC is to jointly promote the entire California Central Coast as a destination. The four regions that comprise California’s Central Coast include Monterey Bay, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura. The CCTC also serves as the Central Coast’s voice in Sacramento, and as a partner with Visit California’s global marketing and advertising campaigns.