California Road Trip with American Sky – Santa Barbara

A weekend in Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara A long way to go for a weekend I hear you cry – and it is true. But if you are embarking on a California road trip, Santa Barbara is a great place to spend a couple of lazy days. With a wonderful backdrop of the Santa Ynez mountains and the magnificent Pacific Ocean shoreline, Santa Barbara in one pretty town and has the well-deserved title of ‘America’s Riviera’.

Situated just a 90-minute drive north of Los Angeles this pretty town offers some calm and tranquillity after the bustling LA beaches.  The town boasts a great transport system including an Amtrak station, and is very bike friendly, so once you arrive you can park your car for a few days, which is a welcome respite from all the driving that is inevitable in California.

Trolley Bus Tour - Santa Barbara With a short stay of just 2 nights available I can recommend taking the pretty Trolley Bus tour for an informative ride that showcases the charms of the Santa Barbara area. A 90-minute ride on one of the iconic trolley buses will give you your bearings and the driver/guide always has some great stories to tell. You can hop on or off along the way, or just stay on board for the full tour.

After the tour head for Stearns Wharf where you can spend an enjoyable afternoon strolling amongst the speciality shops, admiring the views and making friends with the resident pelicans who like to strut their stuff along the boardwalk. Or make the most of the sandy beaches where you can watch (or take part) in paddle boarding, kayaking and surfing.

Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara As evening falls you will find a great selection of restaurants, many specialising in locally caught seafood. We enjoyed a meal at Brophy Brothers, overlooking the harbour, where if you are lucky to get a table with a view you can enjoy the freshest clams, crab and shrimp.

As the sun sets everyone heads towards an area known as the Funk Zone, a district of converted warehouses where artists and artisans hang out and have their galleries. You will also find a selection of restaurants, bars and wineries participating in the Urban Wine Trail. This innovative trail takes you on a tour of tasting rooms, set up by the many local wineries and for a few dollars you can sample exceptional wines from the area. As night falls the air is filled with music and there is a real party atmosphere, as some of the larger establishments have live entertainment and the area throngs with people of all ages.

Shoreline Park, Santa Barbara On the morning after the night before, with slightly sore heads, we explored the harbour area with its hundreds of fancy boats moored up and the ideal spot to enjoy a lazy Sunday brunch overlooking the water. Then we hopped onto bikes (provided by our hotel) and cycled along the bike friendly waterfront along the Cabrillo Bike Path, passing by three different beaches, and up the hill to Shoreline Park, where we had wonderful views of the town and the deep blue Pacific Ocean.

Sadly, you can’t fit everything into a short stay, but one other unmissable site is the famous Old Mission Santa Barbara. We had stopped by briefly on the Trolley Bus Tour but needed a bit more time to really explore this picturesque landmark. There are 21 Missions along the Californian coast, and Santa Barbara is one of the most beautiful and the views at sunset are breath-taking.

Too soon we were moving on to our next destination – Palm Springs.

More information

Visit Santa Barbara

Visit California

If you are tempted to a California road trip our partner American Sky has some varied itineraries.

Norwegian Air have incredibly good fares into Oakland (San Francisco) and Los Angeles – for more information visit and read my report.

Silver Travel Advisor recommends American Sky

342 people found this helpful

Share Article:


Travel writer

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

With over 7,000 years of history, Malta is the ultimate holiday destination for any history buff!…

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.