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The Ultimate Santa Barbara Day Trip Itinerary: Get the Most Out of Your Visit

Santa Barbara, located on California's central coast, is a popular destination known for its beautiful beaches, stunning Spanish architecture, and world-class wineries. It's no wonder that this charming coastal town has become a top choice for those looking for a perfect Santa Barbara day trip. In this comprehensive guide, we have carefully curated a Santa Barbara one day itinerary that covers the best activities, sights, and experiences that the city has to offer. This itinerary is designed to help you make the most of your limited time while ensuring you don't miss any of the must-visit spots.

Start Your Santa Barbara Day Trip with a Scenic Drive

Your Santa Barbara day trip begins with a scenic drive along the Highway 1. This iconic route offers breathtaking views of the ocean and coastline, making it the perfect way to set the tone for your day. If you're coming from Los Angeles, the drive to Santa Barbara takes approximately 2 hours, while from San Luis Obispo or Orange County, it's about 2.5 hours.

When to Visit Santa Barbara

The best time to visit Santa Barbara is during the summer months when the weather is warm and sunny, with temperatures ranging from 72°F (22°C) in July to 77°F (25°C) in September. However, the city enjoys a Mediterranean climate, which means you can also visit during spring, fall, or even winter and still have a great time. Checkout more specific information regarding Santa Barbara's climate here.

Grab a Coffee and Breakfast To kick off your Santa Barbara day trip, stop at one of the city's many coffee shops for a caffeine fix and a light breakfast. Some popular options include Handlebar Coffee Roasters and the always available Starbucks on State, both offering coffee and pastries to fuel your day. Stroll Along State Street After your morning coffee, head to State Street, the city's main thoroughfare, where you'll find a mix of high-end boutiques, local shops, and charming cafes. This pedestrian-friendly street is ideal for leisurely strolling and window-shopping, while also being a great spot for people-watching.

Explore the Funk Zone & Downtown Santa Barbara

This vibrant, artsy neighborhood is home to a variety of unique shops, galleries, cafes, and restaurants, making it the perfect place to stroll and soak in the local atmosphere.


Visit Santa Barbara's Historic Sites

Santa Barbara is rich in history and culture, so make sure to visit some of its impressive historic sites during your day trip. Some of the must-see landmarks include:

Santa Barbara Mission Founded in 1786, the Santa Barbara Mission is considered one of the most beautiful missions in California. Open daily for self-guided tours, this historic site offers a glimpse into California's Spanish colonial past and is a must-visit during your Santa Barbara day trip.

Santa Barbara County Courthouse Another important historic site is the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, an exquisite example of Spanish-Moorish architecture. The courthouse is still in operation today and is open for tours, offering visitors the chance to admire its beautiful murals, lush gardens, and stunning views from the observation tower.


GURU TIP-Both of these locations have amazing gardens where you can have a picnic and relax on the lawn.


Get Active


Dinner on the Waterfront For a more laid-back evening, head to Stearns Wharf or the Harbor for seafood and views at one of many lively restaurants. . Enjoy a delicious meal and soak in the romantic ambiance of this charming town. Walk off your meal, take in the beauty and get some fresh air along the waterfront path or along the jetty to the sandspit in the harbor. Rent Beach Cruisers There are several bike rental shops in Santa Barbara, such as Wheel Fun Rentals for four seat buggy-style bikes and city bikes to checkout on an hourly basis from bike racks located all along tourist locations.

Bike Along the Cabrillo Bike Path

The Cabrillo Bike Path is a picturesque route that runs along the coastline, offering stunning views of the beach, palm trees, and the ocean. Start at the harbor and ride towards Butterfly Beach, stopping to enjoy the scenery and snap some photos along the way.

Indulge in Santa Barbara's Food & Wine Scene

Santa Barbara is known for its incredible food and wine scene, making it a must-visit destination for foodies and wine enthusiasts alike. During your Santa Barbara day trip, make sure to indulge in some of the city's culinary delights and sample local wines.

Explore the Urban Wine Trail

The Urban Wine Trail consists of 28 wineries located throughout Santa Barbara's different neighborhoods, with the largest concentration in the Funk Zone. Spend your afternoon hopping between wineries, tasting the fantastic wines produced in the region. Some notable stops include the Deep Sea Tasting Room and the quirky Area 5.1 Tasting Room.

Relax at the Beach

No Santa Barbara day trip is complete without a visit to the beach. Santa Barbara is home to several beautiful beaches, perfect for soaking up the sun, taking a dip in the ocean, or enjoying various water sports. Some popular options include:

East Beach

Located near the Funk Zone, East Beach is a popular spot for sunbathing, beach volleyball, and swimming. With its soft sand, palm trees, and stunning views, this beach is the perfect place to relax and unwind.

Butterfly Beach

Butterfly Beach, situated in Montecito, is a more secluded and tranquil option. Known for its picturesque scenery, this beach is ideal for a leisurely walk or a romantic picnic.

For a better feel for beaches in Santa Barbara, check out our Best Beaches Based on Your Vibe guide.

Sunset Sail and Dinner on the Water

As the day comes to an end, cap off your Santa Barbara day trip with a memorable sunset/waterfront experience.

Sunset Sail Charter a private or group boat (with a captain) in the harbor and cruise along the Santa Barbara coast at sunset. Enjoy the breathtaking views as the sun sets over the ocean. This unforgettable experience is perfect for couples or small groups looking to make lasting memories

Dinner on the Waterfront For a more laid-back evening, head to Stearns Wharf or the Harbor for seafood and views at one of many lively restaurants. . Enjoy a delicious meal and soak in the romantic ambiance of this charming town. Walk off your meal, take in the beauty and get some fresh air along the waterfront path or along the jetty to the sandspit in the harbor. A Santa Barbara day trip is an excellent way to experience the charm, beauty, and excitement of this coastal city. Whether you're visiting for just one day or extending your stay, our comprehensive Santa Barbara one day itinerary has got you covered. From exploring historic sites and indulging in the local food and wine scene to enjoying outdoor activities and stunning beaches, Santa Barbara is a destination that truly has something for everyone.


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