Thursday, February 11, 2010

Santa Barbara and Stearns Wharf

As I posted a long time ago, my grandparents lived in the city of Santa Barbara from the 1950's until the early 1980's.  So, I spent a lot of my childhood years visiting them for school vacations and weekends.  Santa Barbara is an awesome place to visit.  We only did a 3-hour tour, sort of like Gilligan, so I'm just writing about what we did yesterday.

(click on any photo for a larger view)

As we left our picnic at Lake Cachuma we continued on Hwy. 154 toward Santa Barbara.  We came out of the mountains on the San Marcos Pass (elevation 2,225 ft) and saw this view of the city below us.  The islands you see in the distance are the Channel Islands, reached only by watercraft or plane.
Santa Barbara was discovered by Portuguese explorers in 1542, although they did not stay to establish any settlements.  Other explorers came along over the next centuries and in 1769 a land expedition was launched with explorer Gaspar de Portola and Padre Junipero Serra.  They left and later, in 1786, returned to establish the Mission.  During the California Gold Rush years, Santa Barbara became a haven for bandits and gamblers and was a lawless place.  At the turn of the 20th century, oil was discovered in the region and the first offshore development in the world was established here.  Still a bone of contention with area residents.

We were not going to tour the Mission here, which is the Queen of the Missions.  It is beautiful and I recommend you see it.  I've been there about 10 times and we wanted to just go out toward the beach on this visit.  We got onto State Street, which is one of the best streets in all of Santa Barbara.  It was "the" place for downtown shopping, restaurants, and professional buildings from the beginning.  The city has managed to keep that going today, even with the construction of a small mall north of this area.  This is Upper State Street which is largely residential and commercial and is a lovely tree lined avenue.  Santa Barbara is a very well kept, clean city.
This is Lower State Street which went through a massive redevelopment (I think in the70's) to make it pedestrian friendly and a draw for money spending tourists.  Today there are many boutique shops and outdoor cafes.  With the Mediterranean climate here in Santa Barbara, it is a perfect place to spend the winter.
We drove to the end of State Street where it dead ends at Stears Wharf.  The wharf was completed in 1872 and it is the longest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Fire destroyed the pier in 1973 and it was closed.  It took until 1981 to rebuild the pier and reopen.  It is the most visited landmark in Santa Barbara.  This is the view from out on the pier looking back toward the city.
Here are just a few of the large offshore oil platforms visible from the city, and a photo of the Channel Islands.

We saw a small crowd of people at the edge of the pier and went to investigate.  It was a small whale floating around and spouting water to the delight of the onlookers.  It was not in any danger, and after about 30 minutes turned and went back out to the deeper water.
This is the view of what they call the "Riviera" here in town.  The homes are built along and into the hillside and I guess it looks like the Riviera in France.  The area also connects with the unincorporated part of town known as Montecito.  The rich do not live here.....the Super-Rich live here.  The town has become a haven for the Hollywood crowd where they can hope to avoid so many of the photographers from the tabloids.
Santa Barbara is a wonderful destination town for anyone.  You will find the architecture here in the Spanish Colonial Revival style.    California history is all about it's Spanish roots.  You will find that Spanish influence in most of the large cities in this state.  However, I think that the city of Santa Barbara embodies that influence in a stronger way than any other city in California. 

Tomorrow's post will be more of our quick visit to this popular tourist and resort destination.

Until next long for now!



squawmama said...

What a beautiful day you had... and I loved the pictures of the whale. That would have excited me too! Have fun and travel safe!

Rick and Paulette said...

We weren't able to stop in Santa Barbara this year, so it was great reading your blog and seeing all the wonderful pictures you took. I'm definitely adding it to our "must see" list for next year!

Happytrails said...

Again you have introduced us to a beautiful area. We will have to put this on our list of places to see.

I think the whale was awesome!! It would be so neat to stand on the pier and watch him playing in the water. :)

We look forward to your next tour! My list just keeps growing. I guess that is what its all about!


Jerry and Suzy said...

You got out to see and do, and that's just what we are going to do, after the meetings and business are taken care of for the day. No whales in SE Arizona, I'm afraid, but maybe we'll see an Arts Fair in Tubac!

Amber said...

I love the whale pictures. Just lovely.