(This article has affiliate links to products which we may make commission from at no extra cost to you.)
There are so many great things to do in Santa Barbara. Once you have explored the city, head out to discover other attractions beyond it. Get to know about the best day trips from Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara attracts loads of visitors every year as it showcases the lovely architecture, lip-smacking food and cultural display that it is hard to think of anything other than surprises that this place offers. Nevertheless, you can plan a longer stay here and use it as a base for some cool day trips from Santa Barbara. There are still some hidden gems in the heart of California which are lesser-known and less visited but are no less than giving you everything that you can expect and beyond that. You can see some spectacular natural wonders, sights, vineyards and cute towns packed with richness in history and culture.
So, without further ado, here are the best day trips from Santa Barbara.
Best Day Trips From Santa Barbara
Malibu is a high-end city known for its nightlife and expensive real estate but there is more to Malibu than elite lifestyle and pool parties. It is one of the most popular day trips from Santa Barbara. The reason Malibu is so famous is that many celebrities have their home in its vicinity. But if you are pondering over the idea of visiting Malibu, there are other peaceful things that you can do.
One of the reasons for visiting Malibu is to travel back in time to have a glimpse of Greek and Roman history on the lands of California by visiting The Getty Villa. The architectural beauty of the villa and the lush green outdoors is a captivating sight. Go whale watching at Point Dume State Beach where they are visible from its pristine coastline.
If you like trying local wine during your travels, you will be pleased to know about this easy hike that takes you through vines, an organic garden and offers an opportunity to see the Chumash Native American cave paintings.
Fresh seafood, a long drive in your car pumped up with your favourite playlist going around the beach lines makes Malibu one of the dreamiest day trips from Santa Barbara.
Distance from Santa Barbara : 66.6 miles (107 km)
Best time to visit : June till November
2. Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach is a city on California’s Central Coast and is one of the tourist’s favourite places for a peaceful and exotic hangout destination. It is mostly famous for its Pismo Beach Clam Festival where visitors enjoy three days of festivities with music and activities along with parades, surf competitions and clam dig activities. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on most of its edges, it offers wide sand plains to do some sand vehicular action. Riding the dunes is a very popular activity at Pismo Beach.
The SVRA or State Vehicular Recreation area is specifically for people who would like to surf the sand while enjoying the cool breeze of the Ocean. One of the rare events that Pismo Beach is home to is the migration of Monarch butterflies during the winter months. Many parks around Pismo beach and their vegetation become a home to these butterflies that come from all over the world to this wonderful place to spend some time.
Distance from Santa Barbara : 83 miles (134 km)
Best time to visit : September till November
Visitors often under-estimate Ojai of the surprises that this little area contains. Considering the culture and heritage of this city, it is evident that this is a city of intellectuals. Home to one of the great philosophers of the century J. Krishnamurti whose house has now been converted into an education centre, Ojai is a place where you would understand that wisdom and knowledge are still the greatest virtues.
Complimenting the cerebral knowledge, there is a meditation centre at Ojai called the Meditation Mount where you can do some Yoga, a meditational exercise for free. A leisurely stroll along the street arcade from Ojai Avenue will take you through interesting art galleries, boutique stores, wine tasting rooms and restaurants. Stop at the Casa Barranca Winery to taste the organic wine. This winery is the first certified organic winery on the Central Coast.
Visiting Bart’s Books is an experience like no other for those who love reading. Its an outdoor bookstore with a huge collection of books. If you are up for an interesting activity, rent a bike and pedal through the well paved trail that leads you through the scenic Libbey Park to Ventura beach.
So, if you intend to run away from your work schedule and are tired of urban life, Ojai is a perfect destination for you.
Distance from Santa Barbara : 33 miles (54 km)
Best time to visit : Though Ojai is fantastic year round, months between April till November are eventful and the best time to visit the city.
Read : 11 Top Things To Do In Ojai
4. Hearst Castle
Hearst Castle is located at the central coast of California and is generally known as the historic state because of the residence of the publisher William Randolph Hearst which is now converted into a visiting site. It is also one of the major attractions that make for an amazing day trip from Santa Barbara.
Though Hearst Castle can offer you a lot of reasons to visit it as a city, the magnificence and opulence of the main castle itself should be enough to attract you to this city. Following the trail of sandstone grounds and palm trees, you will find a white castle with golden carvings frescoed on it. As you go inside, you would feel transported to the world of The Great Gatsby.
Considering the name of the city, there is a beach dedicated to Mr Castle as well. For enjoying the fauna of the city, you can visit Area for Elephant Seal Observation. For a scrumptious Californian meal along with wine of your preference visit the Hearst Ranch Winery.
Distance from Santa Barbara : 137 miles (60 km)
Best time to visit : Year round. Since Hearst Castle is very popular among vacationers, it is usually busy during summers. Make sure to book your tour in advance.
5. San Luis Obispo
Another wonderful place that makes this list of best day trips from Santa Barbara is San Luis Obispo. San Luis Obispo is mainly known for San Luis Obispo de Tolosa which is one of California’s most beautiful missions. and the museum. The Spanish institute opened in 1850 and is still functioning. It was the first courthouse and jail. The museum is a piece of art in itself comprising colourful walls and abstract paintings and designs which can tingle your creative side of the brain. The mind-bending ideas and the philosophical ideas behind the creations are mouth gaping.
One exemplary thing that can make your visit to San Luis Obispo one of a kind is the Bubblegum alley. One narrow path covered with two high walls filled with as many bubble gums as you can think of. It is a historical piece considering some of the gum’s dates back to World War II.
A relishable food tour through the uptown “Mojo” area of San Luis Obispo will take you through five unique restaurants to taste various specialities and delicious beverages of the state. Click here for details.
Distance from Santa Barbara : 96 miles (155 km)
Best time to visit : San Luis Obispo is a year round destination.
One of the most adorable day trips from Santa Barbara is Solvang. If you are tired of your boring, dull life and want a splash of colours both in your life and in your mind then you must spend some time in Solvang. Situated in Southern California as a city in Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang is a serene place to be. A day trip to Solvang from Santa Barbara can entertain you with some Danish architectural real estate around every corner of this city.
There are numerous wine tasting rooms along with traditional bakeries and eateries in Solvang where you can enjoy the food and provide some fresh tastes to your taste buds. The slopes of the roofs and the colourful walls of the homes offer an Insta-worthy site and would not disappoint you in its hospitality.
Distance from Santa Barbara : 35 miles (57 km)
Best time to visit : April till November
Hollywood is just a neighbourhood in Los Angeles and is a few kilometres away from Santa Barbara but you shall not require a reason to visit this place. The place which has been a witness of multiple silver screen lives and has given birth to many stories both literally and metaphorically.
Enlisting the places to visit in Hollywood includes the Hollywood sign and the walk of fame, the Universal Studios where the biggies of American Film Industries work their magic. Apart from that one can spend some time at the La Brea Tar Pits Museum, The Griffith Observatory and the Griffith Park. You can catch a show at the Hollywood Bowl as well as Hollywood Boulevard.
Distance from Santa Barbara : 90 miles (145 km)
Best time to visit : March till November
8. Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands National Park is another peaceful, sombre and quaint location to spend your time at, away from the hustle of life. It is a national park consisting of five islands. Considering its seclusion from the mainlands, it is a different world that you can dive into if you plan to visit it. The adventures that you can explore here are kayaking, hiking and camping. You can also see a variety of flora and fauna here at the National Park.
The Whale and Dolphin gazing with the Island Packers would definitely be a once in a lifetime opportunity for you at this park. The quiet sunsets in the lap of the green and blue of the Channel Islands National Park would be an exceptional experience.
Distance from Santa Barbara : 29 miles (47 km). It can be reached via 3.5 hours of a ferry ride from Ventura Harbor with Island Packers.
Best time to visit : June till October
9. Santa Barbara Wine Country
If you are missing the wide Spanish or French vineyards in California then Santa Barbara Wine Country would be a paradise for you. Situated on the north of the city of Santa Barbara, the locals of this place have vineyards as far as your eyes can see. Considering their local business, you will find a ton of wine business families and tasting rooms here. It is a rural area to visit to have some time off from your busy schedule and investigate the art of winemaking.
Some Santa Barbara wines that you can witness in making here are Pinot Noir, Rhone Wine, Chardonnay and Syrah. Visiting this country location, you can offer yourself a luxurious and creative gift.
Here is a very convenient tour that takes you through the best wine making destinations in the Santa Barbara Wine Country all inclusive of gourmet lunch, tasting fees at 3 wineries and round trip transport.
Distance from Santa Barbara : 45 minutes drive via Highway 154 from Santa Barbara.
Best time to visit : March till May & September till November
10. Montana de Oro State Park
A day at Montana de Oro State Park offers you a gazing sight at the horizon because of its clear skies and deep blue water in its vicinity. Situated in the city of Los Osos, the state park has been a tourist attraction for many years now. The constant volcanic activities have made it a natural wonder and a striking sight. The park has an abundance of natural beauty, all inclusive of rugged cliffs, secluded beaches, streams, canyons and stunning views of Central California’s coastline.
There are many other activities like hiking, wildlife viewing, biking and horse riding that you can perform in the park. Hike the Bluff Trail for fabulous tidepools with the waves passing over the sea cliffs. The hike is roughly 4 miles round trip and so worth it. You will also get to spot a wide variety of native seabirds. Apart from everything, if you plan to visit the park during the spring season, you will be in luck to witness the beauty of a rare golden flower which only blooms in the mountains of this park hence naming the mountain “The Mountain of Gold”.
Distance from Santa Barbara : 107 miles (172 km)
Best time to visit : Spring and fall are the best times to visit Montana De Oro State Park.
Lompoc is one of the most beautiful cities near Santa Barbara County. Though it has been away from the public eye for a long time now, its anonymity has only added to the beauty of the city. There are many sight holding places in Lompoc. Being home to Chumash Indians, a native American tribe, itsky has a lot of places like churches, wineries, flower fields and old shops to visit. These are the places that are of heritage value to the city.
But if you are planning your trip somewhere between April and September then you are in for a treat in this city. There are stripes of beautiful flowers spread across acres of land in the countryside which gives this land a picturesque and unique view. Apart from sightseeing, you can enjoy the beach, biking, hiking and skydiving here.
Distance from Santa Barbara : 56 miles (91 km)
Best time to visit : It is amazing to visit Lompoc any time of the year.
As you can see there are many great options for day trips from Santa Barbara. If you are new to Santa Barbara, be sure to stay longer here and have some time to see some of the places beyond the city. These destinations are a real retreat for that much needed time from the daily hustles.