The prime coastal location of Santa Barbara makes it a great place to reside and explore. Located on California’s central coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco, it is a great starting point for many day trips nearby.
Santa Barbara itself has many things to offer to all kinds of visitors. From coastal getaways to lovely city beaches – a lot of fun awaits you!
You can explore the coast from North to South for some great beaches or you can travel offshore to the marine sanctuary of the Channel Islands, where visitors can enjoy diving and snorkeling.
Now let us explore some of the best Day trips from Santa Barbara.
Los Padres National Forest, California
Spanning almost 2 million acres of southern and central California, Los Padres National Forest makes for a great day trip from Santa Barbara.
Visitors can explore the San Rafael Mountains, Sierra Madre Mountains, and Santa Ynez mountains among others.
Climb the peaks, go for hiking or just enjoy nature here at the Los Padres National Forest. Nine rivers flow through the forest.
Distance: 10 minutes
Ideal for: Hikers and outdoor lovers
You can stroll down Main Street and explore the locally owned boutiques and restaurants. Visitors can also check out the old San Buenaventura Mission, which dates back to the early days of Spanish settlement in the area.
There are museums to explore as well. The Museum of Ventura County is one that you should stop by.
Other than that, do visit the best beach in the area which is San Buenaventura Beach. Walk down the wooden pier in the evening and enjoy the sunset before heading back to Santa Barbara.
Distance: 28 minutes
Ideal for: Beachgoers
The Channel Islands, California
The Channel Islands are a group of eight islands off the coast of Santa Barbara, some of which form the National Park.
The five islands that form the National Park are a must-visit. Visitors can take part in snorkeling, diving, sea cave exploration, wildlife viewing, hiking, and camping.
The islands closest to Santa Barbara are the best to visit and can be reached via a short boat trip from the city.
The landscape is a rugged one with cliffs rising dramatically from the ocean. The wildlife here is really unique as the islands have been sheltered from the mainland from millennia.
For more information, you can visit the Park Visitors Centre located in both Santa Barbara and Ventura.
Also, keep in mind that there are no services or freshwater on the islands, so you may have to take your own supplies.
Distance: 5 minutes
Ideal for: Adventure and wildlife lovers
There are eight theme parks in Disneyland and you can easily spend your entire day here, if not more.
Apart from Disneyland, Anaheim is also home to Angel’s baseball team, Anaheim Ducks hockey franchise, and Knott’s Berry Farm.
For some time off, you can head to the Anaheim’s Center Street Promenade, which is packed with trendy shops and restaurants and offers a Farmer’s Market every Thursday.
For a great meal, head to the Anaheim Packing House, it is full of eateries serving up artisanal snow cones, soul food, waffles, and beer.
Distance: 1 hour and 58 minutes
Ideal for: Family fun
Gaviota State Park, California
Located just 30 miles west along the coast from Santa Barbara, Gaviota State Park makes for a great day trip from Santa Barbara.
This area of natural beauty offers a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. There is a popular hot spring located here as well.
Plus, there are some great surf beaches or you can just relax by the coast for some downtime. If you are into geology, then Gaviota State Park is also known for its unique display of geological history.
There are several preserved fossils here including the complete skeleton of an ancient fish, similar to a Halibut.
Visitors love hiking, swimming, and fishing here.
Distance: 33 minutes
Ideal for: Relaxing
Santa Ynez Valley Wineries, California
How can you be in California and be away from its wineries? Explore the Santa Ynez Valley Wineries where there is a range of wineries growing grapes from across the world and producing popular and unique wines.
The valley is beautiful itself and lies between two mountain ranges, offering a climate that is perfect for wine production.
Santa Ynez Valley is Santa Barbara’s wine country and there are over 120 wineries located in the valley, many of which are small-batch, family-run operations.
Visitors can take a guided tour via a bike, jeep or limousine as well. The best part is that the wineries allow you to taste as much wine as you want to.
Distance: 42 minutes
Ideal for: Wine drinking
Avila Beach, California
This coastal community is situated in the San Luis Obispo Bay north of Santa Barbara. If sun and sand are on your mind, then Avila Beach should be your destination.
Miles and miles of sand beaches, Avila Beach is warm and sunny making it the perfect beach destination.
Apart from beaches, this area is also home to hot springs and spas. Do visit the Sycamore Mineral Springs, which is a great hot spring to visit.
Sit back in hillside hot tubs with spectacular views or just enjoy your hot spring spas.
Distance: 1 hour and 36 minutes
Ideal for: Relaxing getaway
Bakersfield is one of the largest cities in California and is home to some wonderful museums explaining the history of the area while showcasing life in California.
Visitors can also try visiting restaurants, do river rafting and go for an outdoor adventure.
Museums like the Bakersfield Museum of Art, the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History, and the California Living Museum also deserve a visit.
You can also visit Bakersfield during the annual classic Kern County Fair, held each September. During this time you can enjoy carnivals, rodeo, live music events and more.
Distance: 2 hours and 32 minutes
Ideal for: Family getaway
Malibu certainly doesn’t need an introduction. The hip and happening coastal neighborhood of Los Angeles is where the rich and famous come to escape it all.
Malibu extends for 30 miles along California’s scenic Highway 1. Malibu has some great world-class waves that attract some amazing surfers who enjoy Surfrider Beach, Zuma Beach and Point Dume.
One of the most famous beaches is Malibu Lagoon which is a protected area, but famous for its beautiful setting.
You can also expand your knowledge about surfing at Pepperdine University’s Surf Museum. Malibu Pier is a great place to stroll. Have a meal at the organic restaurant, Malibu Farms.
Distance: 1 hour and 10 minutes
Ideal for: Beachgoers and hipsters
You can’t be in California and not visit Hollywood. This iconic neighborhood in Los Angeles has long been a tourist attraction since becoming the home of America’s film industry.
Just take a stroll around the amazing streets or take a tour of Universal Studios. You can see not only a working studio but also the theme park attached to it.
If you want more, head on over to Paramount Pictures, tour the lot of the city’s oldest movie studio.
Last but not the least, view the iconic 45-foot tall Hollywood sign from a hike in the Hollywood Hills.
Distance: 1 hour and 24 minutes
Ideal for: Film enthusiasts
Hearst Castle, California
Hearst Castle is a historic landmark which is located in San Simeon. Located just two hours north of Santa Barbara, this is an estate of William Randolph Hearst.
When Mr. Hearst Passed away, this huge mansion became a museum and California State Park.
The estate contains over 100 acres of gardens, pools, and terraces. Visitors can also marvel at works of art like Egyptian sculpture, Grecian art dating back to the year 80 AD.
Distance: 2 hours and 24 minutes
Ideal for: History buffs
Santa Maria, California
Located just an hour north of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria occupies the central coast from San Luis Obispo to the north, towards Gaviota to the south.
Known for its 30 wine tasting rooms, wineries, and even beaches – Santa Maria makes for the perfect day trip destination from Santa Barbara.
Do check out some of the wineries and breweries and also try the specialty, the Santa Maria BBQ. It is a delicious steak that is seasoned with local flavors and barbecued supremely.
Distance: 1 hour and 13 minutes
Ideal for: Family-friendly getaway
Another place that needs no introduction. Los Angeles’s Venice Beach sits on the Pacific Ocean just south of Santa Monica.
This neighborhood is quirky and niche in its own right. Venice Beach is also famous for many artists and musicians who showcase their work to entertain the crowds.
The town was actually built over a series of canals, modeled after the Venice of Italy. Today, the canals are a Historic District and make for a charming walk through a quirky neighborhood.
Venice Pier is a great place to check out the surfers or surf yourself! If all this has left you wanting more, then visit the Abbot Kinney Boulevard for a trendy shopping and dining experience.
Distance: 1 hour and 46 minutes
Ideal for: Hipsters and youngsters
Point Mugu, California
Located in California’s Ventura County, Point Mugu is a small area of protected land south of Santa Barbara. If great scenery is what you are after, then Point Mugu makes for a fantastic day trip from Santa Barbara.
Hike to the top of Mugu Peak and Boney Peak or enjoy the five-mile-long coastline for a relaxing experience. The beach is called Point Mugu State Beach and is relatively quiet.
You might even be able to spot wildlife including sea lions and birds.
There are Valley trails as well like the Sycamore Canyon and La Jolla Canyon.
Distance: 50 minutes
Ideal for: Relaxed getaway
Morro Bay, California
Located on California’s central coast, Morro Bay is known for its rock that juts out of the ocean.
This unique coastal area is set against a backdrop of volcanic rock formations rising from the sea.
It is also known for its beaches. Visitors can enjoy kayaking, or paddleboarding through the calm, protected waters of the bay.
You can also explore art galleries and museums or shop along Front Street. Stay the night if you want to experience the Morro Bay nightlife.
Distance: 1 hour and 54 minutes
Ideal for: Beach lovers
Santa Barbara Zoo, California
Home to over 500 animals, Santa Barbara Zoo is a great getaway spot. You can spot Brazilian capybara, African lions, Asian otters, Asian elephant, and bald eagles.
The zoo is a participant in the worldwide Species Survival Plan. You can also view the Mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects in open.
The Santa Barbara Zoo can be a great educational experience for children. They can board the zoo train or feed the giraffes.
Distance: 10 minutes
Ideal for: Family fun
Santa Barbara is a great base for traversing through the state of California to see the sights and sounds.
Choose from the hipster beaches of Venice or check out Hollywood – there is never a dearth of things to do around Santa Barbara.