Updated: September 8, 2022 | Has affiliate links

A Charming Santa Barbara Walking Tour (with map)

Santa Barbara, CaliforniaSanta Barbara, California is the setting for many movies and soap operas. Beautiful beaches, rich people, movie stars and lots and lots of shopping. No wonder, Santa Barbara has become a real tourist attraction especially during the weekends. It is very rare for American cities to cater to the weekend traveler and the tourist, but Santa Barbara has made tourism a priority and it has become a delightful destination. Come along with me on a beautiful Santa Barbara walking tour.

Santa Barbara is the quintessential California beach city. Sophisticated, gorgeous, small but large enough to give you many options for a day trip or an entire week. In this article we'll explore Santa Barbara mainly by foot, but also using the cute and affordable Santa Barbara Trolley. Put on some comfortable walking shoes and let's get started on my favorite Santa Barbara walking tour.

My Favorite Santa Barbara Attractions

Panorama Santa Barbara and Channel Islands seen from Painted Cave Road
Panorama Santa Barbara and Channel Islands seen from Painted Cave Road
See my photos from Santa Barbara

Let me answer a few frequent questions about walking in Santa Barbara. Is Santa Barbara walkable? The answer is simple: Santa Barbara is very walkable. In particular the pier area and State Street are very easy to walk.
Where can I walk around Santa Barbara? You can walk to many of the attractions around the pier area and take the trolley up State Street.

  • Walk along Cabrillo Boulevard – you can choose to walk on the sidewalk or the beach. This can be a very romantic walk by the ocean!
  • Santa Barbara Pier – offers great views of the Santa Barbara area.
  • State Street – lots of people, lots of restaurants and lots of shopping…not cheap though
  • Santa Barbara Mission – visit the rose garden just down the street in front of the mission.
  • Santa Barbara Courthouse – make sure you climb in the tower and visit the old trial room. I believe it's open until 4:45 pm everyday.
  • Santa Barbara Zoo – great place for kids. It has lots of open spaces and can easily be visited in two or three hours. Santa Barbara Zoo is the perfect place for a family trip.

Santa Barbara walking map
Santa Barbara walking map
Red:see Blue:walk
See my photos from Santa Barbara

With our list of attractions in hand and a comfortable pair of shoes let's start our Santa Barbara walking tour that will take us from the beach into the hills at the Santa Barbara Mission.

1. Cabrillo Boulevard

Cabrillo Boulevard is my favorite starting point on any Santa Barbara walking tour
Walking on Cabrillo Boulevard towards the Santa Barbara Pier
See my photos from Santa Barbara

Especially on a Saturday, Cabrillo Boulevard comes first on my Santa Barbara walking tour. You can easily find parking by the beach or on some nearby side streets and simply walk along Cabrillo Boulevard and take in the art merchants that line up the beach side of Cabrillo Boulevard all the way to the pier. Cabrini Boulevard is my favorite starting point for any Santa Barbara self-guided walking tour.

2. Santa Barbara Pier

Beautiful panorama of Santa Barbara seen from the pier
Beautiful panorama of Santa Barbara seen from the pier
See my photos from Santa Barbara

Naturally, after taking in Cabrillo Boulevard, we continue our Santa Barbara walking tour by going up the Santa Barbara Pier. Yes, you can drive and park on the pier, but we love simply walking on it and turning back towards the mountains to take in the entire Santa Barbara panorama. Filled with shops and restaurants, the Santa Barbara Pier is one of the best Santa Barbara attractions.

3. Santa Barbara Harbor

Boats and beach at the Santa Barbara Harbor
Boats and beach at the Santa Barbara Harbor
See my photos from Santa Barbara

Coming back from Stearns Wharf Pier we continue our Santa Barbara walking tour by walking along Cabrillo Boulevard toward the Santa Barbara harbor area. At the harbor you can find a few cozy and unassuming restaurants serving fresh sea food.

In addition, the Maritime Museum is a great place to visit especially if you have small children. Don't miss out on one of the best views of the Pier and Harbor areas seen from the second floor of the Maritime Museum. Simply take the elevator and enjoy the view. It's simply gorgeous. Stopping at the harbor should be on any free walking tour Santa Barbara.

4. State Street

Shopping mall on State Street
Shopping mall on State Street
See my photos from Santa Barbara

Everyone doing a Santa Barbara walking tour will have to stroll through State Street. We're walking from the harbor area back on Cabrillo Boulevard and going up on State Street past the beautiful Moxy Museum. Icecream shops, restaurants and a shopping mall line up State Street, all displaying beautiful Mediterranean architecture.
The greatest things about State Street is that it is usually packed with people walking which gives gives you a European feeling.

Can you walk to the beach from downtown Santa Barbara? Well, usually State Street is considered downtown Santa Barbara and yes you can walk to the beach. However, State Street is a long street, so it really depends where on State Street you want to start walking to the beach. The cool thing though, is that the Santa Barbara trolley takes you to the beach very quickly.

5. El Presidio

The Presidio of Santa Barbara - built in the 1780s in the Spanish colonial era.
The Presidio of Santa Barbara – built in the 1780s in the Spanish colonial era.

Walking on State Street presents many beautiful side streets that will help you explore more of old Santa Barbara.  Taking a right on Canon Perdido street toward Santa Barbara Street will take you to the old El Presidio complex which dates from 1782.

6. Santa Barbara Courthouse

Santa Barbara, California - Beautiful panorama of Santa Barbara from the Courthouse Tower.
Beautiful panorama of Santa Barbara from the Santa Barbara Courthouse Tower
See my photos from Santa Barbara

Continuing our Santa Barbara walking tour we continue going North and working our way back to Anacapa Street where it meets Figueroa Street.  This is the place where we find the beautiful Santa Barbara Courthouse (click for map location) and it's small but gorgeous tower.  The city of Santa Barbara has preserved one of the first original courtrooms and has turned it into a museum which can easily be visited for free on the second floor of the building. Taking the elevator even higher we really like to stop at the first to last stop and see the old tower clock with all its bells.

Recently, after a long remodeling work, the city has replaced the brick walls surrounding the old clock with thick glass walls.  This way you can see the old clock ticking away.

After looking at the clock you can continue up the short staircase and go to the top of the tower.  It's here where you can get amazing 360 degree views of the entire Santa Barbara area.  This is one of our favorite spots in Santa Barbara and it's one that should make it high on your Santa Barbara architectural walking tour.

7. Santa Barbara Mission

View of the Santa Barbara mission with the beautiful rose garden
The old cross in front of the The Santa Barbara Mission was erected in 1913 to commemorate 200th birthday of Junipero Serra, the founder of California missions.
See my photos from Santa Barbara Mission

While walking to the Santa Barbara Mission from State Street can take a while, the trolley is a very quick and affordable way to make it up the hill. Trolley stops abound on State Street and you can simply hop on it and enjoy the ride to the mission. Santa Barbara Mission is the largest of the 27 Missions in California, and the most beautiful according to the very biased opinion of those who live in Santa Barbara. This beautiful old building and its amazing surrounding scenery must make it high on my Santa Barbara walking tour attractions.

Most of the times we don't have enough time to see more of Santa Barbara. However, because we live so close, we can come back. So, on different occasions we visited the Santa Barbara Zoo which is just a delightful place to visit, especially if you have children. It is a smaller zoo which is great for kids because they get tired quickly, and it boasts great open spaces on top of the hill, with picnic areas and tables for lunch. I prefer the Santa Barbara Zoo to the San Diego Zoo which is just too big.

Plan Your Santa Barbara Walking Tour

The easiest ways to get to Santa Barbara are by car or by train. The Santa Barbara train station is literally next to the ocean and right on State Street (the main street in Santa Barbara). If you come by car exit the 101 Freeway at Cabrillo Boulevard for a great ocean side drive. As soon as you exit the after a few bends in the road, it feels like the whole ocean has opened up just for you to look at. We love driving on Cabrillo Boulevard and look around on a sunny and breezy day. I think for places like these they invented the convertible car, you just want to get out of your car so you can feel the sun and the breeze.

The task of finding free parking in Santa Barbara close to the beach is very challenging. It's actually pretty hard to find free parking along Cabrillo Boulevard, but if you go up the little streets past State Street, you can actually find a few free spots. We usually park right by the Santa Barbara Courthouse on Anacapa St which is very convenient and super affordable.

If you have a few extra days to spend in the area there are many beautiful day trips from Santa Barabara. Our favorite is visiting Solvang and the gorgeous Santa Ynez Valley with its wineries and lavender farms.

Is it Worth Visiting Santa Barbara California?

Santa Barbara is our favorite day trip from Los Angeles. Whether you want to make it a half day trip or an entire day trip, Santa Barbara offers plenty of attractions for different types of travelers. We recommend visiting Santa Barbara to all of our family and friends.

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