Travel // A mini guide to Santa Barbara (via Malibu)

Here’s the next installment from our trip to South California in February/March (installment one can be found here). Unfortunately it’s taken me a while to wake up as I’ve been so busy in the day job, plus I’ve been spending my weekends trying to sort the allotment out – more on that in future posts.

When we finished in LA we picked up a car to drive up the coast to Santa Barbara, stopping off in Malibu along the way. I absolutely loved Malibu and I’m sure if we lived in LA we’d make it a regular weekend trip, especially as it’s only a 45 minute drive. It’s a really small place though, and couldn’t really full a whole post of it’s own so I thought I’d pop a few pics on here! It’s a very narrow town, really just a road with the beach on one side and a houses one house deep on the other side. The beach does have quite have a lot of houses on it and there is a beautiful long pier with two restaurants from Malibu Farm, a fancier one at the start and the cafe at the end.

We didn’t want anything too fancy so we went for the cafe at the end, we also wanted to watch the paddle surfers and there was also a huge navy ship moored which was really unusual to see. The food at Malibu Farm Cafe was amazing and I’m still dreaming of the ice cream sandwich.

After we finished our early lunch, we carried on driving up to Santa Barbara along Route 101 which is a truly beautiful drive. If you ever get the chance to do it, I’d highly recommend it. It took less than two hours to get there from Malibu but we were so glad to get out of the car and stretch our legs.

Santa Barbara tourism is trying to clamp down on sites like AirBnB to improve the economy for the local businesses so we went for a hotel this time which turned out to be a great decision. We stayed at the West Coast Inn which was one of my favourite stops along our whole California trip. It was right across the road from the beach and harbour, where the whale watching trips go from, which was one of the main reasons we were visiting the town. We got upgraded when we arrived and our room was lovely. It was quite neutrally decorated and not our usual taste but it was really comfortable and we had a nice little seating area outside our room which faced the hotel gardens.

A couple of other things I liked about the hotel was the wine and cheese they served every evening between 5pm and 7pm, and the hot tub and pool that was open until 11pm every night.  The staff were also really friendly and helpful and gave us lots of tips for where to eat and what to do.

We were lucky enough to be there during restaurant week so there were lots of deals on throughout the town for both lunch and dinner. On our first night we headed to a local pub just a few minutes walk from the hotel (obviously after we’d eaten the cheese and the husband had drunk the wine!) called The Brewhouse. We decided not to go for the restaurant week menu as we fancied a burger (which came with a beer that the husband was happy to claim both after our long drive) so picked one from the Happy Hour menu and added fries and onion rings to our order. One of the best burgers we’ve had and the total bill including the tip was less than $30 which has to be the best bargain of our whole trip! I could see us eating here a lot if we lived locally! When we got back to the hotel, we were straight into our swimwear and into the hot tub – it was such a lovely way to relax after the hustle and bustle of LA. The hotel also gives you squishy spa-like dressing gowns and there’s a stack of beach towels next to the pool too, so they really cater for everything.

The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn to go whale watching. Unfortunately we only saw the back of a whale so we got free tickets to return the following morning (which was also unsuccessful so we have another set of tickets to try again if we ever go back!). I think we were unlucky as we were quite early in the season but it was still nice to go on a boat trip!

We headed out for lunch once we’d gotten changed and did one of the restaurant week specials at Due Lune Cucina. All the lunches were set at $25 for two courses so really good value for money. We also managed to get a table right next to the window so we had a great view of the pier.

After lunch we got the trolley up State Street to go and visit the courthouse. Santa Barbara is quite a small town but very pretty, with Spanishy looking architecture – there are lots of white walls, terracotta roofs and pretty tiles everywhere. The top of the courthouse has a small viewing area so you can see across the whole town with the beach on one side and the mountains on the other.

We went for a walk down State Street, stopping in at a few shops along the way. I managed to pick up another pair of sunglasses and Tom got a nice stripey t shirt at Nordstrom. We then continued with my California ice cream obsession at McDonnells – you MUST try it if you’re ever there, it was sooo good!

We were lucky to also be there when they had a street market on. I love seeing all the local produce and trying the samples. If only we’d had somewhere we could cook, I would have definitely picked up a few items because everything looked so good! I wish there were more markets like this around where we live.

We walked all the way back down to the pier and ended the evening at Deep Sea Wine watching the sunset with a glass of amazing wine. It was such a beautiful setting and even though it was a little chilly, they had blankets and heaters for everyone to get cosy. They also have two lovely dogs there that were just so friendly. We always miss our dog, Sophie, whilst we are away so go crazy when we get to pet other people’s pups!

After our massive lunch we weren’t really very hungry so we went back to the hotel to enjoy another evening in the hot tub.

The next morning, went back on the boat again looking for those elusive whales and unfortunately were unlucky again although we saw a few seals 😦 but we got return tickets again which we are already thinking about using when we (hopefully) go back to America again next year – this time to Las Vegas. We had gotten chatting to some people in the hot tub who were going to a wedding in Vegas and they told us you could now get a flight there from SB airport so we are thinking about how we can build it in.

Before we left town I wanted to go to La Super-Rica Taqueria (which apparently was Julia Child’s favourite taco place) but it was the one day of the week it was closed so we missed out! So instead we went to On The Alley where I had the best breakfast tortilla wrap of my life. All that sea air had given me quite a hungry and I wolfed it down! Then it was back on the road for the next part of our road trip!

When I was planning the trip, I really debated whether or not to go to Santa Barbara as it was a bit out of the way of the way we wanted to go but I’m so glad we did (even if we didn’t see the whales like we hoped!). We both really loved the whole feel of Santa Barbara and would definitely like to go back. Everyone we met there was so friendly and helpful and the whole place just had a really nice vibe. If we went back I’d like to stay for a bit longer and explore some more of the area like Oia (any Brothers and Sisters fans out there?), Goleta and perhaps even further out like Ventura or Solvang. And we’d love to go out to Catalina Island too! Can I just win the lottery and go out there for 6 months? I’d love to know if any of you have been and if there’s anywhere I should add on the list for next time?

Nicole x



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