Apr 01

Santa Barbara, the idyllic coastal town with surfing, cycling and longboards

After spending most of the day on the very grey, Greyhound, we were relieved to have arrived in a slightly overcast Santa Barbara. Many months ago, when planning our trip, we decided to follow the STA guide and go for the more scenic ride by purchasing Greyhound tickets. We’ve lived to slightly regret this since. The buses that promised other backpackers, clean environments and free WiFi delivered the complete opposite. All the same, we’re getting to see ‘real America’ and have decided to stick with it! For anyone who’s seen the movie ‘Road Trip’, imagine her coach ride to Austin, Texas with the toe sucker.

We couldn’t believe the contrast of Santa Barbara to Los Angeles. To be right by the ocean put an instant smile on both our faces and the Greyhound journey was forgotten. We hastily checked into our surprisingly good accommodation (thanks Expedia), made our way past an array of ‘Soccer’ pitches and straight onto the beach. Santa Barbara is an idyllic setting, enclosed by such atmospheric mountains, palm trees and golden beaches, it’s everything we could of wished for.

One thing that did instantly strike us when walking along the beach to grab dinner, was the sheer amount of homeless people. California seems to be a popular destination, probably for it’s all year round warmth. These guys all are pretty harmless and some come up with ingenious ways of earning money on the streets. One guy sculpted mermaids out of sand and another created a coin tossing game with a target by the pier. At times, we did get a little confused which people were homeless, which were hippies, and those that lived in their camper vans by the beach, they just all seemed to blend in together! To be honest, right now, we probably don’t look that different.

This doesn’t spoil Santa Barbara, but adds to it’s charm. It makes it feel more real. The lifestyle’s great in this place, longboarders, skateboarders and cyclists cruise the beach promenade – they seem to take priority over pedestrians, which was refreshing. This is then accompanied by the fitness fanatics, dancing roller bladers and beach Yoga lovers. The words active and healthy summarise this place perfectly.

On our first night, we were lured in by the word ‘longboard’ for dinner. This place was more than relaxed. We waded through a sea of peanut shells on the floor to get to our table. They have barrels of peanuts which you just grab a handful of, crack open and then toss the remains on the floor! We ordered the fattest burger (with crisps in it) and some ‘burnt ends’ which was a awesome steak roll. A few bud light’s later, we made our way back down the beach to our new temporary home.

Day one, cruising

The next morning, we woke early to sort out and reorganise our trip due to more inconveniences caused by the Greyhound. We decided not to head to Santa Cruz the following day, which is 5 hours away, but decided to stay in Santa Barbara for a further 3 days. A few cancellation fees later and we had a new hotel sorted for when we had to check out of our current dwellings the following morning.  We left our hotel and wandered up towards the pier and spoke to a very friendly and helpful old chap in the tourist board. He recommended a couple of things to do and some of the surf spots to go and see. After grabbing some pizza and salad in the sun on the beach, we hired a couple of cruiser bikes to explore the coast of Santa Barbara.

The rest of the day was taken up by these bad boys. We observed the surf spots from the top of the cliffs and cycled from one end of the bay to the other. The evening took us and our sun burnt noses back to the pier to a quaint and delicious fresh shellfish restaurant. We ordered fresh crab, with a bread bowl of clams, muscles and scallops and a side of crab cakes. I had a job to stop Fi eating the whole lot! Whilst we were over indulging, Santa Barbara had turned eery and cold. Fog had swept across the mountains and completely covered the view of the houses on the hills. It was a scary walk home…oooooh.

Day two, State Street

After sleeping in a little and FaceTiming the families then moving to our new accomodation, we were off again to see more of what Santa Barbara had to offer. This time, we walked around the harbour where there’s a big fishing trade of crab and sea bass. Right on the harbour boardwalk was a sweet little sushi shop offering five California rolls, 5 spicy tuna and chicken teriyaki for just $7.95. We ordered this immediately and weren’t disappointed! After taking some great shots with the DSLR, we headed up to State Street, the main shopping district just off the beach.

We couldn’t believe our eyes, the place was littered with funky surf shops. From Billabong to Volcom to awesome independents. This street had it all for two people who love this sort of fashion. Then reality kicked in and we remembered that, we are backpacking and have next to no room, nor the budget to be buying anything material. So, window shopping continued. Whilst wandering, we stumbled across an Irish bar with a wasted dude outside. He might of been homeless, but as I said before, it’s hard to tell. We looked up and amazingly, this place was called ‘O’Malley’s’. Picture taken whilst munching an Oreo ice cream from Cold Stone. We wound down in the evening with a beer on the beach with Buzz and dinner again at Longboards, purely for the typically American size portions and reasonable price.

Day three, admin (Zzzzz)

We used this day to sort a few bits and bobs out. We had the inevitable first load of washing (in the motel sink!) and a few things to book online for the next parts of our trip. We did pop along to a very classic American movie theatre to watch Hunger Games. Great Movie!

Day four, whale watching

Our last day in Santa Barbara was by far the most exciting. It was Whale watching day! We were aware that gray whales migrate along the Californian coast down. They can be as big as 60ft, which was a lot bigger than our Catamaran. We were out searching for them for the best part of 3 hours, your eyes are on stalks the whole time, which leads to a lot of illusions such as thinking every buoy / crab fishing marker is either a seal (which we saw a lot of – this excited Fi immensely as it’s her favourite animal) or whale fin! Eventually, we did see a whale, it came up very quickly and blew a big puff of air, then re-submerged head first revealing just it’s tail. It did this at intervals of nearly five minutes exactly. This was breathtaking to watch and difficult to summarise in a picture…but here goes.

All in all, Santa Barbara has a fantastic vibe, a great fishing industry and plenty of exciting wildlife to see. Only today, a guy was saying how when he was paddle boarding he was passed by three hump back whales and a group of orca’s! Magical.

We’re off to San Francisco tomorrow on the good old Greyhound. A nine hour journey which promises to be eventful! Hopefully no toe sucking!

Big love to you all, Tom & Fi x

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Thanks to everyone for loving our posts so far! Don’t forget to love this one too…look at the top left of this post and click the heart when it beats – it doesn’t post anywhere, it’s just a fun counter for us. To see more of our trip check out all our photo’s from Santa Barbara or see our snaps on the go from our iPhone’s on our instagram page.