Fall in Santa Barbara is unlike fall in other destinations. Sunlight dances on the blue waters. The towering Santa Ynez Mountains, lush with green foliage, frames the city. In the foothills and flats leading out toward the water, the town is both sprawling and charming with its Spanish colonial-style architecture.
The region is known as the American Riviera. For good reason.
During the fall in Santa Barbara, you won’t see common, telltale signs of autumn. There are few trees that change colors. And the temperature, while colder and breezier than the prior season, is warm enough for strolls on the beach with no more than a sweatshirt. Autumn is by far my favorite time of year to visit Santa Barbara, as the natural beauty seems to seep into my pores and calm me like a meditation. Here are my favorite things do to in the city during this season.
Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach
For any meal of the day, get a beach fix by dining at Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach. The place is a waterfront restaurant with outdoor seating, as well as a dining room full of booths and large windows overlooking the shore. In case it is too cold to sit outside, dining inside the restaurant also is a perfect way to enjoy the beach while staying warm. Before or after your meal, make sure to take a walk along the water to really soak in a beach experience.
Outside the Boathouse on Hendry’s Beach
Sunset is a popular time to visit Boathouse, so come early for a good seat either at the bar or a table. Order a Bloody Mary as you watch the sky change colors. In the mornings, breakfast is all-American diner food with some of my Mexican favorites, such as huevos rancheros and chilaquiles. For lunch and dinner, the menu predominantly is surf-and-turf, featuring everything from oysters and lobster to hamburgers and filet mignon.
Sandpiper Golf Club
I’m not a golfer but the Sandpiper Golf Club makes me want to become one. Here you can hit a bucket of balls out over the driving range, or play the full course (which has been rated by Golf Digest as one of the top 25 public golf courses in the country). The driving range and the course here sit atop bluffs that tower over the shore. The views of the ocean, mountains, and the course itself provide a wonderful escape from daily life.
You also may want to try another highly rated course, Rancho San Marcos. The course is located a short drive inland from the center of town, and is surrounded by the stunning Santa Ynez Mountains near Lake Cachuma, providing a rich escape into the unique landscape of Santa Barbara.
Viewfinder Tip: Weather in Santa Barbara can change in an instant. Pack clothing layers to be prepared for the changing temperatures.
Belmond El Encanto
The Belmond El Encanto is a five-star resort that sits in the hills above Santa Barbara, where guests can stay in luxurious bungalows and spacious suites. You can come to El Encanto for a meal or drink to take in the stunning views of the mountains and water below. You may choose to sit outside on the terrace and dine on the resort’s signature California coastal cuisine made with seasonal and locally sourced produce. Some of the restaurant’s offerings, such as garden herbs and cheese, come right from the property itself.
Visiting the Belmond El Encanto on a lazy afternoon, I indulged in tasty roasted tomato soup, as well as the kale and California pear salad. Together, these dishes comprised a perfect, vegetarian lunch. Also on the menu is a wide range of fish, seafood, and steak dishes. If I had had more time, I might have reserved an afternoon tea in the lounge; I hear it’s fantastic.
Roasted tomato soup at Belmond El Encanto
Santa Barbara Bowl
The Santa Barbara Bowl is another way to experience the outdoors in Santa Barbara. It is a relatively small amphitheater with more than 4,500 seats nestled into the mountainside. The biggest performers of our time play here regularly. Personally, I’ve attended a James Taylor and a Gwen Stefani concert in this venue. I love how shows at the Santa Barbara Bowl are smaller concert experiences that allow for more intimate experiences.
Still, wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll have to walk up a small hill with uneven ground to enter the arena. Concerts run through November 15. Book now!
What do you seek in an autumn getaway?