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Sunday, 28 September 2008

Santa Barbara: A Bike Ride through the American Riviera - Page 2

Written by Brent Bakeman
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I left Esau’s on State Street after a satisfying meal of chicken fried steak and eggs, and walked outside for a breath of fresh air and a look around. It was a beautiful Santa Barbara day -- 73 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. People walked up and down the busy street in shorts and t-shirts busying themselves with some shopping and enjoying the day. .The large college population and world-class shopping in Santa Barbara bring money up from bigger California cities like Los Angeles and San Diego. Downstate past the 101 Highway, pristine beaches lay ahead where sunbathers, surfers and bike-riders gather to be near the ocean breeze – the perfect place for people-watching.

Heading downhill on the APS, visitors will encounter the Santa Barbara Inn and can hop on the bike path that goes along the beach and Cabrillo Boulevard. To the east is East Beach, the birthplace of beach volleyball, and across Cabrillo Boulevard is the Santa Barbara Zoo. The famous Biltmore Hotel, where JFK and Jacqueline honeymooned, sits on the other side of a large bluff nearby. The hills above The Biltmore, Montecito, boast some of the most lavish and expensive properties in the country including Oprah’s 50 million dollar estate.

To the west is Stearns Wharf, a pier built in 1872 used to reach the deep draft vessels of the day with local lumber and cattle. Now, the wharf is a popular tourist stop featuring popular restaurants as well as a fishing spot for locals. It also provides an excellent view of the harbor entrance where grand yachts and racing sailboats are joined by what is left of the local fishing fleet.

Heading west along the bike path, the Channel Islands lie to the left. These islands are home to incredible beaches and oftentimes host a throng of pale European tourists. Santa Cruz Island, the largest of the Channel Islands, was privately owned and supported by a cattle business for years. Now, most of the islands are protected nature sanctuaries, and at least one, San Clemente, is owned and staunchly guarded by the military. Past the wharf I arrived at the harbor, with its funky shops and restaurants and a recently completed Maritime Museum. A long breakwater juts out toward the end of Stearns Wharf. A stroll on the breakwater provides an excellent view back towards the city, and an occasional drenching when the water is rough. I had previously been ticketed for riding on the breakwater, so instead I kept moving along the bike path.

Just west of the Harbor is a small restaurant on Ledbetter Beach, and right across the street is Santa Barbara City College, one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. Santa Barbara: A Bike Ride through the American Riviera, Photos  by Ava WarmathThe beach is so close to the campus that many students often go surfing between classes. Up above Ledbetter, continuing westward, is Shoreline Park, a public haven for Frisbees and dogs. This long green strip provides an excellent view back over the beachfront of Santa Barbara. The houses in this neighborhood are primarily tract homes, built in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but can easily cost the buyer over a million dollars. The closer to the park, the more expensive the property..

Santa Barbara: A Bike Ride through the American Riviera, Photos  by Ava WarmathLate in the day the shadows grow long on the beach as lifeguards lock up their stations and shore birds dissipate into the orange-pink sky. The day is still warm and beautiful -- the sunsets in Santa Barbara are sheer magic. I admired the view a while longer before returning the old beach cruiser to my friend. Its job was done and my ride in and around Santa Barbara completely satisfying.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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