Santa Barbara Goes Eco
Santa Barbara, on California’s Pacific coast, is not usually associated with eco travel but once you get under its skin the home of OTT American soaps proves it has more to offer than just bad acting and shaky sets.
Located between the bustling metropolises of Los Angeles and San Francisco, Santa Barbara and the surrounds have officially been renamed the American Riviera. It is being likened to Nice in the South of France, minus the European edge, but the Santa Barbara Visitors Bureau is working hard to change that and is targeting European
travellers keen to discover a different side of sunny California. It seems people have finally had enough of Mickey Mouse and tacky rides.
Hiking and Cycling in Santa Ynez Mountains
The Santa Ynez Mountains offer miles of treks and trails for ramblers and hikers. Gaviota Peak and the Hot Springs Trails are very popular and Romero Canyon entices mountain bikers too; they’re steep to climb but the views from the summit are worth it, especially on a clear day.
Besides cycling and trekking visitors have the opportunity to track Pacific grey whales between June and March, follow the blue and humpback whales during June, July and August and watch turtles sunning themselves on the rocks on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
From the centre of Santa Barbara, one of the more popular eco tours are with Segway Tours, a green, clean way to see the sights. They offer tours through local historic areas and beaches and can be rented for just a few hours, by the day or for a week. For those not in-the-know, the Segway is an electrically powered two-wheeled scooter which riders stand on; tilting the handle bars propels the machine forward. They’ve been around for years but haven’t quite made the impact people hoped, which is a shame because they don’t require any fuel, are low-maintenance and a whole lot of fun. Thirty minutes training is included in the price.
Wine Tours by Trolley
Take it easy and take in the sights by guided tour on a trolley bus. Meander through the historic landmarks to the wineries. If someone else does the driving you can let go and indulge in more than one tipple on the tour. The buses can carry large groups of up to 30 people so in effect keep about 200 cars off the road a day.
Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours
For those travelling alone or in smaller groups, Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours are a great alternative. Catering for no more than seven people at a time, visit the wineries, take a sunset tour or off-road mountain drive.
Farmers Markets and Butterflies
If wine or wheels aren’t your thing then stroll around the farmers markets in the city centre on Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings or follow the path of the monarch butterfly who visit the Eucalyptus trees on the aptly named Butterfly Beach. Visitors can learn more about the butterfly conservation at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
The Cheshire Cat Bed and Breakfast Inn
Inspired by the Lewis Carroll children’s story, Alice in Wonderland, The Cheshire Cat Inn offers elegant and comfortable accommodation in a lovingly restored and maintained weatherboard house which dates back to 1894. It’s only five minutes to the centre of Santa Barbara and has spa facilities for those who want to truly unwind.
A small family-run motel in the centre of town, close to the historic centre and all amenities so everything is within walking distance and there’s a courtyard pool too to get some relief from the hot Californian sun.
El Capitan Canyon
A safari-style camp in El Capital Canyon 20 miles north of Santa Barbara. It offers all the usual amenities of a traditional resort but is designed to integrate with the natural surroundings. As their website says, “… it’s minimalism without deprivation… comfort without over-indulgence. The glories of nature without the overbearing manufactured hand of man.”