Santa Barbara, also known as the American Riviera, is full of surprises for its visitors at any time of the year. It is impossible for them not to surrender to the spell that the ocean casts on them. Its beaches are home to some of the best places to surf in the whole continent, but they also receive all those visitors whose main interest is to calmly stroll the beach with a beloved one, discover a new place along the coast, or just contemplate the sunset over the water. A moderate ocean temperature and mild tides always invite the visitors to enjoy a pleasant day at the beach.
But Santa Barbara is not only its beaches. Some 50 public parks and picnic areas are also part of all the beautiful and inviting places that Santa Barbara has to offer to its visitors. Whether your passion is to enjoy some fresh-air fun, take a walk with your family, enjoy some cheese and bread with your beloved one on a blanket while the two of you have a glass of wine (several parks allow alcohol in Santa Barbara), or maybe something more risky like paragliding with your friends, or perhaps sightseeing the flora and the fauna of the area, or in general enjoying any other form of ecotourism, Santa Barbara has a park that will surely seduce you, and where you will have a time that you will never forget.
Here are four astonishing parks for you to visit in the Santa Barbara area.
Gaviota State Park
Located in the southern part of the Santa Barbara County, about 33 miles west of the city of Santa Barbara, the name of the Gaviota State Park comes from the Spanish word for seagull. According to the legend, soldiers of the Portola Expedition gave that name to the area while they were camping there in 1769, after apparently killing a seagull. A tall Southern Pacific railroad trestle, which crosses Gaviota Creek, and passes through the Gaviota Tunnel and Gaviota Pass, bisects the park. Yet both parts of the park have trails for different sorts of activities, such as swimming, picnicking, surf fishing and camping, but also hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. There is also a pier, located on the west end of the beach, popular among anglers, and from where scuba divers and surfers access the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel through a boat hoist.
Jalama Beach County Park & Campground
The Jalama Beach County Park was formed thanks to the donation of 23.5 acres of privately owned land to the County of Santa Barbara in 1943. The land, once a Chumash Indian settlement, was located near Jalama Creek, and currently is approximately an hour drive from the City of Santa Barbara. The park is subject to high winds, which may involve rough surf, but allow for other kinds of activities as well, such as whale-watching, birdwatching, nature photography, rock hounding, and fishing. The park is also home to protected California native plants such as saltbush, sand verbena, and sea rocket.
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
Located about 1 mile north of the Old Mission Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden offers 5 miles of easy trails to visitors of all ages, which combine paved trails perfect for wheelchairs and strollers, and dirt paths that take visitors up to some unforgettable views of the ocean or the comfortable dampness of Mission Creek. The Garden has 78 acres of beautiful California native plants clearly marked and distributed in different sections and displays such as Arroyo Section, Campbell Trail, Canyon Section, Desert Section, Home Demonstration Garden, Manzanita Section, Meadow Section, Porter Trail, Redwood Section, Tea House Garden, and Woodland Trail. Rather than the feeling associated with a traditional botanic park, the feeling for the visitor will be that of strolling through the mountainside with a large forest.
Chase Palm Park
Bordering both sides of Cabrillo Blvd. from the East Beach to Stearns Wharf, Chase Palm Park is another iconic spot to enjoy on the Santa Barbara area with family and friends. The park offers opportunities for different types of activities. Some visitors may enjoy throwing frisbee, or perhaps play soccer or some pick up flag football. Other may prefer to take a walk or relax under the sun. In both cases, the beach awaits for them to take a cool down dip in the sea at any moment. There are also some ponds with koi and ducks, very good landscaping, an outdoor music pavilion, a carousel, and a children’s playground. The park is also home to the Chase Palm Park Arts and Crafts Show, which local artists established in 1965 inspired by European sidewalk art shows and the Jardín del Arte (The Art Garden) in Mexico City. Indeed, one of the most beautiful strip of palm lined pavilion anywhere in the world.