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EDITOR: Andrea Kirk
RIDING THE RAILS TO SANTA BARBARA
By Eye Spy LA Editor
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Santa Barbara, the sunny scenic seaside town, has lots to see and do and has been a Sunday drive favorite since I was a kid. This time I decided to take the train. I've always wanted to take a ride on a train along the coast, but for some reason I've just never gotten around to it until recently. Amtrak has daily train service from the L.A. area to Santa Barbara on the Pacific Surfliner. This train makes quite a few stops and you can board the train at any of them and pay your fare to the conductor.
Once out of the L.A. area you'll pass through orchards, flower and strawberry fields and make stops in Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura and Carpenteria before arriving at the Santa Barbara station. I just wish they kept the windows a little cleaner. The early train gets you there about 10am and the later train arrives before noon. You can catch return trains in the afternoon - the last train leaves just before 7pm.
The Santa Barbara train station is very conveniently located off State Street about two short blocks from Stearns Wharf, the beach and the harbor. Electric shuttle buses provide rides along State Street and Cabrillo Blvd for $.25 a ride, so it's easy to get around once you're there.
We arrived just before noon so my traveling companions and I headed directly for Stearns Wharf and a seaside lunch. Our plan was simple, enjoy the train ride, have lunch, take walk and return home. There are plenty of places to eat. We picked a place called Longboards on the wharf not because of the food, which was okay, but because it had a large patio seating area with great views. I've also eaten at the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company at the end of the wharf - very casual and good fresh seafood.
Next we explored the wharf. The Ty Warner Sea Center, a part of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, is a marine education facility with interactive exhibits. There are plenty of shops from candy and wine to bait and tackle - you can fish without a licence from the wharf. Various boat tours and cruises are available from the wharf and from the harbor. We took a ride on L'il Toot, the water taxi, over to the harbor. Cap'n Fred filled us in on some of the points of interest and boats in the harbor and let the kids aboard help steer on this short voyage. It gets you out on the water for $3 per person. You'll find the ticket booth and boarding area behind the shops on the south side of the wharf.
We arrived at the harbor in front of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. There are more shops and eateries here too, plus you can rent sailboats and kayaks.
The Maritime Museum was a U.S. Naval training facility until 1995. Some of the exhibits are docked out front.
We took a walk along the jetty that keeps the harbor waters calm. Stearns Wharf is in the background.
Back aboard the train we passed the Andree Clark Bird Refuge (the Santa Barbara Zoo is located here too) as we left Santa Barbara headed for home. This was a perfect day trip.
--Andrea Kirk (editor@eyespyLA.com)
More information about visiting Santa Barbara
Plan your train trip on Amtrak - fare to/from the L.A. area is generally $21 each way. Discounts for children and seniors.
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