Appeared in March 2007 LINKS
Long regarded for its Spanish architecture, year-round sunshine and picturesque vineyards, Santa Barbara has been dubbed the American Riviera. Hollywood stars have been coming to the area—enclosed by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Santa Ynez Mountains to the east—since the 1920s. Golf is a relatively new diversion, but there are some first-class tracks.
The Billy Bell-designed Sandpiper Golf Club is a terrific test with inspiring views of the Pacific. Directly inland is Glen Annie Golf Club, a Robert Muir Graves design in the foothills. Graves and Damian Pascuzzo designed La Purisima Golf Course, one of the best courses in the state. The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort’s Ranch Course is another Bell layout, limited to members and guests of the hotel.
The Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel, an oceanside Spanish gem, has been Santa Barbara’s destination resort for movie stars since 1927. JFK and Jackie chose Charlie Chaplin’s landmark Montecito Inn for their honeymoon. Farther north, the contemporary Bacara Resort & Spa is noted for its terrific spa, ocean views and current Hollywood clientele. Set in the solitude of wine country, the rustic 10,000-acre Alisal is a popular family resort with an Old West flavor.
For seafood lovers, there’s Santa Barbara’s Brophy Bros. Clam Bar & Restaurant, for its fabulous harbor views and great clam dishes. Miro at the Bacara Resort also has great views to go along with its first-rate spa cuisine. Downey’s boasts grilled duck with cabernet sauce and Carpenter Ranch squab. Sue Grafton, whose alphabet mysteries are based in a fictionalized Santa Barbara, recommends Wine Cask, a local institution.
The area’s vineyards are must-visits. Highlights include Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard in Los Olivos and Kalyra Winery in Santa Ynez. Whale watchers can ride the 88-foot Condor Express to view Pacific Grays, giant Blues and friendly Humpbacks. History buffs will enjoy the Santa Barbara Mission, while shoppers will delight in State Street. And don’t forget the area’s beaches (this is California, after all).