Santa Barbara : an honest review

With Coull’s expansion into the US via the purchase of a great local agency, I’ve had the good fortune to hop over to Santa Barbara a fair few times. I never really find that TripAdvisor does that good a job of highlighting the best spots, so here’s my advice if you fancy visiting.


Some of the Best nights I’ve had out there have been at the James Joyce on state street, great selection of whisky, live music and general atmosphere. Elsie’s is well worth a visit, a locals favourite, great drinks selection, a veranda out back, and stays open late.

The local whites are very drinkable, although they are deservedly proud of their Syrah. The beer on the other hand can’t be faulted. The Firestone brewery makes easily the best ales I’ve had anywhere in the states, and if this is your thing then a visit to Union Ale is definitely worth your time. The service is excellent, and the beverages even more so.

California state law prohibits selling alcohol after 2am, and most bars shut around 12. Of the few clubs, the latest closing and worth your time is probably the Savoy. To get into most bars you will need to take your passport out with you no matter your age.

Places to avoid: Any touristy “British pubs” – just as bad as American themed bars are in Britain, except with more Stella Artois and worse than a wetherspoons.


Santa Barbara has some great restaurants, being a sucker for a great steak, then no visit is complete without a trip to Holdrens. The wine list is fantastic, aim for a well aged local Syrah and you won’t be disappointed.


I L.O.V.E the local beaches. During the day my Somerset grown fair skin can only take so much of the gorgeous weather, but going for a run along the beach at dawn or dusk is one of my all time favourite things. A short drive down the coast to Refugio Beach will find you a sublimely gorgeous authentic beach, great for camping and spotting the local wildlife like diving birds, dolphins, sealions – all the hits.


It’s worth staying in a hotel on the sea front even though they are only 3-4 star. The sun bursting through your blinds inviting you to sit out on the balcony overlooking the sea, morning coffee in hand is worth 5 stars on its own. The harbor view inn next to the pier is perfect for this.


The French press on state street is easily the best, it refreshingly concentrates on the coffee more than the pretension.


I was pleasantly surprised how good the local art galleries were. The local Art Museum is the star of the show, and has some excellent examples of modernism which kept me enthralled for a good hour alone.