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SANTA BARBARA DAY TRIPS

July 24, 2020

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Take in Our Dramatic Coastline, Spanish Colonial Architecture, and More

Happy Couple Driving on Highway 101 into the Sunset in Classic Vintage Sports Car

Everyone fortunate enough to call Santa Barbara County home is well aware of the abundance of spectacular scenery that graces our region. At every twist and turn, one is greeted with vistas that effortlessly embody breathtaking beauty. Yet, in case the daily hustle has momentarily overshadowed these natural wonders, allow me to reintroduce you to three exceptional places where you can not only behold but immerse yourself in the unparalleled splendor of our surroundings. These locales are not just views; they are experiences that beckon you to reconnect with the awe-inspiring landscapes that define Santa Barbara County.

National Geographic’s Santa Barbara Loop

One of my all-time favorite Santa Barbara day trips is National Geographic’s Santa Barbara Loop. The first loop of this breathtaking drive, which extends 166 miles, jogs westward from Santa Barbara, past the flower fields of sleepy Lompoc and the wine and horse country of Santa Ynez Valley. Expect to see the city itself as well as miles of beaches, the rugged rock formations of the Gaviota Pass, fields of blooms in Lompoc (in June and July), the verdant vineyards of the wine country, and more.

Circle back to Santa Barbara and catch the second loop. Start by heading south on US 101 toward Montecito, an upscale residential enclave where millionaires and movie stars live in exquisite estates, some built around the turn of the century. As you drive along the loop, you will see Tudor mansions, Spanish haciendas, and Italian villas. See any homes for sale that are of interest to you? Give me a call at (805) 886-9378 or email me at Cristal@montecito-estate.com and I’ll happily arrange a tour.

From Montecito, head to the coastal city of Ventura where you can get a taste of the relaxed vibe and natural beauty of a neighboring sun-kissed region. Make a stop to experience your own DIY oyster shucking by the beach at The Jolly Oyster Shuck Shack at San Buenaventura State Beach Park.

The next stop is Ojai Valley, off of Calif. 33 north. While there, don’t forget to visit the Ojai Olive Oil farm and pick up a bottle to take home. This fourth-generation family-owned and operated farm is the oldest producer of extra virgin olive oil in the region.

Your final destination in this loop is Lake Casitas off Calif. 150, a popular spot with fishermen and boaters. Take a moment to stretch your legs on the Castaic Lake Trail Loop via West Launch Ramp, a 6.3-mile dog-friendly hike. Once you reach US 101 again, all you have to do is swing north to head home to Santa Barbara. 

Aerial helicopter shot of the Channel Islands

Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park’s mainland visitor center is closed until further notice, but, the five park islands are open for visitation. That means this is the perfect time to fly over the area and land at one of the islands. Take a road trip from Santa Barbara heading South on the 101 to the Camarillo Airport. Park concessionaire, Channel Islands Aviation, located at 305 Durley Avenue in Camarillo, offers flights to Santa Rosa Island year-round. On a trial basis, flights are also available to San Miguel Island. 

The Channel Islands National Park encompasses five islands and a 175-mile coastline and has a diversity of breathtaking, untouched landscapes, not to mention more than 2,000 plant and animal species; 145 of which can only be found here. Undoubtedly, the most awe-inspiring view is from Inspiration Point on Anacapa Island, but do make time to explore all the other islands as well. Some areas are harder to get to than others, but they’re all very much worth it.

Preparation is key since there are no services such a food stores or gear rental shops on the islands. That is why I suggest you read about the Things to Do, including Outdoor Activities that interest you and Places To Go to determine which island appeals to you most prior to setting out on your day trip to the islands. Also, stay updated by checking Alerts & Current Conditions to learn about any current restrictions or closures.

Man riding a bike along the california coast

Image from Ray Ford

Ellwood Mesa

Sunset magazine included Ellwood Mesa’s 137-acre coastal bluff preserve in its list of the “7 (hidden) Wonders of the West,” praising it for having the “best view.” As indeed it does. Located in the Goleta area, this pristine sweep of grasslands, vernal pools and monarch butterfly-bedecked eucalyptus groves is perched on a cliff edged with a wide swath of beach and looks out on endless views of the ocean.

Situated on the western edge of Goleta, Ellwood Mesa is protected forever from future development. A mecca for hikers, joggers, cyclists, surfers, and horseback riders, the Mesa features miles of relatively flat trails, two beach access points, abundant wildlife and a major Monarch butterfly habitat. Stretch your legs on the 10-mile integrated trail system linking all of open space areas and the communities of Isla Vista and Goleta.

Stay on the trails and avoid any areas that are closed due to human impact along with issues from the area’s long-term draught. As a result, certain trails have eroded, and beach access has become problematic in certain places. The drought has taken its toll on trees and their canopy, affecting the environment for the Monarch butterflies. The Environmental Defense Center (EDC) and the community continue monitoring and caring for this special environment.


Special note: This is far from a definitive list of Santa Barbara day trips. In fact, some of the best day trip spots in Santa Barbara are located behind the gates of the fine homes in town and as such are not going to be viewable without an invitation. You wouldn't need an invitation if you lived here. Browse through my Santa Barbara real estate listings or use the property search tool on my comprehensive website to find currently available residences for sale throughout Santa Barbara, Montecito, Hope Ranch, Summerland, Carpinteria and Goleta. I’ll arrange a day trip for you to tour any of my wonderful listings.


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“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch