You may recall my recent adventure up Highway 101 through Ventura-Santa Barbara.  That was last December during the Thomas Fire, California’s largest wildfire.  Based on that, you can see my timing is often less than spot on when planning a trip.  Nonetheless the coast still beacons, and visitors are welcome.  Here are some reasons why now is a great time to visit.

1. Great Food

I like to stop in Carpinteria, located in Santa Barbara County, right along Highway 101.  I have a favorite restaurant, Crushcakes.  The food is fresh and delicious.

Lunch at Crushcakes in Carpinteria

Lunch at Crushcakes in Carpinteria

The cupcake seen above is carrot, the flavor of the day.  Yum!  They have lots of great cupcakes.  Crushcakes is also dog-friendly with patio seating in the back.  What more could I possibly want?  By the way, all that food isn’t just for me.  My family came along to help eat it.

As for a great place to have breakfast, we liked Jeannine’s in Montecito.

Outdoor seating at Jeannine's in Montecito

Outdoor seating at Jeannine’s in Montecito

We arrived early and beat the crowd.  Once again my dog was allowed to join us.  You can see a dog in the photo above.  The food was great, and the service even better!  I hope you get a chance to try it.

2. Shopping

Whether looking for something expensive or not, you’re bound to find the right souvenir in Montecito.  This quaint, and friendly, coastal town offers fine shopping.

Shops along Coast Village Road in Montecito

Shops along Coast Village Road in Montecito

I enjoyed just walking about.  It’s a pretty place with towering eucalyptus trees.

Sidewalk with eucalyptus in Montecito

Sidewalk with eucalyptus in Montecito

Our favorite kind of shopping involves books, so we drove inland to Ojai, located in Ventura County.  This small town has been a family favorite for decades.  We always stop at Bart’s Books.

Bart's Books in the rain

Bart’s Books in the rain

It was raining on the day of our visit, which isn’t ideal for an open-air bookstore.  We managed to dodge around the shelves and stay relatively dry.  Do watch out for some of those drops.  They can really be cold going down one’s back!  Barts Books is so much more than a used bookstore.  It’s a legend!

3. Getting back to Nature

There are many ways to experience the great outdoors in the coastal area.  Of course, the beach runs along Highway 101 almost constantly from Ventura to Santa Barbara.  The Carpinteria Bluffs have some nice simple trails and great views of the Pacific Ocean.  For those who want to hike, there are the Santa Ynez Mountains.

The Santa Ynez Valley looking toward Los Padres National Forest.

The Santa Ynez Valley looking toward Los Padres National Forest.

We stopped at a vista point along CA 154 when the sun was shining again.  There’s plenty of hiking out there along the river and in the national forest.

4. Giving Back

As I mentioned above, I’ve been vacationing in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties for many years.  Last December, while I was there on holiday, the area was hit by the Thomas Fire.  I was astounded to see the size of the devastation.  The burned hillsides just seemed to go on for miles.

Burned hillside on the road to Ojai

The burned hillside on the road to Ojai

Shortly after the fire, a torrential rain hit the area resulting in mud and debris flows that moved with terrifying speed.  These debris flows were destructive and deadly.  Homes that survived the fire were lost in the mud.  Montecito and Carpinteria were right in the path of these flows.  Canyons around Ojai were also at risk.  Now, three months after the fire, the towns are slowly recovering.  They are open for business and want to welcome visitors.  In an effort to do something to boost the local economy, my family and I spent the weekend visiting our old haunts.  I’m sure more tourists will come as well.  I see it is as a way to give back just a little in thanks for all the good times we’ve had.

Nonetheless, I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture.  If you’re considering a trip up the coast, check the weather forecast.  Make certain there isn’t another evacuation order.  That sounds dire, but it’s common sense.  Also, check for beach closures due to debris.

One last photo, just for fun.  This is the beach right along Highway 101.  I’ve seen it from the highway but never bothered to stop.  On this trip, I took an exit and found the beach!  It pays to be bold!

Peir Sholes Beach along Highway 101

Peir Sholes Beach along Highway 101

To see more of my photos from my trip up Highway 101 to the Ventura-Santa Barbara coastal area, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your thoughts?