Neighborhood Travels

Stearns Wharf – Santa Barbara, CA

During my short visit to Santa Barbara, I often wandered out to Stearns Wharf. It was within walking distance of my hotel and who could resist the lure of those heavy wooden planks and the great views?  This pier was built in 1872 and is the oldest working pier in the state.  My favorite time to visit was early morning when most of the tourists were still at breakfast.  I had the place almost to myself and the morning seemed magical.

A portion of Stearns Wharf in soft light of dawn
A feeling of fantasy at Stearns Wharf

The building on this bit of wharf-spur (is that a word?) is the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center.  (I was too early to enter, but one day I’ll visit.) In the image above, the soft focus is entirely my idea.  The morning seemed to call for it.


I didn’t have any plan for this excursion.  I simply walked along and watched for inspiration.  The boats in the harbor caught my eye. On the west was the Marina crammed with boats, which makes sense as Santa Barbara is a popular destination for pleasure boats as well as commercial craft.

Boats in Santa Barbara Harbor
Boats in Santa Barbara Harbor

In contrast, on the other side of the pier were the sailboats resting at anchor, a sight more to my liking because I could distinguish the individual boats. They weren’t packed in together.

Sailboats at anchor near Stearns Wharf
Sailboats at anchor near Stearns Wharf

I relished this time of solitude.  On a busy afternoon, one is constantly dodging people and cars.  Yes, vehicles drive out and park on the pier.  There are several restaurants out at the end.  I didn’t try any of them; my dog was with me.

The Spell is broken

As for this particular morning, the world was awakening.  The dinghy seen as a speck in the center of the photo above was getting closer.

Boats in Santa Barbara Harbor
The harbor world is waking up.

In the above image, the contrast between quiet anchored boats and the motion of the foreground vessel intrigued me.  In addition, the dinghy’s shape and position contrast with the foreground boat since they have similar shapes but are facing in opposite directions.

As for life on the wharf, not many shops were open at this time of day.  Well, perhaps one could buy a coffee.

Close-up of cafe umbrella on Stearns Wharf
Close-up of cafe umbrella on Stearns Wharf

Even here, I found the anticipated shades of blue.

I enjoyed my morning on Stearns Wharf.  A brief visit to Santa Barbara was a great getaway from my inland home.  If you get a chance to visit a coastal California city, I hope you choose this one.  Santa Barbara has the appellation “America’s Riviera.”  Don’t let that deter you. The setting is lovely, the town is historic, and there are many things to do and see at your own pace. Try it!

To see more photos from my visit to Stearn Wharf, please click here.

Elizabeth Boatman

Traveler, explorer, memory maker and someone who's just downright curious about stuff. It's all about finding joy.

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