Laura Csortan

Santa Barbara was initially going to be an active outdoorsy weekend experience, sure, all that happened but it merely counteracted the amount of eating and drinking I did in this picturesque seaside town which as I discovered offers a very cool array of culinary delights and boutique tipples.  

Ah you can always lose the calories but not the memories I say as I made my way through the “funk zone” sampling the local food and beverage on offer.  The funk zone is an eclectic mix of modern restaurants, wine bars, boutique distilleries and cool dive bars.  If you want to explore the modern side of Santa Barbara this where you come.  You’ll feel the “arty” vibe as soon as you start exploring with the graffiti covered warehouses, art galleries and surf museum which are nestled in between the funky food and drink venues.  

Surf Museum


As I toured through the area sampling a little something from a few of the eateries, I learnt the trick is to pace yourself. I surrendered to the call of my curious tastebuds and dove on into the selection of Santa Barbara delicacies.

It has almost 20 tasting rooms and wine bars, and while I don’t suggest trying them all (you’d end up having to roll home and no doubt quite ill due to over excessiveness).

A few of the “must visit” venues are the Municipal Winemakers where you can sample local wines.  The Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. where the cold boutique beers go down a treat, who doesn’t love a little cleanser! The Lark Restaurant, which uses seasonal local ingredients designed to share. Also, try the Cutlers artesian spirits, they will offer you samples, but I promise you won’t be able to walk away without buying a bottle from this historic distillery.  The apple pie liquor was my favourite, it tastes like America (an alcoholic America, whoops).  

Beer o'clock at the Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.


A perfect place to sit and take in the view is the Deep Sea Winery located on Stearns Warf. It’s not part of the Funk Zone but it’s just walking distance.  You can soak up the coastal vibe while sipping on a delicious drop of local wine. It’s especially nice as the sun goes down. I also hooked into some of the local seafood, ceviche in fact from Santa Barbara Shell Fish company, a modest little shack at the end of the pier.  They also offer a super tasty rock crab dish! Seriously need 5 stomachs for this place.

Tasting local wines at Deep Sea


Never fear though, burning off the extra calories is fun and easy.  I got involved with the Santa Barbara Fitness tours. Mike, my guide showed me some of the highlights. Kayaking just out from shore near the Pier was magic, the palm lined Santa Barbara streets and mountains in the background make for a stunning backdrop.

Kayaking during a Santa Barbara Fitness Tour


Kayaking in Santa Barbara


I also convinced Mike to come for a peddle with me along the boardwalk, I wanted to see this this place from every angle.  The palm lined bike path that winds along the beach is the perfect way to see Santa Barbara, and just think, you can make more room for more, err, eating! Just enjoy, you’re on holiday!

Peddle along the Boardwalk


Things to know:

  • A great way to see the best of SB’s food and wine is to do the Eat This Taste That tour.  This 3-hour long tour starts at the Pier where you will indulge in local seafood and wine followed by three restaurants, two wines bars, a distillery and a brewery. You will be treated like a VIP.  Your local guide will also give great photography tips along the way. Good value at around $90.
  • If you are staying in LA and want a little two day escape to Santa Barbara its as easy as $20 - $30 and a 2.5-hour train ride, book through Amtrak.  Most things are walking distance in SB, so a car is not necessary.
  • Make the most of the stunning SB weather and rent a bike for a few hours.  There are a few places who hire along the beach.  I used Santa Barbara Fitness. Bikes were waiting for me at the beach. Perfect!

Ride a bike along the beach


Laura Csortan is a travel host who presented for eight years on the Great Outdoors.  She has also hosted Qantas destination Guides, Channel 9 Holidays for Sale and most recently presented a film for National Geographic riding a motorbike across Morocco. As a passionate traveller, Laura loves to share her favourite travel tips and adventures. Follow her on Instagram: lauracsortan or Twitter: @LauraCsortan

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.