Santa Barbara attractions: Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, wine tasting and a cruise


There may be no better way of resetting one's body clock than by taking a sunset cruise from Santa Barbara. With the sun lowering as we glide out into the Pacific, I hope this activity will remind my brain it's now on US west coast time.

Even if it doesn't, it's a great way to relax in the Californian city west of Los Angeles.

Ahead of the Sunset Kidd, the water stretches to the Channel Islands; behind, the city spreads beneath the Santa Ynez Mountains.

This mountain range has a major influence on another of Santa Barbara's attractions: wine. Most ranges in North America run from north to south, but the Santa Ynez are west-east, creating a range of microclimates giving rise to interesting wines.

Many local producers have cellar doors in the waterside district, and once off the boat I sample the local drop at Kunin Wines.

Its most popular is a blend of grenache, mourvedre and syrah known as Pape Star Rouge. It's an easy-drinking red, says the proprietor, and I'm happy to agree.

Santa Barbara's main claim to fame is its wealth of Spanish Colonial Revival buildings.

After an earthquake destroyed much of the city in 1925, it rebuilt in this style as a homage to its days within the Spanish Empire.

The result is a beautiful city centre characterised by white walls and red tiles.

There's something of the Hollywood set about it; it's hard to tell how old anything really is. When I first spot the grand Santa Barbara County Courthouse, with a Spanish inscription above its entry arch, I assume it must be from the 19th century. Nope – it was built in 1929.

Nearby, however, is the authentically colonial El Presidio, the Spanish fort which guarded the town from 1782.

Standing in the courtyard between its restored buildings, where the sunshine falls upon a statue of Spanish King Carlos III, it's easy to sense the link between past and present.

Tim Richards travelled courtesy of United Airlines and Visit Santa Barbara.

THE FACTS

FLY

United (united.com) flies daily from Melbourne to Los Angeles, from $1300 return. From LAX, catch the Santa Barbara Airbus ($US50, sbairbus.com).

STAY

Agave Inn, 3222 State Street, agaveinnsb.com.

Canary Hotel, 31 West Carrillo Street, canarysantabarbara.com.

SEE & DO

Sunset Kidd Sailing Cruises, sunsetkidd.com.

Kunin Wines, 28 Anacapa Street, kuninwines.com.

El Presidio, 123 East Canon Perdido St, sbthp.org.

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