Sitting pretty on the Pacific coast south of San Francisco and north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is many things at once: a celebrity hideaway, soap opera location, beach party zone, a centre of higher learning and elegant Spanish-style resort town.
It's TV celebrity is easy to understand: this is one telegenic place. Affluent and picturesque, with lots of red tile roofs and white stucco, the city has the easygoing seaside attitude and looks of a Mediterranean town. But make that a Californian Mediterranean town, dude.
Five colleges in the area, including the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), give the town a youthful zest and provide a little contrast to the town's white-ducks yachting crowd and wealthy retirees. The city is surrounded by good beaches and the nearby Santa Ynez Mountains and Los Padres National Park offer great opportunities for hiking and camping.
Facts for the traveller
Off the beaten track