Welcome to the American Riviera! Santa Barbara County, between Los Angeles (about 100 miles to the south) and San Francisco (about 300 miles to the north), is home to beautiful landscapes; a great climate for living, playing and working; and a culture that is diverse in almost every way. Adjacent counties include San Luis Obispo County to the north, Ventura County to the east and Kern County to the northeast.
There is much more to Santa Barbara County’s terrain than the world-famous, south-facing beaches stretching along California’s Central Coast. The Los Padres National Forest makes up about one-third of the county’s 2,735 square miles and includes the Dick Smith Wilderness and San Rafael Wilderness along the Sierra Madre Mountains that run like a rugged spine up the eastern part of the county. The Santa Ynez Mountains trend gently toward the west, from just north of Santa Barbara to Vandenberg Air Force Base and Lompoc, and form the dividing line between what’s known as North County (Santa Maria, Lompoc, Buellton, Ballard, Los Olivos, Guadalupe, Santa Ynez, Los Alamos and Solvang, in mountain upland valleys) and South County (Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, Montecito and Summerland, in the strip between ocean and foothills).
Much of Santa Barbara County is sparsely populated and mountainous. The county sits among a series of transverse mountain ranges, the only ranges within the contiguous United States to trend in an east-westerly direction. Most of the developed areas in the county are in the intermountain valleys and along the coastal plain.
Santa Barbara County offers many attractions, along with plenty of history, culture and modern amenities. In addition to world-class outdoor recreation opportunities, there are museums, theaters and a zoo. Those interested in the county’s history can visit El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, which encompasses much of the original Presidio site in downtown Santa Barbara.
There are also many shopping, dining and nightlife opportunities for residents to explore. A number of annual events and festivals celebrate everything from California’s history to music and art.