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Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara

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#4 of 108 in Things to do in Santa Barbara
Pier / Boardwalk Tourist Spot
Stearns Wharf is a pier in the harbor in Santa Barbara, California, United States. When completed In 1872, it became the longest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Named for its builder, local lumberman John P. Stearns, the wharf served the passenger and freight shipping needs of California's South Coast for over a quarter century. Before the wharf, passengers and cargo had to be rowed ashore through the breakers and kelp. Despite the great convenience offered by the wharf, Santa Barbara remained a fair-weather harbor with an acute need for a breakwater. During December 1878, storms destroyed and washed away more than 1,000 feet of the wharf. Despite these losses, it would be another 52 years before Santa Barbara got its needed breakwater. When the railroad reached Santa Barbara in 1877, Stearns added another spur to the wharf, providing a necessary transport link to his lumberyard and the nearby Southern Pacific Depot. The spur was damaged by severe storms in the early 20th century and was finally abandoned in 1923.The Harbor Restaurant was built on the wharf in 1941, marking an end to the shipping and transportation era of the 19th century. The restaurant proved to be the economic backbone of the wharf.Since its beginning, Stearns Wharf has had several natural and economic disasters, from the big earthquake in 1925 to a fire in 1973 which caused its closing. The wharf stayed closed for six years until restorations were completed in 1981. Another fire in the winter of 1998 devastated the last hundred and fifty feet of the wharf, including Moby Dick Restaurant. Though the rest of the wharf remained open during this period, the rebuilding took over two years. Stearns Wharf stands today as Santa Barbara's most visited landmark.
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Where to stay in Santa Barbara

Blessed with a mild climate and lush location, Santa Barbara remains a playground for the rich and famous, so it's no surprise that accommodations can be extremely expensive here. The priciest hotels are near the water, so before you make your reservations, decide if staying beachside fits into your budget. You can find more affordable rooms at any one of the area's small motels, located just blocks from the beaches. These offer secure parking, cable TV, and free Wi-Fi.
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4.4
  • Took my mother & sister for a mini getaway to Santa Barbara. Strolled along the wharf sight seeing & taking photos. It was a lovely day. Ate dinner and visited a few shops before heading back to our h...  more »
  • I haven't ever been able to drive out on a pier. This was a fun experience. There are some shops and a couple of restaurants on the wharf. The view off the pier is fabulous. People are fishing off the...  more »
  • There are several gift shops, restaurants and even fishing off the pier. There are beautiful photo opportunities of Santa Barbara off of the pier. We didn't eat at any of the restaurants but visited s...  more »
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  • Great low-key wharf to go for a walk. There are only a few restaurants on this wharf, so it’s never crazy crowded with people. There are fantastic views of Santa Barbara and the surrounding areas especially at sunset. Also I guess this is one of the few places along the west coast where you see the sun set over land. The end of the wharf doesn’t have any railings, which was a little disconcerting to see. I guess it’s all fine as long as you’re not going for a drunken walk.
  • Santa Barbara is a nice pleasant town. I was there only one night for a stop over so I didn't see a whole lot. But what I did see was very nice and quaint. The wharf was a fun place to hang out at. Great for photos especially during the sunset. 👍😊
  • A Pier you can drive on! Restaurants, shops, an aquarium, and great views. This was a great stop. We ate at Santa Barbara Shellfish Company. The food came out of the tank and was cooked in front of you. Delicious and entertaining!
  • Fun way to spend a little time. You can grab a bite to eat, shop, go fishing or visit the aquarium. There's also a bike path that runs along the beach and a nice sized skate park near the wharf. The one thing I don't like about the wharf is that there is parking on the wharf, and the pedestrian walkway crosses traffic, so if you have young children you need to be mindful of the traffic.
  • Definitely a must-see for Santa Barbara visitors! You can park your car on the warf. The first 90 minutes are free; then you will be charged. Nice ocean view! You can see the wales, when you are lucky and go there in the wale-season! The restaurants on the wharf are, in my opinion, not so good!