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Santa Barbara Harbor

There's plenty to do and see at the Santa Barbara Harbor: visit the Maritime Museum, housed in the historic Waterfront Center building, dine at one of several restaurants, or take a leisurely stroll to admire the ocean views and boats. In the Waterfront Center’s hallways, look for photo exhibits of marine sanctuaries nationwide and of the harbor before and during its development. The Outdoors Santa Barbara visitor center, on the fourth floor of the Waterfront Center, has fantastic views of the harbor, Los Padres Forest in the Santa Ynez Mountains, and on a clear day, the Channel Islands.

Harbor facilities include boat slips, boat rentals, and marine specialty shops. The Sail Center offers a variety of cruises, including whale watching and sunset tours, on its accessible catamaran. Fishing is allowed along the breakwater, but casting from a wheelchair here requires skill. A two-mile section of the Cabrillo Beachway trail travels east along the shoreline. From the start of daylight saving time in March and continuing throughout the summer, the yacht club opens its doors to the public for "Wet Wednesdays," where for a fee you can watch sailboat races and enjoy a barbecue.

Spanning two floors, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum has nearly 8,000 square feet of exhibit space. Interactive permanent and traveling exhibits explore aspects of the Central Coast's past and present relationship with the sea, including the lives of the Chumash Indians, the Channel Islands’ natural history, deep-sea diving technology, and offshore oil drilling. You can also view surfing and seafaring films. Ship models are scattered throughout, and you can virtually navigate a ship through the harbor. To reach the second floor, ask staff to unlock the elevator. Admission is free the third Thursday of each month.  

Trail/Pathway Details

Harbor Walkway

Trailhead: Enter from all parking lots

Length: Less than .5 mile

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Level

Terrain: Hard


The Harbor Walkway follows the curve of the shoreline for less than a quarter-mile. Start from the main parking lot and head toward the buildings. Waterside interpretive panels describe the fish found in Santa Barbara waters, including California halibut, white sea bass, pacific sardine, rockfish, and spotted shrimp. Look between the railings for crabs on the rocks. The stretch lined with restaurants, novelty stores, and marine supply businesses can be crowded, but past the yacht club there are fewer people and the lower seawall allows you to see the ocean. Continue along the flag-lined breakwater to a spit overlooking the harbor and the mountains beyond, where you’ll find a memorial to those lost at sea. To extend your journey another two miles, retrace your steps to slip number 3, where you can connect to the Cabrillo Beachway

Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

Visitor Center: Accessible

Accessible Parking: Yes

All lots along Harbor Way have accessible parking, but some charge a fee, discounted for those with a disabled parking placard. If you have a placard, you can park behind the shops for free. If you park in a disabled space in the lot with the honor pay system, an envelope will be left on your windshield to mail back with your fee, because the pay area is not accessible.

Accessible Restroom: Yes

Maritime Museum building restrooms have best access; another, by marina slip number 4, also has good access. Restroom by shops has a tight corner into stall and only has room for a front-approach transfer.
Harbor view from Outdoors Santa Barbara visitor center
Harbor view from Outdoors Santa Barbara visitor center (Bonnie Lewkowicz )

Features icon key

  • boating
  • fishing
  • hiking

Additional Information

View Map  
Managing Agency: City of Santa Barbara
Phone: (805) 564-5531
Hours: Harbor always open
Maritime museum: Open daily except Wed.: Memorial Day to Labor Day, 10 am-6 pm; Labor Day to Memorial Day, 10 am-5 pm
Outdoors visitor center: Daily, 11 am-5 pm
Fees: Parking, Museum
Dogs: On leash
Public Transportation: MTD Santa Barbara 
Useful Links: Waterfront parking 
Reviewed by Bonnie Lewkowicz, September 16, 2008
Access Norhtern California This web guide is a project of Access Northern California.  
California Coastal Conservancy Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy

DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.

Accessible Restrooms Icon looks like a women and men restroom signBeach Accessible
Wheelchairs Available
  Hiking icon is silhouette of a hikerHiking & Trails
Biking icon looks like person riding a bikeBicycling   Good for Familis icon is a child on a swing'Particularly Good for Families
Boating Icon is a boatBoating   Picnic Area Icon is a picnic tablePicnic
Camping icon is a tentCamping   Swimming Icon is a person swimmingSwimming
Fishing Icon is a fish biting a hookFishing   Wildlife Viewing Icon is a pair of binocularsWildlife Viewing