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Five Reasons to go to Summerland Instead of Santa Barbara

Where to eat, stay, and sip on the Central Coast. 

The view from Summerland

The view from Summerland

 

Just a few miles south of the tour buses and fanny packs of Santa Barbara lies the oft-overlooked beach town of Summerland. Its half-mile main street, Lillie Avenue, is full of salty charm—surfboards strapped to the roofs of VW vans, rainbow-hued bungalows, fishermen spouting tall tales over beers at Stacky’s—and just one block from the beach. Settle into this little seaside enclave for a funky seaside weekend without the crowds.

Explore
There’s no MOMA in these parts, but the Just Folk art gallery has enough wonders to keep your curiosity piqued as you wander around the bright airy space. The gallery focuses on traditional Americana as well as outsider art, and that tone is reflected in quirky objects, textiles, and paintings made by those outside of the institutional art realm. 

Shop
SoCal meets Southeast Asia at this zenned-out home décor store. Inside the sleek space you can find bamboo picture frames, orchid scented candles, Turkish bath towels, and other reminders to relax. Or chill out in Botanik’s garden, where wicker chairs positioned amid garden Buddhas and palm fronds offer refuge from the hot sun. 

Drink
Forego the treacherous drive over San Marcos Pass to neighboring wine country for a leisurely wine tasting session in town at Summerland Winery’s tasting room. Overstay your welcome on their plantation-style patio with endless pourings of viognier and grenache rose. 

Brunch
Soak up the lazy Sunday morning sun on the sprawling patio of Summerland Beach Cafe, a Victorian-era house serving up giant oval plates of old-school hash browns, eggs Benedict, and hearty surfer-inspired breakfasts like “bodacious cinnamon rolls.” Recently, it’s become a favorite spot among celebrities escaping LA for the day. The front porch overlooks the main drag, while the tree-laced backyard feels a bit more private. Bonus: It’s dog-friendly. 

Stay
On the quiet end of town, the Inn on Summer Hill has unimpeded views of paddle boarders and, if you’re lucky, dolphins peacefully skimming the Pacific. An evening wine and appetizer happy hour give little reason to forego the comfy seats on your deck for the scene downtown.  

 

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