Santa Barbara Pier | Stearns Wharf Guide

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 Sunrise on Stearns Wharf

Sunrise on Stearns Wharf

the PIER Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara Pier is undoubtedly one of the most treasured places in the country. With panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the mountains, the Pier provides picturesque scenery and is the perfect place for thousands of visitors and locals alike to snap photographs, be on the lookout for sea life, and make lasting memories with their friends and family. The beautiful weather in Santa Barbara makes the Pier—or Stearns Wharf, as it’s known—a great place to come visit all year round. There’s always something to do on the pier—whether it’s simply enjoying the incredible views that Santa Barbara has to offer, watching the fishermen bring in their daily catches early in the mornings, or getting some incredibly fresh seafood with your favorite cocktail to go alongside it—the pier has something for everyone. So, come down to Santa Barbara to catch an incredible sunrise or sunset, learn about the sea life surrounding the Santa Barbara pier at the Sea Life Center, or even find out what your future holds at Madame Rosinka’s. We’d love to see you down at the Santa Barbara Pier. Come join us for food, fun, and have we mentioned the views?

Santa Barbara Stearns Wharf

 The Dolphin Statue at the beginning of Stearns Wharf

The Dolphin Statue at the beginning of Stearns Wharf

Before Stearns Wharf existed, Santa Barbara was very much isolated from the rest of the world. Because of the surrounding mountains and the ocean beside it, getting to Santa Barbara was quite the difficult task. John Peck Stearns, the Pier’s namesake, moved to Santa Barbara in the 1860s and had a lumberyard on State Street. Stearns noticed that the town was in desperate need of a place for ships to tie up while it the tide was low. Without a wharf, boats wouldn’t have a spot to park and facilitate trade in towns, so Stearns decided to build one in 1872, which makes the Santa Barbara Pier the oldest standing wood wharf in California. Once completed, the wharf earned bragging rights as the largest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco, finally putting Santa Barbara on the map.

The Santa Barbara Pier has seen many changes in its almost 150-year history. When the wharf was built in 1872, ships were the primary means for trading, but when the railroad system took shape and made its way to Santa Barbara in 1878, changes were abound. John Peck Stearns again made history for the city when he built a 1,450-foot wye—a triangular shaped arrangement of the tracks—in order to carry lumber back and forth to the ships on flat cars. Today, part of the original wye is used as our beloved Sea Center and Nature Conservancy.

 View of the mountains from Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, CA

View of the mountains from Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, CA

In addition to changes in technology, the Santa Barbara Pier has seen its share of natural disasters and near destruction. In 1921, 1973, 1986, and 1999, there were fires that nearly destroyed the wharf. The fire in 1973 was particularly damaging, and the wharf was closed for eight years afterwards. However, the Santa Barbara Pier always came back stronger than it was before after each setback.

Other notable moments in Stearns Wharf history include being a hotspot for rumrunners during the Prohibition Era, military units standing close watch over the city during World War II, and setting the scene for parts of Batman: The Movie in 1966.

The Santa Barbara Pier has had a very rich and interesting past, and continues to be a vital part of the city’s future.

Views on the Santa Barbara Pier

The views don’t really get much better than they do on the Santa Barbara Pier. With the Pacific Ocean ahead of you and the mountains sprawling behind you, it’s the perfect spot to sit down and take in all of what nature has to offer in beautiful Santa Barbara. Situated between some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, the Santa Barbara Pier is a great place to hang out on your day in the sun, the sand, and the waves. Sunrise, sunset, or even in the rain, the Santa Barbara Pier always looks inviting.  

Parking on the Santa Barbara Pier

 Shopping at Stearns Wharf

Shopping at Stearns Wharf

If you would like to visit the Santa Barbara Pier by car, be sure to get here early—particularly during the busiest moments of the summer—to get your spot on the lot. Though there are a lot of other places to park in Santa Barbara, the unforgettable clicks and clacks on the wood wharf are hard to pass up on your visit to the wharf. The first 90 minutes in the Stearns Wharf parking lot are free, and are $2.50 for every hour after. For ADA cars, the first 2.5 hours are free and are $2.50 for every hour after. Oversized vehicles are not allowed on the wharf. Stearns Wharf is closed between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. every day. If you have any questions or concerns, call the parking office at 805-564-5523.

 

Businesses on the Santa Barbara Pier

The Santa Barbara Pier is currently home to 17 businesses, which provide service to the thousands of people from all over the world who come to admire the beauty and join in on all of the fun that the city has to offer. Stearns Wharf is the number one tourist destination for Santa Barbara, and with all that it has to offer, it isn’t surprising. Stearns Wharf has everything from fresh seafood and cocktails to savory ice cream to a fortune teller (who just so happens to be the longest running merchant on the wharf). Purchase a t-shirt or a snow globe for your friends and family back home at one of our gift shops and touch a shark and spot a jellyfish at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Life Center. You can even stop by for a glass of wine or a tasting at The Conway Deep Sea Tasting Room. Of course, don’t forget to stop by and see us at Moby Dick, where we are proud to offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as incredible views.

stearns wharf santa barbara