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Rodeo, New Mexico
July 10, 2005
Stearns Wharf, the most-visited tourist attraction in town, is a good place to begin your waterfront explorations. Lumberman John Stearns built the wharf in 1872, and it became an important shipping and transportation center for the California coast and helped end Santa Barbara’s relative isolation.
This wharf had a rough life. In 1925, it was damaged by a big earthquake. A devastating Harbor Restaurant fire in 1973 closed the wharf for almost 9 years, finally reopening in 1981. We used to eat at the old Moby Dick restaurant until it and the last 150 feet of the wharf were destroyed in 1998 by yet another fire, believed to have originated in Moby Dick’s kitchen. By 2002, Moby Dick was back in business, along with the reconstructed remainder of the wharf.
On our last visit in May 2005, a volleyball tent city was being erected on West Beach. Preparations included setting up nets, tent booths for vendors, a soundstage, and a long row of porta-potties. Along the beach, besides a wide sidewalk, there’s a well-used two-way bike/skate path. Bikes and more are for rent just across the street: tandems, surries, three-wheelers, cruisers, mountain and road bikes, kid’s bikes, and even strollers, as well as rollerblades. East of the wharf is a new skate park, where young skater dudes show off their prowess.
Dolphin Fountain: Arriving at Stearns Wharf, in the center of the traffic circle stands a fountain, out of which three dolphin leap in graceful arcs. It’s a half-mile out to the end of the pier. High heels are not recommended. Parking on the pier costs $2/hour, $1/hour for disabled, and the first 90 minutes are free with a validated merchant ticket. As you walk along the wharf, you’ll pass several homeless person’s wishing well structures in the sand below, some almost artsy, others simply junky-looking. The idea is to toss coins into them. Longboats are very popular here, too.
Shops, restaurants, Sea Center, Nature Conservancy, boat rides and cruises, and even a fortune teller are among the attractions on the middle portion of the wharf. Harbor Restaurant has upstairs patio dining, but is more expensive than Moby Dick, farther down and still our favorite.
Pelican encounters of the close kind are what I find most enjoyable, all the way at the end of the pier. Brown pelicans are one of the more than 20 species of birds feeding and resting in the harbor. It’s fun to watch them high-dive headlong into the ocean for their fish meals. Seagulls look for dead food or handouts. Among the sand birds are snowy plovers, an endangered species that this spring (2005), for the first time in many years, nested and hatched a few precious baby plovers right on the beach by the wharf. Some concern existed about the West Beach 4th of July fireworks putting them into shock, but the city had them anyway. Most of the fishing by humans is done at pier’s end too. Perfect weather enticed us to linger, people- and pelican-watching the afternoon away.
From journal Sublime Santa Barbara
December 31, 2001
Stearn's Wharf extends several thousand feet from the beach, high over the Pacific Ocean. On it, are several restaurants, bars, gift and souvenir shops, a museum, ice cream parlor, and a palm reader.
Stearn's Wharf and many of the businesses on it, provide an excellent vantage point for the awesome area scenery, including the Pacific Ocean, Channel Islands, Santa Barbara Harbor, and the Santa Ynez Mountains. You can also see the air and sea wildlife. We watched more than one sunset from Stearn's Wharf during our visit.
There are many people that fish off the end of the Wharf that you can watch. It is also fun to watch people feed the gulls and pelicans, but watch out for the birds "gifts" that fall from the sky.
According to historical plaques in the area, Stearn's Wharf was built in 1872, and was the first working wharf on the west coast, and is now the oldest working wharf on the west coast. Actor James Cagney owned the wharf at one time.
When entering Stearn's Wharf, there is a large fountain with 3 dolphins welcoming you to the wharf.
You won't have any trouble finding Stearn's Wharf. It is located where State Street deadends into Castillo Street in downtown Santa Barbara. There are several ways you can get there. You can walk it from State Street or anywhere close to the waterfront, or you can drive on to the Wharf and pay to park. You can also take the cheap and frequent public transport, which is an electric shuttle that takes you 12 blocks up or down State Street for $0.25.
From journal Santa Barbara
November 28, 2000
From journal Santa Barbara on the Sly
March 5, 2001
From journal A Day in Santa Barbara
by taylor logan smith
San Francisco, California
May 24, 2011