Hug the Pacific coast and head north from LA to Santa Barbara, writes Sarah Pollok.
From Universal Studios and the Hollywood Walk of Fame to Santa Monica Pier and Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles is packed with enough attractions to last a lifetime. But if you find yourself craving the wide open road and salty ocean air, head north to Santa Barbara for a day of history, culture and white sand beaches.
While transit is often just a way to get from one city to the next, when you take the Pacific Coast Highway, the journey is a delight in itself. Famously one of the best road trips in America, this coastal road boasts stunning views, dramatic cliffs and endless horizons. But, if driving on the wrong side of the road for two hours is a little too daunting, the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train is a speedy alternative.
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Built in 1872 and still standing, Stearns Wharf may be one of the more busy attractions in the city but well worth the stroll. Populated with several restaurants, the museum of natural history and other little boutique stalls, it's a charming spot for a quick bite or takeaway coffee as you take in the view of the coast.
Wander far enough into the Santa Barbara Courthouse and you may just come across the spectacular Mural Room. Painted by Californian artist Daniel Sayre Groesbeck, the room is wallpapered with 380sq m of canvas artwork, illustrating the history of the Santa Barbara area. Commissioned in 1929, the room took four months to paint, earning Groesbeck a tidy sum of US$9000.
Make the most of the city's rich history and stunning architecture with the Red Tile Walking Tour. The free, self-guided tour takes you on a fascinating circuit of Santa Barbara's most iconic landmarks, like the mission district and Spanish-style public library. Collect one of the maps from the visitor centre, or download online, and enjoy taking your time on the solo tour.
For the best spot to shop till you drop, or browse to your heart's content, make your way to the Funk Zone. As you can guess from the name, this district is a mecca of quirky boutiques and shops located in converted warehouses and graffiti-decorated buildings. From artisan clothing and vintage furniture to contemporary art and boutique wineries, Funk Zone has it all.
With more than 30 wineries around the city, it's tough choosing the best spot for an afternoon tipple. But when it comes to a spot with unbeatable views, it doesn't get better than Deep Sea Tasting Room. Situated right on Stearns Wharf, the classy joint features an impressive range of handcrafted boutique wines, perfectly accompanied by a view of the sunset over the ocean.
Dare to venture a few blocks away from the main drag of Slate St and you'll be rewarded with the gem that is Barbareno. Operating with a farm-to-fork ethos, this Mexican-inspired downtown eatery is a dream for healthy travellers and their meat-loving friends, serving up fresh plant-based dishes alongside hearty steaks.
Air New Zealand and American Airlines fly direct from Auckland to LA.