This is our most comprehensive tour – perfect for persons unfamiliar with Santa Barbara – giving you a broad understanding of Santa Barbara’s rich history, colorful characters, and events that shaped the city’s rise to becoming the “American Riviera”. This free public tour* – offered on specific days – starts at 11am on the steps of the Maritime Museum and ends near the Amtrak train station (steps away from the Funk Zone) making 11 stops of interest along the way. The Waterfront tour covers, for example, the construction of our harbor, history of the Channel Islands, how Santa Barbara became a resort city, the Potter hotel, Sambos (now Chad’s) Restaurants, Chumash Indians, Moreton Bay Fig Tree, Stearns Wharf and the dolphin fountain, the 1969 Oil Spill and so much more. Hand-picked 11 x 17 old photographs add to the experience. An optional wine tasting voucher – good at Santa Barbara Winery, Santa Barbara’s oldest winery, can be purchased for $12. Cash or Venmo accepted.
The Waterfront tour, formed in 2017, is led by the tour’s owner/creator, John Ummel, a retired, long-time resident of Santa Barbara, or David Babbott, who moved back to Santa Barbara in 2019.
*A private tour can be arranged on any day of the week at time convenient for you. Subject to tour guides’ availability. Contact John for more information and pricing.
Things to Know
- The tour is tip-based and our guides rely on your generous gratuities as their compensation. (Cash or Venmo).
- Reservations are not necessary but highly recommended. Use the reservation system to see available dates and secure a spot.
- The tour takes a little under 2 hours and makes 11 stops. We do walk across train tracks. Seating is available at half the stops though one must be prepared to stand 5-8 minutes at other stops.
- Group size limited to 15. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Two (2) person minimum needed for the tour to run.
- See the Frequently Asked Questions for additional information.
There are several options:
- Park at the Harbor where the tour begins. Parking is $2 per hour. Short walk (2 minutes) to tour starting point BUT you will have to walk back to the Harbor when the tour is over, about a 25 minute walk. Don’t be tempted to park in the Harbor’s free 90 minute spaces; you risk not getting back in time to avoid a ticket. (Note: at this time the harbor shuttle along Cabrillo Blvd is not running.)
- Park for free in the parking lot next to the baseball field off Castillo Street, opposite Avania Inn. Short 5-7 minute walk to tour starting point but 20 minute walk back when the tour is over.
- Park in the lot behind the Visitor Center (1 Garden St) or directly across the street and then walk to the Maritime Museum, about a 25 minute walk. That way, when the tour concludes you will be very near your car. Look for the self-serve parking kiosks. $2 per hour.
- Park at the Amtrak Station (recommended) at the corner of Yanonali and State St. First 75 minutes are free, $2.50 per hour thereafter. 20 minute walk to tour starting point but steps away from your car at the end of the tour.