This is our most comprehensive tour 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”. The public tour – approximately 105 minutes – starts at 11am at the harbor (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, the 1969 Oil Spill and more. Hand-picked 11 x 17 old photographs add to the experience. An optional wine tasting voucher – good for a 5 taste flight at Santa Barbara Winery, Santa Barbara’s oldest winery, can be purchased for a substantially discounted price. 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 a day and time convenient for you. Subject to tour guides’ availability. Contact John for more information and pricing.
What You Will Learn
The Waterfront Tour will give you a broad understanding of Santa Barbara’s rich history
- The Channel Islands and How Santa Barbara Got its Name
- The Engineering Folly of Constructing our Harbor
- Operational Aspects of Today’s Harbor
- How Santa Barbara Became a Resort City
- 1969 Oil Spill
- The History of Sambos Restaurants
- The Chumash Indians and Life Under the Missions
- The Potter Hotel
- Stearns Wharf and the Dolphin Fountain
- 1925 Earthquake and Spanish Colonial Architecture
- Moreton Bay Fig Tree
- Santa Barbara Train Station
The tour begins at the Harbor on the steps of the Maritime Museum and ends at the Amtrak train station.
Start point: Maritime Museum (A)
End point: Amtrak Station (B)
Things to Know
- The tour is free, though tips are very much appreciated (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. Paid-parking is available at the Harbor entrance from either self-pay kiosks (pay ahead of time with cash or credit card; put your receipt on your dash) or barcoded ticket dispenser (pay when you leave). 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 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 at the corner of Yanonali and State St. First 75 minutes are free, $1.50 per hour thereafter. 20 minute walk to tour starting point but short 5 minute walk back to your car at the end of the tour.