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Insta-worthy Locations: The Most Instagram-able Spots in Santa Barbara


Insta-Worthy Santa Barbara, photo taken at Lotusland

Photo Credit: Instagram @posesawkwardly

There are so many “Insta-worthy” locations in Montecito and Santa Barbara that professional and amateur photographers might find it difficult to decide where to start. Let’s face it—this area offers visual feasts for your eyes around every corner, through each paseo and along our miles of sandy beaches.

Case in point, the many opulent gardens, the Spanish-infused architecture and, of course, our beautiful sunsets are all worthy of being branded #nofilter. One could say that Santa Barbara and environs are a destination made for Instagram.

Here is a list of some of my favorite Insta-worthy places to photograph on the American Riviera:

  • Worth the Trek
    You don’t need to be a seasoned hiker to take a photo worthy trek. How does kick-starting your day at Inspiration Point sound? You will get your heart rate going with this moderate 3.5-mile hike that offers some true inspiration in the form of both amazing city and coastal views. Once you reach the top, you’ll see the breathtaking views along with artwork left by other hikers who use rocks to make words or symbols. Perhaps you want to leave your own masterpiece behind. Be sure to take a picture and share!

    Another great hike is Lizard’s Mouth, offering more of a boulder hopping experience than a simple trail hike. Hop from stone to stone before the sunsets to witness and share jaw-dropping views at what many photographers refer to as golden hour. You will feel on top of the world and so will your followers.

  • Gardens Galore
    Flowers framed by mountains at this Santa Barbara wild crafted garden designed completely with California native plants.

    Explore 5 miles of easy trails in this 78-acre wild crafted garden designed completely with California native plants. Photo Credit: Instagram @jennifersyltie

    I’ve blogged before about Lotusland: One of the World’s 10 Best Gardens. This 37-acre botanical nirvana is the place to put your camera to work after making sure you have enough storage and battery life because you will leave with hundreds of photos. Be forewarned: you will want to share every one of them, and with the new slideshow feature on Instagram, you can.

    Another awesome photo stop is the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. Filled with California native plants, this unique natural attraction is open to the public 365 days a year. And a reservation is not required to enjoy this beauty.

    You do need to make reservations to tour and photograph the Moorish-style gardens at Casa Del Herrero. Designed by one of Santa Barbara’s most admired home designers, George Washington Smith, this Spanish Colonial Revival estate has remained essentially unchanged since it’s completion in 1925.

    Smith is credited as the founding father of the California Movement in Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. He and his artistic sensibility made a lasting impact on the look and feel of our area. You’ll want to take pictures of everything, from antique furnishings to stunning gardens and even the colorful tile work.

READ: Top Residential Architects in Montecito and Santa Barbara History

  • Santa Barbara Harbor
    Photos from the Santa Barbara Harbor always make the photographer’s Instagram feed pop. That’s because you will find beauty everywhere when you visit. Go ahead and snap pictures of the rows of boats or capture picture-perfect reflections from the walkway around the harbor. There’s plenty of parking there, although it can be a bit of a challenge (but worth it!) to find a spot during the busy summer months.

    You’ll also see and snap the dozens of cormorants and other sea birds that hover above the boats waiting for their close-ups. Your photos will come alive with wisps of fog or the beautiful colors of the Santa Barbara sky when you visit for sunrise, but sunset is always a good time to snap photos, too.

READ: What Makes Montecito Spanish Colonial Revival Architecture Such a Sought-After Design?

  • Santa Barbara County Courthouse
    How many places can brag about spectacular 360-degree views from their local courthouse? Santa Barbara can, with our 85-foot El Mirador Clock Tower. The courthouse itself offers photographers many places to snap a unique photo of its Spanish tiles or stunning murals. Take in the amazing views and snap some photos of our Spanish-style red-tiled rooftops from the courthouse. You can also catch a shot of the ocean from the viewing deck as long as you have a halfway decent zoom lens.

    This is also a great place to capture that iconic California shot of a row of palm trees. From there, you can see the palms that line Shoreline Drive while capturing a sliver of the ocean beyond. Other stunning views to behold include city buildings and homes against the backdrop of the mountains. Go early to avoid jostling for the best spots on the deck.

READ: Ocean View Homes are Good for Our Health

  • Stearns Wharf
    Enjoy two dramatic photo locations in one when you visit Stearns Wharf. First, snap away as you stroll the waterfront walkway along Cabrillo Boulevard.

    Next, go to the end of the pier and take images of the ocean, the city and the mountains from the wharf. You’ll be showcasing a real survivor because the wharf has made it through storms, earthquakes, and fires. As the most-visited landmark in Santa Barbara, the waterfront walkway does get pretty crowded during the day. The best times to visit are sunrise, pre-dawn and late evening.

  • Breathtaking Beaches
    Morning, noon and night, the beaches of Santa Barbara are always Insta-worthy spots. Take your pick of any one of the area’s white sandy beaches and I promise, you will leave with wonderful photos that will make your followers jealous. One of my favorites is Hendry’s Beach. Not only will you get amazing shots of the ocean, but you can also snap images of dogs playing in the surf because this is a dog-friendly beach.

    Then there is Montecito’s Butterfly Beach with a coastline that runs east to west. That guarantees a swoon-worthy sunset to share.  Just as stunning are the sunrises, especially when you capture sparkling oceans at that time of day.

What are your favorite Insta-worthy spots in Santa Barbara? I’d love some recommendations. Check out my Instagram page and please share with me some of your favorite shots from the American Riviera.

Want to take photos at some Insta-worthy homes for sale in the area? If you’re looking to buy, please call me at +1 805.886.9378 or email me at  I’ll find you the perfect home near any of the most Instagram-worthy locations in any of the upscale Santa Barbara communities.

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