The elevated land overlooking the ocean along Santa Barbara’s southwestern border is the Mesa, home to beautiful parks, preserves, and convenient beach access. Bordered by Shoreline Drive, Loma Alta Drive, Carrillo Street, and Meigs Road, the enviable area is known for Santa Barbara City College (SBCC), Washington Elementary School, La Mesa Park, Shoreline Park curving along the cliff’s edge with classic Santa Barbara views out to the Channel Islands, and Leadbetter Beach (the epitome of a California beach).
It’s been known as the Mesa since the days of the Spanish Missions, but it was largely undeveloped until soldiers returning from WWII built homes aided by GI loans. The 1950s-era neighborhood has been transforming, though, into a more elite collection of larger, two-story residences with stunning views out to the ocean. After driving up the steep hill from the Westside or the Waterfront, you’ll find the long stretch of grass, picnic tables, and walking paths of Shoreline Park overlooking the Pacific, and on the other side of the road a range of well-kept houses, including shingled cottages, California ranches, Mediterranean homes, and modern wood-and-glass structures.
At the southwestern tip of the Mesa is the Douglas Family Preserve (known colloquially as the Wilcox property): a 70-acre area of conserved nature with walking paths winding through native plants and right along the cliff’s edge overlooking the ocean. At its end, you can peer down to Hendry’s beach, the spot to be for a locals’ beach day, fun with the kids, an off-leash romp for the dogs (and wash-station cleaning afterward), or drinks and more at the Boathouse. It’s a peaceful place of families enjoying life as well as pockets of SBCC students living it up in Santa Barbara.
Though downtown is just a 5-minute bike ride away, you can cross off most of your to-do list right at Meigs Road and Cliff Drive, where a shopping center includes an Albertsons, drugstore, restaurants, and other small storefronts. Healthfood store Lazy Acres draws residents from all over the city with natural and organic offerings and products that can’t be found anywhere else in town. Pizza, coffee, Thai food, sandwiches, cocktails, and more can all be found at this main commercial hub. With great views, a relaxed, convenient lifestyle, and temps usually a little more comfortable than the rest of the city at any given time of year, the Mesa is California cool.