After Ojai, I headed a bit farther north to Santa Barbara. Even here, there would be a bit of history and food research, but also a lot of enjoying the area’s beauty.
I spent many hours at the delightful Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, where I learned about the history, ecology, and ongoing reality of fishing in the area, with information about sea urchins, abalone, lobster, crabs, and numerous tasty food fish. There was also a tremendous amount of fascinating history on non-food topics, including Native American groups of the region, early exploration, wildlife, and numerous shipwrecks. One fact I found interesting was that the Santa Barbara Channel is considered one of the ten best places in the world to watch wildlife, with an abundance of whales, dolphins, seals, otters, and sea lions.
Of course, I didn’t want all my research about local seafood to be purely academic, so I made a point of locating the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, at the end of Sterns Wharf.
Sterns Wharf offers an amazing view of the Santa Barbara harbor and coastline. And Santa Barbara Shellfish offers a splendid array of seafood options. There were a few items that had been flown in from elsewhere, but I figured there was no point in eating fish from somewhere else when I was visiting the home of such splendid creatures as the Santa Barbara rock crabs. So I grabbed an outdoor seat overlooking the harbor, ordered the day’s special of just-caught rock crabs, and settled into an evening of wrestling with heavy shells and delighting in sweet crab meat. (I also enjoyed watching the sunset as I ate.)
If you get to Santa Barbara, I can definitely recommend this spot. There are many good dining options on the wharf, but the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company is hard to beat for reasonably priced local seafood.