Looking to start up a new home along the stunning California Central Coast? Look no further than Santa Barbara County, California, home to stunning weather, great agricultural land, and some of the finest wineries in the whole country. Whether you’re looking for excitement or a quiet life in wine country, each of the cities in Santa Barbara County has something to offer.
Moving anywhere is a huge undertaking, and there’s always a ton of information you’ll want to find out before you make the big decision. That’s why we’ve put together this article on everything you’ll want to know about the county and the cities around Santa Barbara, including census-designated places.
The County of Santa Barbara
The history of Santa Barbara County can be traced back to settlements from the Paleo-Indian period 13,000 years ago. It was one of the original 27 California counties that were formed with California’s statehood in 1850, and today is California’s 20th biggest county in terms of population.
The Northern Channel Islands Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel are all part of Santa Barbara County too, along with Southern Channel Island Santa Barbara. The remaining four (Anacapa, San Nicolas, San Clemente, and Santa Catalina) are part of neighboring Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, respectively.
Where is Santa Barbara? Santa Barbara County can be found nestled along the California Central Coast, between San Luis Obispo and Ventura and right on the Pacific Ocean.
There are 8 cities in total that make up Santa Barbara County in addition to 18 census-designated places and an American Indian and Alaska Natives area (Santa Ynez Reservation). Santa Maria is the most populous city in Santa Barbara town, while Santa Barbara city owns the largest area. It’s also the county seat of Santa Barbara County, and lovingly promoted by locals as the “American Riviera”.
Between the 2010 and 2020 censuses, Santa Barbara County has experienced a population increase of around 25,000 people, going from 423,895 residents in 2010 to 448,995 in 2020.
Santa Barbara County, California Demographics
- Population: 448,229
- Median Age: 39 years
- Median household income: $74,624
- Median price of housing $772,500
- Area: 163,696 sq mi2
- Density: 146 people per square mile
- Educational attainment: 80.9% high school grad or higher
The Santa Barbara County population is one of the 20th highest in the state of California, with Los Angeles County (population 10,014,009), San Diego County (population 3,298,634) and Orange County (population 3,186,989) the top 3.
#1. Santa Maria
- Santa Maria population: 109,707
- Population growth: 6.99 % between 2010 and 2020
- Area: 23.42 sq mi
- Median age: 29.3 years
- Santa Maria median household income: $63,341
- Santa Maria median house price: $520,500
- Educational attainment: 60.2% high school grad or higher; 13.8% bachelor’s degree or higher
- Santa Maria, CA map
Santa Maria the most populous of the Santa Barbara County cities, with the population continuing to grow steadily over the past 100 years. The most recent growth rate of 6.99% between 2010 and 2020 is by far the smallest increase yet, however.
There are a few things Santa Maria can be noted for, but perhaps most prominently, along with neighboring Los Alamos, Lompoc, and Santa Ynez Valleys, is its place right in the heart of the Santa Barbara Wine Country. This is one of the largest wine-producing regions in the whole country, with Santa Maria Valley grapes even making their way to wineries in other parts of the US!
Make sure you check out our COMPLETE guide to living in Santa Maria to see what makes this Santa Barbara city so special.
#2. Santa Barbara
- Santa Barbara population: 88,665
- Population growth: 0.02%
- Area: 42 sq mi
- Median age: 39
- Santa Barbara median household income $76,606
- Santa Barbara median house price: $1,585,000
- Educational attainment: 85.9% high school grad or higher; 49.2% bachelor’s degree or higher
- Santa Barbara, CA map
Santa Maria may be the most populous city in the Santa Barbara area, but Santa Barbara city is the county’s largest when it comes to land mass.
In the early days of the 20th Century, Santa Barbara was responsible for the world’s first ever offshore oil development, and oil still plays a huge part in the city’s economy to this day.
Santa Barbara was also home to the largest movie studio of the silent era — Flying A Studios. Around 1,200 pictures were made by the studio between 1910 and 1922, before they outgrew the area and moved down the coast to Hollywood. Around 100 of these films survive today.
One of the most popular things to do in Santa Barbara is the yearly Santa Barbara Fiesta, Old Spanish Days. The event kicks off every August, and is a huge celebration of Santa Barbara’s history, culture and heritage. It’s definitely not something to be missed!
Learn even more about this gorgeous city with our guide to moving to Santa Barbara, CA!
- Lompoc population: 44,444
- Population growth: 0.46%
- Area: 11.7 sq mi
- Median age: 32.7 years
- Lompoc median household income: $54,855
- Lompoc median house price $516,000
- Educational attainment: 76.3% high school grad or higher; 12.6% bachelor’s degree or higher
- Lompoc, CA map
Lompoc (most commonly pronounced Lom-pok, although many ‘Lompocals’ prefer to pronounce it “Lom-poke”) is the third most populous of the cities in Santa Barbara County. While Lompoc has seen some fairly high rates of population growth in its time, it’s slowed considerably in recent decades.
- Goleta population: 32,690
- Population growth: 0.9%
- Area: 7.92 sq mi
- Median age: 35.8 years
- Goleta median household income: $98,005
- Goleta median house price: $845,000
- Educational attainment: 90% high school grad or higher; 47.8% bachelor’s degree or higher
- Goleta, CA map
While not in the area of Santa Barbara County with the highest levels of educational attainment, Goleta is the most educated city, with 90% of residents a high school graduate or higher and 47.8% with a bachelor’s degree or higher. This is likely due to the city being next door to Isla Vista, home to UCSB – the Santa Barbara campus of the University of California.
Until 2002, Goleta was Santa Barbara County’s largest unincorporated populated area, when it was then incorporated as a city. By the time the 2010 census rolled around, some 25,000 residents had left the city, seeing a 45.9% decrease in the population that bought it from 55,204 in 2000 to 29,888 in 2010. By 2020 this had risen again, but only by 9.4%, bringing the population to 32,690.
There are several amazing parks to enjoy in Goleta, including Girsh Park, Stow Park, and Lake Los Cameros. Of course, the city’s crown jewel is Goleta Beach Park with a fishing wharf and stunning shoreline views.
- Carpinteria population: 13,264
- Population growth 0.17%
- Area: 9.27 sq mi
- Median age: 42.9
- Carpinteria median household income: $76,521
- Carpinteria median house price: $727,500
- Educational attainment: 83.1% high school grad or higher; 33.6% bachelor’s degree or higher
- Carpinteria, CA map
Into surfing? Well look no further than Carpinteria! Carpinteria State Beach is well known by the locals for its great surf, perfect for experts and beginners alike. Maybe you’re a seasoned pro, or perhaps looking for a new hobby…?
Carpinteria is also home to the California Avocado Festival, and has been every year since 1986! Believe it or not, more than 80,000 guests descend on the three-day festival each October, sampling all the latest and greatest avocado products and locally made goods.
Several notable people from the dizzying heights of Hollywood stardom call Carpinteria home too, including Ellen DeGeneres, Ashton Kutcher, Robert Zemeckis, and Kevin Costner!
- Guadalupe population: 8,057
- Population growth 1.3%
- Area: 1.31 sq mi
- Median age: 28.5 years
- Guadalupe median household income: $62,264
- Guadalupe median house price: $515,000
- Educational attainment: 55.4% high school grad or higher; 9.2% bachelor’s degree or higher
- Guadalupe, CA map
Of all of the Santa Barbara cities, Guadalupe has the highest percentage of Hispanic or Latino residents at 90.4%. By comparison, Lompoc is the second highest at 56.6%. It’s also the city with the youngest median age (28.5 years) although Isla Vista has the youngest median age in all of Santa Barbara County at a mere 20.6 years.
If you’re looking for great attractions in Guadalupe, why not check out Point Sal Beach State Park? This is perhaps Guadalupe’s most popular attraction, and offers stunning views from the Santa Barbara County coast. There’s also the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve, and the Guadalupe Nipomo Dunes Center, where visitors can fish and enjoy wildlife and rare flora and fauna in its natural habitat.
- Solvang population: 6,126
- Population growth: 1.56%
- Area: 2.43 sq mi
- Median age: 48.5
- Solvang median household income: $83,431
- Solvang median house price: $900,000
- Educational attainment: 94.2% high school grad or higher; 38.2% bachelor’s degree or higher
Often dubbed the “Danish Capital of America”, Solvang is replete with gorgeous Danish architecture, dating back to an influx of Danish migrants between 1850 and 1930.
Because of the city’s relationship with its Dutch heritage, tourism has become a huge part of the city’s economy. Each September, the Danish Days celebration is held in the city, with music, eating competitions, float processions and more.
The Festival Theater is another big draw. The 700-seat open air theater has been a popular attraction since its opening in 1974. With a style reminiscent of Danish and Elizabethan architecture, some well known productions performed at the Festival Theater include West Side Story and Les Miserables.
Solvang is also a popular destination for cyclists, with the city featuring in the Tour of California tournament. The Solvang Century and the Solvang Prelude are two additional cycling events held in the city each year.
- Buellton population: 5,161
- Population growth: 0.67%
- Area: 1.58 sq mi
- Median age: 44.8
- Buellton median household income: $93,099
- Buellton median house price: $820,000
- Educational attainment: 88.5% high school grad or higher; 39.9% bachelor’s degree or higher
The final city on our list is Buellton. It’s not the smallest in terms of area, but with only 5,161 people calling Buellton home, it’s the least populated of Santa Barbara’s 8 cities.
One of Buellton’s biggest draws is Pea Soup Andersen’s. This roadside institution has been serving the city with their famous pea soup and home style cooking since 1924, and is a must-visit to any passing travelers in the know.
Another popular Buellton attraction is OstrichLand USA. This 33-acre ostrich and emu farm is home to more than 100 of the big birds, and we’re sure you’ll love the opportunity to get up close and personal to them. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not have a go at feeding the ostriches?
Santa Barbara’s Biggest Census Designated Places
- Orcutt population: 32,034
- Population growth: 1.03%
- Area: 11.129 sq mi
- Median age: 39.9 years
- Orcutt median household income: $91,343
- Orcutt median house price: $615,000
- Educational attainment: 94.2% high school grad or higher; 29.9% bachelor’s degree or higher
- Orcutt, CA map
Not all of Santa Barbara County’s most populous areas are the cities: a few census designated places make the cut too. The most populous of Santa Barbara’s CDPs is Orcutt whose 32,034 population makes it the 5th most populous place in the county. It also has one of the highest levels of educational attainment, and is on the higher end of the median household income scale.
Everyone who lives in Orcutt will be especially familiar with the Old Town Market. This small country store is a throwback to the neighborhood markets of old, working as something of a community hub. Not only will you find groceries and other essentials, if you time your visit just right, you can also find beer and wine tasting parties and live music. And who doesn’t love to support the local community?
#2. Isla Vista
- Isla Vista population: 15,500
- Population growth -3.90%
- Area: 1.86 sq mi
- Median age: 20.6 years
- Isla Vista median household income: $24,545
- Isla Vista median house price: $1,620,000
- Educational attainment: 92% high school grad or higher; 61.4% bachelor’s degree or higher
- Isla Vista, CA map
The demographics of Isla Vista, or just IV, seem questionable at first glance: a median age of only 20.6 years, median income only $24,545, but median house prices of $1,620,000? The secret lies within the exceptionally high educational attainment level; most of the residents in Isla Vista are students, either at the Santa Barbara University of California campus or the Santa Barbara City College.
If you’re a big fan of Halloween, then Isla Vista is definitely the place for you. What started off as rowdy student parties between the 1950s and 1970s became a huge tradition for the area. Each year, crowds of 20,000 – 40,000 take to the streets to celebrate, and while the law has gotten stricter on the celebrations over the years, it’s still a huge part of Isla Vista’s culture, and definitely something you won’t want to miss.
If you ever find yourself peckish and fancy a bite to eat, the best food in Isla Vista can be found around Anisq’Oyo Park. Whether you want Mexican food, Burgers, Vietnamese, Bagels, Sushi, Pizza, you name it, it can all be found here.
Isla Vista is one of the best cities in Santa Barbara County, CA if you love adventure, the outdoors, and especially the beach. From surfing at Campus Point Beach and sunsets at Sands Beach to nature preserves and the amazing rec center at UCSB, you’ll always have something to get you outdoors.
List of Cities in Santa Barbara County
Santa Barbara County Map
Where is Santa Barbara?
Santa Barbara is located along the Southern California coast, around 97 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Is it easy to get from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles?
Getting from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles is no trouble at all. US-101 takes you directly between the two, and the 95 mile trip should take no more than an hour and a half. Alternatively, the route is well served by buses, trains, and even planes, with them taking around 3 hours, 2 hours, and one hour respectively.
How big is Santa Barbara?
Santa Barbara County is 163,696 square miles2, with a population density of 146 people per square mile. It’s the 21st largest county in California in terms of area, and 20th when it comes to population.
How far is Santa Barbara from Orange County?
Santa Barbara is 135 miles from Orange County, which works out to a 2 hour drive. The easiest route between the two is a straight line down US-101.
How Close is Santa Barbara to Santa Maria?
Santa Barbara and Santa Maria are 65 miles apart, making for a 70 minute drive.
Cal Safe Movers are dedicated to ensuring a smooth, stress-free move for all of our customers. If you’re considering a move to Santa Barbara CA and you’re raring to get going, get in touch today, and find out how we can help you get your new life in Santa Barbara up and running.