Santa Barbara Coastal History

The Story of the Gaviota Coast

Located in Santa Barbara County, just north of the village of Goleta, the Gaviota Coast is a stretch of Pacific beachfront that runs East-West along an otherwise North-South coastline. The Gaviota area – which includes its coastal watersheds – is one of the largest, last remaining intact coastal Mediterranean ecosystems in California. More rural than most other Southern California coastal regions, the Gaviota Coast retains its incredible biodiversity, thanks in large part to the natural and agricultural landmasses that still dominate the area.

Historically, Native Americans flourished along the Gaviota Coast, specifically the Chumash tribe, peaceful hunter-gatherers who lived off the bounty of land and sea. Regarded as the oldest humans in North America, the Chumash people inhabited the region for at least 13,000 years, living in villages along the shore and inland areas, where their ancient presence is preserved in permanent rock art (at the Chumash Painted Cave) and survives in intricate basketry (on display at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History).

By the late 18th century, Spanish missionaries, the first European settlers, arrived in Santa Barbara to colonize the area under the direction of King Carlos III. The resulting Mission Santa Barbara, dedicated in 1786, inspired the region’s popular Spanish Colonial architecture. Eventually Spanish settlement gave way to Mexican rule, after which the mission and its extensive land holdings passed into private hands, much of it in the form of rancheros. With California statehood in 1850, the Santa Barbara region began to develop as a seaport and urban area. Bacara’s address – on Hollister Avenue – honors William Hollister, a California pioneer who purchased 39,000 Gaviota coastal acres in the 1860′s.

For more information about the Gaviota Coast’s fascinating history, please contact the Gaviota Coast Conservancy here.