Best Beachfront Dining in Santa Barbara

Beachfront Restaurants in Santa Barbara: Eat in Sight of the Sea

They say that sea air really works up an appetite. We're not so sure about the science behind it, but if the number of restaurants dotting the Santa Barbara coastline is any indication, this seems like a valid conjecture.

For any proper beach bum who doesn't want to leave the sand, getting hungry can be a drag. Do you have to put on actual clothes? And possibly even shower? Or do you pack a picnic and let it sit for hours while you build sandcastles? Eat soggy sandwiches and warm, wilted salads?

No, thank you very much. In Santa Barbara and the surrounding areas, there are plenty of places to grab a bite in sight of the shore. You may not even have to put on pants to do so. Isn't that great?

For the most casual dining experience, dust the sand off and order at the walk-up counter of The Spot, a century-old burger shack across the street from Carpinteria Beach. Or, if you're feeling fancy, make a dinner reservation and take a date to The Boathouse, a secluded seafood restaurant on one of Santa Barbara's most scenic shores.

Looking for something in between? Just consult this list. We'll steer you in the right direction!


Having breakfast at this charming, clapboard home (built in 1893) is a real treat, especially when you dine on the outdoor patio. People from all over turn out for the great menu, which is rich in choices. Try the Belgian waffles, French toast or eggs with ham, bacon or sausage. If omelets are more to your liking, the menu includes ones with spinach and brie, artichokes and bacon, or braised pork and tomatillo salsa. Burgers, salads and sandwiches are available at lunch. The patio is dog-friendly and has a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean. Plenty of free parking right out front.

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: Although not directly on the sand, this legendary breakfast spot has a great view from the patio.

Geneva's expert tip: Bring Fido! Summerland Beach Cafe is proud to be dog-friendly.

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Beachside Bar-Cafe
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

Can you beat a seafood restaurant and bar that's right on the beach? Of course not! The Beachside Bar-Cafe is the place to go in Goleta if you want to enjoy a meal and perhaps an adult beverage while watching the waves. Many of their signature drinks include nice tropical garnishes, like umbrellas. Just the kind of thing to sip before a stroll along the sand. Stop by for happy hour during the week. If you happen to work up an appetite after a cocktail or two, try the fish tacos. They're scrumptious! Oodles of free parking in the lot right out front.

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: The only Goleta restaurant and bar with a view on the beach, need we say more?

Geneva's expert tip: Shirt and shoes are required, so be sure to pack some in your beach bag.

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Santa Barbara FisHouse
Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara FisHouse

The motto at the Santa Barbara FisHouse says it all: usually local, always fresh. If you're looking for some fresh catches and pretty view, head to the FisHouse, a welcoming seafood restaurant located just across the street from the Pacific Ocean. The menu celebrates sea creatures of all kinds, including local halibut. Reserve a table in the dining room or on the patio. Or do what we prefer to do and belly up to the full bar. Large aquariums and various decorations set an under-the-sea mood. Themed cocktails and local wines round out your visit. Traveling with a picky tot or two? No problem, they have a great kids' menu too.

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: The Santa Barbara FisHouse is the elegant waterfront restaurant you want to enjoy with your family or a special date.

Geneva's expert tip: Try the FisHouse for happy hour with a view. You can get two fish or shrimp tacos for less than $10.

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Enjoy Italian and Mediterranean dishes with a view of the ocean! This romantic waterfront restaurant is located near some of the best hotels in the west beach area of Santa Barbara. Enjoy fresh salads and delicious pasta, like gnocchi with rock shrimp, fava beans, roasted garlic, dried tomato and truffle butter. Toma has an extensive wine list with a mix of local and Italian wines, as well as a full bar with a specialty cocktail menu. Try the Toma Martini, crafted with Tito's handmade vodka and served with a Tito's Cheese stuffed olive. Toma is open for dinner only. Reservations are strongly recommended.

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: Looking to impress someone? This is the place to do. Enjoy fine Italian food and cocktails with an ocean view.

Geneva's expert tip: Try the tuna cones! They're messy, but the dramatic presentation is worth it to enjoy tender bites of ahi wrapped in crisp sesame cones.

Read more about Toma Restaurant & Bar →

A more recent addition to the beachfront dining scene, Convivo is located at the Santa Barbara Inn, across the street from East Beach. In addition to beautiful food, this restaurant serves up large, healthy doses of fresh ocean air. Convivo specializes in shareable plates that change daily with what's in season. The Italian-leaning menu includes wood-fired pizza, grilled seafood that's often locally caught, house-made pasta and farm-fresh vegetables. To complement the food, there's a beverage menu complete with spritzes, negronis and, of course, vino. Very scenic, incredible menu, wine on tap, sunny patio, lots of free parking... are you on your way yet? Did we mention they serve brunch too?

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: If you want to enjoy an oceanfront happy hour with above-average food and drinks, Convivo is your spot!

Geneva's expert tip: Check out Convivo's happy hour. Santa Barbara isn't well known for having excellent happy hours, but theirs is pretty great because they offer a variety of craft cocktails - including the Convivo Spritz - for just $7.

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Padaro Beach Grill
Photo courtesy of Padaro Beach Grill

Is there a more charming beachfront restaurant in Santa Barbara County? We don't think so. Overlooking Santa Claus beach, a local favorite, the Padaro Beach Grill boasts a park-like outdoor dining room that's ideal for day dates and impromptu gatherings. Enjoy fresh salads, savory burgers and sinfully rich milkshakes that are blended by hand only after you place your order. A large sandbox encourages the kiddos to play while grownups indulge in refreshing beers and local wines. Try the shrimp salad or one of the 100% prime chuck burgers. Live bands are common on the weekends. Free (but often crowded) parking right out front.

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: Enjoy a delicious lunch in a park-like setting with an unbroken view of the Pacific.

Geneva's expert tip: Try the fresh shrimp and avocado salad, paired with local white wine, while your kids play in the sandbox.

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The Spot
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

Located just past the train tracks on Linden Avenue, mere steps from the beach, is The Spot: a trusty little shack of a restaurant that all the locals know. Serving up delicious burgers and fries for more than 100 years, The Spot is Carpinteria's go to for a quick, savory bite. The surprisingly vast menu also includes veggie burgers, select Mexican specialties and fish n' chips. There's no dress code so come in your bikini or trunks if you please. There is seating outside OR you can just walk across the street to the park or beach for an impromptu picnic! A can't-miss in Santa Barbara.

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: Want a burger? No problem. Nachos? You got it. Fish and chips? The Spot has you covered! An awesome beachside shack with something for everyone.

Geneva's expert tip: Order a milkshake, any milkshake for a cold, creamy treat. Our pick is banana - it's made with fresh bananas instead of that artificial flavoring.

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Santa Barbara

The Boathouse is a Santa Barbara seafood restaurant with one of the best beach locations around. Tucked away in a quiet part of town and facing Hendry's beach, this is a great place to go for a romantic date, family dinner or birthday celebration. Enjoy fresh surf and turf on a beautiful patio that's sunny during the day and nicely heated at night. Local seafood is served as available. Santa Barbara catches include Spiny lobster and Dungeness crab. Brunch, lunch and dinner served daily. Happy hour is from 3 - 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Parking is free, but the lot does get crowded.

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: Come for the food, stay for the beach. The Boathouse is situated on one of the prettiest beaches in Santa Barbara.

Geneva's expert tip: Happy hour lasts from 3 - 6 p.m. from Sunday through Thursday. It's the perfect place to enjoy a sunset cocktail.

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Santa Barbara Shellfish Company
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

Seafood doesn't get any fresher than this. And you can't get any closer to the ocean! At the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, you can pick your lunch right out of the tanks. Established in 1980, this tiny restaurant on the pier began as a shellfish shop before popular demand (and secret family recipes) transformed it into the bustling eatery it is today. Their menu includes all types of shellfish but live abalones, crabs and lobsters - many locally sourced - are the real stars. Local and national beers are available on draft and pair nicely with a bread bowl of chowder on a cold or foggy day. There is bar seating inside, table seating outside and even a walk-up window for to go orders.

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: Fresh shellfish, no fluff. The Santa Barbara shellfish company serves amazing oysters, clams, mussels, crabs, lobsters and abalone.

Geneva's expert tip: In a hurry or part of a large group? Place your order at the walk-up window on the side of the building and then find a seat on the pier or take your grub to go!

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Santa Barbara
Brophy Bros.
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

Unbeatable harbor views issue a siren's call to patrons at one of Santa Barbara's most popular restaurants. Of course, their menu full of delicious seafood doesn't hurt business either. Bustling and busy, Brophy Bros. serves up some of the city's most coveted clam chowder, along with awesome garlic baked clams and hefty portions of cioppino. Fresh, grilled fish is also a fine choice, along with a host of other fresh-from-the-sea options. Grab a table on the patio overlooking the water for the most romantic experience. These are the best seats, even on wet, gloomy days when they pull down the transparent siding to protect you from the elements. Arrive early because weekend waits can be well over an hour.

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: Brophy Bros. serves fresh seafood with an unparalleled view of the harbor. They have the best Bloody Mary in town, too.

Geneva's expert tip: Like clams? Get the garlic baked clams. Cooked with mustard and topped with bacon, there's nothing else like them in town.

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Meet Geneva Ives

Geneva Ives moved to Santa Barbara in 2000 on a whim (ok, and to go to college) and never looked back. She loves Santa Barbara because it’s really one of America’s greatest small towns - it...  More About Geneva