Best Waterfront Dining in Santa Barbara

Sea Food: 10 best Santa Barbara waterfront restaurants

For any Santa Barbara beach bum who doesn't want to leave the sand, getting hungry can be a drag. Do you have to put on proper 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 gritty salads?

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

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 right on the 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. This restaurant is also a great brunch spot (and it's located on a pet-friendly beach, so you can bring Fido and make a morning of it).

Looking for something in between? Just consult this list. Whether you're hungry for shellfish, sandwiches or something else entirely, we'll steer you in the right direction!


Bluewater Grill
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

If you see a lighthouse, you're in the right place! Pop into Bluewater Grill for seafood with a sea view. Located just across the street from the beach, it has three levels of dining space and two bars. The menu includes traditional options - like cedar plank salmon and crab cakes - and less traditional fare, including their legendary ponzu scallops, served raw in the half shell. Not a fish lover? No problem, they serve salads and steaks too. You'll also find cocktails and a decent local wine selection if you're in the mood for a tipple. Plenty to walk to nearby, including Stearns Wharf and Municipal Winemakers.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Bluewater Grill is one of Santa Barbara's newest waterfront restaurants, and its menu has something for everyone.

Geneva's expert tip: Skip the downstairs bar and race up the steps to the top of the lighthouse. There's another, smaller bar there with an incredible view, as well as a couple of two-top tables.

Read more about Bluewater Grill →

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! Free parking in the lot right out front.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: This is Goleta's only beachfront restaurant, and it's a gem! Be sure to try one of their tropical cocktails.

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. Reserves a table in the dining room or on the patio or belly up to the full bar. Large aquariums and various decorations set the under-the-sea tone. Themed cocktails and local wines round out your visit. Traveling with a picky kiddo or two? No problem, they have a great kids menu, too.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Make a reservation for a great dinner at this romantic waterfront seafood restaurant.

Geneva's expert tip: Want to catch the game? Pop into the bar at the FisHouse. It's a local hangout for sports enthusiasts because of its great location and good happy hour.

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Padaro Beach Grill
Photo courtesy of Padaro Beach Grill

Is there a prettier 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 Waterfront Dining because: There is no better, family-friendly restaurant with a view in town. They even have a sandbox!

Geneva's expert tip: Carpool! Parking is very limited, so pack as many family members are you can into one car.

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Ty Lounge
Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

If you're looking to enjoy a nibble and a cocktail someplace very beautiful and a little bit fancy, look no further than the Ty Lounge in the Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara. This elegant bar boasts high ceilings and sweeping ocean views. Classic cocktails, seasonal specialty drinks and hard-to-find wines by the glass comprise the beverage menu. To eat, sample a variety of Spanish tapas. Avocados fritos, saffron paella croquetas and warm octopus are just a few of the many available dishes. The delightful patio overlooks the Coral Casino and Butterfly Beach - truly one of the finest cocktail hour views in Santa Barbara.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: This place is known for its cocktails, but it also has a fabulous (and shockingly affordable) bar menu. Try the cheese plate or signature burger.

Geneva's expert tip: Go early to snag a coveted seat on the patio for the best ocean view.

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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 sand for an impromptu picnic!

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: If you're visiting Carpinteria, grab a burger at The Spot and cross the street to the "world's safest beach."

Geneva's expert tip: The Spot is cash only and often has a line. Plan ahead and call in your order, then stop by the ATM on your way or use the one onsite.

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Santa Barbara

The Boathouse is a Santa Barbara seafood restaurant with the best location in town... it's right on the beach. 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. Frequent Santa Barbara catches include Spiny lobster and Dungeness crab. Brunch, lunch and dinner served daily. Happy hour is from 3 to p.m Sunday through Thursday. Parking is free but does get crowded.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: This tasty seafood restaurant is tucked away on a hidden beach that is popular with the locals.

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. Try the $5 blood orange margarita.

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Seafood doesn't get any fresher than this. At the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, you can pick your lunch right out of the tanks. Established in 1980, this restaurant 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 walk-up window for to-go orders.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Take your pick! Select your live lobster, crab or abalone from one of the tanks and have it cooked while you wait.

Geneva's expert tip: If you're in a hurry and there's a line to get in, skip the wait and order from the walk-up window outside instead.

Read more about Santa Barbara Shellfish Company →

Santa Barbara
Brophy Bros.

Unbeatable harbor views issue a siren's call to patrons at this popular restaurant. 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 over an hour.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Stop by Brophy's for Santa Barbara's best seafood with a view of the boats.

Geneva's expert tip: Although the upstairs restaurant usually has a long wait, you can visit the ground-level bar for drinks and appetizers without checking in with the hostess.

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Broad Street Oyster Co.
Photo courtesy of Broad Street Oyster Co.

If you think you've had a great lobster roll but you haven't been to Broad Street Oyster Co., you should probably think again. This LA-based raw bar and shellfish experience pops up almost every weekend in front of Municipal Winemakers in Santa Barbara's Funk Zone. It serves easily the best lobster roll on the West Coast. (We think it would even win in a taste test against most East Coast lobster rolls.) You can also get raw oysters, locally fished urchin and sometimes extra treats like razor clams and caviar. When you see a shaded tent with some happy shuckers wearing chic aprons surrounded by loads of sea creatures, you're in the right place. And when you see someone who looks like a young King Triton himself - locks flowing, kindly eyes beaming - you'll know you're talking to Chris, the man behind Broad Street.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: BEST. LOBSTER. ROLL. ON. EARTH. (The oysters and uni are good too.)

Geneva's expert tip: After you order your lobster roll and oysters, head into Muni Wine for a bottle of Pale Pink to pair with it.

Read more about Broad Street Oyster Co. →


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