SANTA BARBARA — You can see this city's stunning seashore while traveling in style aboard an Italian Pedalina. All it takes is a little pedal power to cruise along the coast in a fancy four-wheel cycle surrey with a fringe on the top.
Follow the paved Cabrillo Bikeway, a level two-lane path that introduces you to all sorts of seaside diversions. Along the 3.3-mile cycle route you can visit a bird refuge, watch beach volleyball games, enjoy an outdoor arts and crafts show and picnic under the lofty palm trees.
You also can pedal to the city zoo, historic Stearns Wharf, the boat harbor and its breakwater, and restaurants that overlook the Pacific. All around is Santa Barbara's Mediterranean scenery sloping down from mountain foothills to the sea.
For Families or Couples
The cycle carriages will carry a family of four. Couples can select a tandem bicycle or split up on a pair of wide-wheel beach cruisers. Hire them or other bike models at rental stands near the waterfront.
Get there from Los Angeles by driving north on U.S. 101 to Santa Barbara, then exit left onto Cabrillo Boulevard (California 225) for a preview of the bikeway.
Two bike-rental companies are across from Stearns Wharf at the foot of State Street. Beach Rentals at 8 W. Cabrillo Blvd. is open every day and has pedal carriages for $10 an hour, tandems for $8 and beach bikes for $4.
Around the corner at 101 State St. you'll pay the same rental rates at Cycles 4 Rent, open Friday through Monday.
The same company operates a daily bike concession at the new Fess Parker's Red Lion Resort, 633 E. Cabrillo Blvd. The hourly rate for a Pedalina is $12, and you can get a picnic package for $38 that includes a two-hour rental of the four-wheel carriage and picnics for two. Information: (805) 564-4333, Ext. 444.
If you start your cycle excursion from Stearns Wharf, head east to follow the bikeway along the sandy beach that's bordered by the towering palms of Chase Palm Park.
An Outdoor Gallery
On Sundays the park turns into a colorful gallery as dozens of artisans display their paintings, graphics, drawings, photographs, sculpture and crafts. The sidewalk show has been running since 1965.
Beyond, at outdoor tables that overlook the sand, you can have refreshments at the East Beach Grill. Before reaching there, the bikeway crosses the boulevard at Milpas Street and continues to the path's eastern end at Andree Clark Bird Refuge.
Pedal around to the far shore of the peaceful lagoon in that 50-acre preserve to see geese, ducks and other waterfowl. Also look for migratory birds that arrive this time of year.
Returning west on the bikeway you can view more wildlife by detouring up Ninos Drive to reach the Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens. It's home to more than 500 animals, everything from giraffes to gibbons and llamas to sea lions.
Kids like to ride a miniature train around the zoo's perimeter. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $4; children and seniors, $2.
Continuing west you might want to divert from the bikeway to stay on the inland side of Cabrillo Boulevard and visit Fess Parker's Red Lion Resort. The sprawling 360-room hotel was opened earlier this year by a Santa Barbara resident who's best known as Hollywood's Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone.
On Sundays in Maxi's dining room a tempting champagne brunch buffet is presented between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The tab is $22.50; children 12 and younger, $10. Live jazz music is featured in Maxi's lounge on Sunday evenings.
If you decide to stay at the impressive Spanish-style resort, rates are $135 to $175 single or double, with no charge for children under 18 in the same room. Suites cost $225 to $500. Reservations: (805) 564-4333.
Back where the bikeway crosses State Street, park your Pedalina (locks provided by the rental companies on request) and stroll over wooden planks to the end of Stearns Wharf. It's been a landmark since 1872 and offers a panorama of the city and coast.
Visit the Sea Center on the wharf, a branch of the Museum of Natural History with displays of the diverse marine life that inhabits the Santa Barbara Channel. Some are live specimens in saltwater tanks.
In other buildings on the wharf you'll find a Gypsy fortune teller named Madame Rosinka, a wine tasting room and gift shops with clothing, artworks, seashells and nautical items. Mike's Bait & Tackle will equip you to catch fish from the pier.
Non-fishermen prefer to buy take-away shrimp, crab and lobster from the Santa Barbara Shellfish Co. Or you can sit down for a seafood meal at Moby Dick's or the venerable Harbor restaurant that first served wharf visitors in 1941. Its upstairs outdoor deck is a favorite place for cocktails at sunset.
Back on the bike path and continuing west you'll pedal past wide and sandy West Beach before reaching the harbor that's jammed with pleasure craft and commercial fishing boats. Go out on the breakwater where 22 flags salute community organizations.