Santa Barbara photo spots

Just a day trip from Los Angeles or a longer but delightful drive from San Francisco through the Pacific Ocean Highway Route, Santa Barbara is like a little slice of the Spanish Riviera in the United States. Often considered one of the best places to visit in California, the city offers relaxed vibes, swaying palm trees, splendid ocean views, and striking photo ops everywhere you go (besides great wine, fantastic cuisine, and superb shopping destinations!). Whether you want to marvel at Spanish colonial architecture in downtown Santa Barbara or enjoy the natural beauty of a national park, this place has it all. Read on for our picks of the top five places to take photos in Santa Barbara. 🇺🇸

Here at ​​Flytographer, we easily connect people with trusted photographers for fun photo shoots and have captured over three million memories worldwide. Today, we asked our local photographers in Santa Barbara to show us around all the very best spots for pictures. 📸


(A little sneak peek just for you 😊)

  1. Mission Rose Garden: This romantic rose garden with an extended blooming season is a prime location for wedding photo shoots and celebrations.
  2. Santa Barbara County Courthouse: Fully functional but also open for self-guided tours, this courthouse is one of the most beautiful public buildings in the United States.
  3. Funk Zone: A renovated industrial district replete with street art, hip restaurants, and wonderful local wineries, all exuding the coolest Californian vibes.
  4. East Beach: One of California’s best beaches with lots of outdoor activities and art performances on weekends and a massive sculpture perfect for Instagram.
  5. Butterfly Beach: This beach has soft white sand and sweeping views of the coastline—and you might even spot dolphins and whales at a distance.

Photo: Clarissa in Santa Barbara for Flytographer. Stephanie and family capture memories in Santa Barbara with a family photoshoot on East Beach.

1. Mission Rose Garden

Sprawled in front of Santa Barbara Mission, this massive Rose Garden hosts over 1,500 varieties of roses surrounded by vast grassy areas where you can picnic and soak in the wonderful atmosphere. 🌹 This is undoubtedly one of the best places to take photos in Santa Barbara. Spring is the best time to see the roses in their full glory, but the bloom here is actually extended (yay!). And there’s more than just the roses to steal the show: all year round, you’re likely to see a wedding taking place. 👰 With such a romantic backdrop, that doesn’t come as a surprise, does it? 

Facing the garden, the Old Mission Santa Barbara is also one of the best photo spots in the city and a true architectural and historical gem. Founded by the Spanish Franciscans in 1786 and known as “Queen of the Missions” for its exceptional beauty, the Old Mission features a unique symmetrical facade with refined stone details and grand bell towers. From its front stairs, you get a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean and views of the Santa Ynez Mountains.

For more idyllic nature, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is just six minutes away. There, you can admire native plants that thrive in coastal California and take a leisurely stroll along a path under the towering redwoods. Can you already sense the freshness in the air? 😌

Photo: Clarissa in Santa Barbara for Flytographer. Julien and partner celebrate a honeymoon in Santa Barbara with a honeymoon photoshoot at Mission Rose Garden.

2. Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Considered one of the most beautiful public buildings in the US, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse in downtown Santa Barbara is a dream spot for every history and architecture buff—and for those looking for mesmerizing photo backdrops. Built in the Spanish–Moorish Revival style in 1929, the institution is still fully operational, but you can take a self-guided tour to admire the gorgeous interiors, which feature hand-painted ceilings and murals, wrought-iron chandeliers, and tiles from Tunisia and Spain. The art wall alone is a true history class! You can also climb up El Mirador, the majestic clock tower, and admire the red tile roofs as well as 360-degree views of Santa Barbara, the ocean, and the mountains. 😍 The pristine landscaping of the gardens, with their towering palm trees, is also a highlight, which offers even more marvellous backgrounds for a photo shoot. 

Just around the corner is the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. From classical pieces to modern installations, the museum has a collection of over 20,000 artworks that will make the day of any art enthusiast. 🎨 The institution is also housed in a charming building that was once the Santa Barbara Post Office.

Photo: Clarissa in Santa Barbara for Flytographer. Mary Lynn and family capture memories in Santa Barbara with a family photoshoot at Santa Barbara County Courthouse.

3. Funk Zone

Bordered by State Street and Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone district is the ultimate destination to experience the vibrant and creative atmosphere of the city. Once an industrial area, this seafront district underwent a process of revitalization and urban renewal, which saw warehouses and buildings renovated and transformed into trendy art galleries, quirky boutiques, and outstanding restaurants, wineries, and breweries. Most of the zone’s buildings are adorned with colourful street art and murals—making the place an Instagrammable haven! 😉 Today, the Funk Zone is a favourite meeting spot for both locals and tourists, offering an eclectic and captivating atmosphere. If this is your go-to place to take pics, make sure you match Funk Zone’s coolness by reading our tips for outfits and poses to shine in a photo shoot. 👌

Here’s a hot tip: A fun way to explore the Funk Zone is by renting a bike from one of the many bike rental shops around. 🚲 And after exploring the Funk Zone, don’t forget to ride along the scenic bike path on Cabrillo Blvd with its magnificent palm trees and ocean vistas.

Photo: Cherry in Santa Barbara for Flytographer. Lauren and family capture memories in Santa Barbara with a family photoshoot.

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4. East Beach

For more fun in the sun, head to East Beach, which is just west of the iconic Stearns Wharf at the tail end of State Street. This is Santa Barbara’s largest beach, a long stretch of white sand bordered by a grassy, palm tree-lined park that’s considered one of the best shorelines in California. 🌴 There are plenty of artistic performances on weekends along the bike path, and you’ll also find a full suite of amenities: beach houses, parking lots, restaurants, volleyball courts, playground areas for children, bike rentals, and paths perfect for rollerblading. The long stretch of sand is great for a day of relaxation under the Californian sun and for enjoying incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. ☀️ With so much beauty around you, you’ll need to check out these tips for nailing the perfect beach pic! 

Photo-op alert: On Cabrillo Blvd, look for the multi-coloured Chromatic Gate, a massive artwork by renowned artist Herbert Bayer. With its rainbow of colours, this artwork stands beautifully amidst the palm trees. 🌈

While on East Beach, don’t miss Stearns Wharf, California’s oldest working wharf. The long wooden pier is a lovely place to take a stroll, have a photo shoot, marvel at the beach vistas, feel the salty breeze, and watch magnificent sunsets with an ice cream in hand. 🍦 From there, you can also jump on a boat to Santa Barbara Harbor, a mecca for water activities and unparalleled views. 

Photo: Clarissa in Santa Barbara for Flytographer. Courtney and partner celebrate a honeymoon in Santa Barbara with a honeymoon photoshoot on East Beach.

5. Butterfly Beach

In the glamorous and laid-back Montecito (a sanctuary for many celebs!), Butterfly Beach has soft white sand and is bordered by a seawall that features an exquisite stone balustrade. All these aspects make this spot one of the best places to take photos in Santa Barbara. Lounge by the blue sea and admire the views of the Channel Islands, but keep your eyes peeled—Butterfly Beach is a popular place for dolphin and whale spotting. 🐬 If you’re an active soul, rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and venture into the calm waters. At high tide, you can’t walk along the shore, but you can enjoy the beauty of the place by renting a bike and riding along the lovely bike path. And there’s more: because of the beach’s unique east–west orientation, expect remarkable sunrises and sunsets! 🌅

Extra tip: While in Montecito, check out Ganna Walska Lotusland. This is one of the top 10 botanic gardens in the world and is home to rare and exotic plants, a Japanese garden, and an impressive cactus garden. 🌵

Photo: Clarissa in Santa Barbara for Flytographer. Steven and partner celebrate a proposal in Santa Barbara with a proposal photoshoot.

Capturing memories in Santa Barbara

Without a doubt, Santa Barbara is a Californian dream. For more amazing things to do in the city, visit Paseo Nuevo, an elegant shopping destination, delve into the charms of Goleta, a small town just a 10-minute drive from Santa Barbara, or spend a day at Douglas Family Preserve exploring its 70 acres of untouched ocean fronts. 

Planning a trip to Santa Barbara? Connect to one of our local Flytographers and let them capture all your memorable moments in one of the best destinations in the Golden State. ✨