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Stearns Wharf, located in Santa Barbara, California, is not only one of the oldest piers in the state but also a vibrant symbol of resilience and historical significance. Since its establishment in 1872, the wharf has been a focal point for commerce, recreation, and now, tourism, combining a rich history with a diverse array of modern attractions.Historical BackgroundConstructed in 1872, Stearns Wharf was built by John P. Stearns to serve the passenger and freight shipping needs of California’s South Coast. The wharf quickly became the longest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco, which was a significant feat at the time, emphasizing its importance in regional trade and transportation.Challenges and ReconstructionThe history of Stearns Wharf is marked by several significant events that tested its durability and resilience. In 1878, just six years after its construction, the pier was struck by a severe storm which caused substantial damage. In the same year, it was also struck by a Chinese ship, leading to the destruction of a large section of the structure. The collision demolished 1,000 feet of the pier, presenting a major setback.In 1887, the wharf faced another crisis when it nearly collapsed due to misuse and poor maintenance. These events highlighted the vulnerabilities in the wharf’s structure and led to multiple reconstructions over the years. Each reconstruction not only repaired the damage but also aimed to improve the resilience of the wharf against future calamities.Modern-Day Stearns WharfToday, Stearns Wharf extends 2,300 feet into the Pacific Ocean and covers an area of 3.8 acres. It is supported by 2,307 pilings, making it a robust and enduring structure. The wharf has evolved into a bustling tourist destination, offering a variety of attractions including restaurants, shops, and a charming aquarium, all providing panoramic views of the ocean.The wharf provides anglers with the opportunity to catch a variety of fish species. Here are six popular types found in the waters around the pier and tips on how to catch them:Mackerel: Commonly found around the pier, mackerel can be caught using shiny lures or small pieces of bait. Early morning or late evening are prime times for mackerel fishing.Calico Bass: Anglers target these using live bait or artificial lures, often casting near the pilings where the bass reside.Surfperch: These smaller fish are often targeted with light tackle using worms, small jigs, or soft plastics. Fishing for surfperch is particularly effective along the sandy areas adjacent to the pier.Halibut: Fishing for halibut involves using live bait such as anchovies or sardines, ideally cast near the sandy bottom.Sheephead: These fish are often found around rocky areas and can be caught using bait such as shrimp or squid.White Seabass: Typically caught with live bait or jigs, white seabass require a bit of patience and skill, often biting at dawn or dusk.Community and Cultural ImpactStearns Wharf plays a significant role in Santa Barbara’s community life. It is not only a popular destination for local events and gatherings but also an educational resource that offers insights into marine life and conservation through its aquarium.ConclusionStearns Wharf stands as a testament to the enduring charm and resilience of Santa Barbara’s maritime heritage. With its rich history, diverse marine life, and plethora of attractions, the wharf continues to be a beloved landmark, drawing visitors from around the world to experience its unique blend of natural beauty and cultural history. Whether for fishing, dining, or simply enjoying the scenic views, Stearns Wharf offers a memorable experience for all who visit.


217 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, USA


Operating Hours

Open Daily 24hours

Admission & Pricing

FREE ADMISSION Parking Fee free for 90mins. $2.50/ additional hour parking fee

Rod Rentals

Fishing Pole (Including Cup of Bait): $10/hour $30/halfday Crab Nets: $7/hour $28/halfday

Bait Option

Call for the latest information for fishing on Stearns Wharf: (805) 965-1333


Fish Caught

halibut, mackerel, jacksmelt, white croaker (ronkie), sand bass, kelp bass (calico bass), scorpionfish (sculpin), various perch, bat rays, and shovelnose guitarfish, scorpionfish, several types of perch,

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217 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, USA

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