For dozens of years and a hundred trips, I have
driven that stretch of the coast highway from
Ventura to Santa Barbara, turning my glance only
briefly from the beautiful ocean view to the Big
Yellow House restaurant that marks the exit to
Summerland, as I continued on to Santa Barbara,
the Ojai Valley, Big Sur, and points north. And
in all those years, I never turned into Summerland
- a quaint village that hugs the coast, north
of Carpenteria, just six miles south of Santa
Summerland was founded by rancher Harry Williams
in 1889. He built the Big Yellow House as his
personal residence. By 1896, the oil boom had
blotted out the community's beachside beauty with
a glut of oil derricks and it wasn't until the
middle of the next century, that Summerland regained
its scenic beauty as beachfront oil gave out and
offshore drilling came into vogue.
Summerland, which is adjacent to the affluent
community of Montecito, actually first came to
my attention when it was mentioned as the home
of the Bloodworths, television producers who frequently
invited their friends, Bill and Hillary (Clinton),
to enjoy their seaside estate.
There's also a pop song by the rock band Everclear
called Summerland that makes the place sound enticing.
And so, taking a little advice from Everclear
and looking for where the Clinton's once stayed
with the Bloodworths, I went to Summerland.
We stayed at the Inn on Summer Hill (800-845-5566),
a country-modern bed and breakfast with seventeen
rooms and rates from $229. The rooms downstairs
have patios; upstairs have private balconies -
all with wonderful vistas of the ocean and Channel
Islands in the distance. The inn, with its Craftsman
style architecture, gray weathered shingled siding,
round river rock chimneys, and country-modern
interior décor, has an antique charm but in fact
was only built in 1989. Its owner is local designer,
Mabel Schultz, who had a hand in the interior
decoration of other renowned local hotels such
as the El Encanto, the Biltmore, and the Apple
Farm Inn in San Luis Obispo.
Each room in the Inn has its own unique country-European
décor with floral wallpaper, hand-painted cupboards
and drawers, and country scenic paintings. Each
has a high four poster canopy bed with goose down
comforters, an electric fireplace, and a Jacuzzi
tub. And there's a hot tub on a nearby observation
deck. All this provides a romantic ambience as
confirmed by the notes written in the room journals
by newlyweds, couples visiting for anniversaries,
and other romantics.
While the inn is favored with an oceanfront view,
it is separated from the ocean by the 101 freeway
and railroad tracks. So, while sitting on your
balcony provides the joys of a warm ocean breeze
and vistas, it is also very noisy with freeway
traffic and the occasional Amtrak whistling by.
But all the rooms are well-insulated with double
pane windows that completely remove the noise
from an otherwise tranquil setting.
Mornings begin with a wonderful breakfast, served
from 7 to 10 a.m. with one hot entrée varying
day to day - quiche, eggs and potato pancakes,
smoked salmon on puffed pastry, pancakes. There
are appetizers served from 3 to 5 p.m., and desserts
from 8 to 9:30. And everything is cooked or made
from scratch by the inn's chef - from fresh breads,
to dessert cakes and pies, to breakfast granola.
The lobby is perhaps too cozy and the dining room,
with its interesting crockery and teapot collection,
is a bit small. I would expect with a full house,
it might be somewhat cramped. But you can eat
outside at a patio table or you can ask for breakfast
to be served in your room if you wish.
The inn's best amenity is its location. It has
views of the ocean and it's about a ten minute
walk from Summerland's almost private beach. And
it's a wonderful spot to go antiquing. The inn
sits on Lillie Avenue and there are no less than
10 antique shops within easy walking distance,
also on Lillie.
Drive, or better yet bicycle, through the nearby
rolling hills and back roads of Montecito and
Santa Barbara. For shopping, people watching,
and curiosity seeking, meander along Coast Village
Road in Montecito and State Street in Santa Barbara,
and in the evening return to the Inn on Summer
Hill to watch the sunset.
I don't know if you'll see Bill or Hillary visiting
Summerland much more. But Everclear's lyrics may
have it right -
"Let's just drive your car….
Let's just get the hell away from here …
Let's just leave this place
And go to Summerland….
Sounds like heaven to me…"