Santa Barbara Communities

One of the state's original 26 counties, Santa Barbara County, California, was formed in 1850, at the time of California's forming as a state. It is located on the Pacific Coast of the southern part of the state, about 90 miles north of Los Angeles and just west of Ventura County. The estimated population for the county in 2006 was just over 420,000, an increase since the 2000 census estimated it at just near 400,000.

The county seat is the city that shares the county's name, Santa Barbara, and the largest city is Santa Maria. The county is made up of an area of more than 3,750 square miles, though more than 2,700 square miles of that is water, including portions of the ocean that are included in the county's borders. Four of the Channel Islands -- San Miguel Island, Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island and Santa Rosa Island -- are included as part of the county, and they make up the biggest part of Channel Islands National Park.

The county has a mountainous interior that comes down to its coastal plains area. The population is about evenly split between the north and the south areas. The mountainous area includes the Santa Ynez Mountains in the south, and the San Rafael and Sierra Madre mountains to the northeast and in parts of the interior of the county. Most of the mountainous area is included as part of the large Los Padres National Forest, and two wilderness areas are within the park within the county: San Rafael Wilderness and the Dick Smith Wilderness.

The larger cities in Santa Barbara include Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, Santa Ynez, Solvang, Buellton, Lompoc; Santa Maria and Guadalupe. The southern parts of the county are served by the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District. In the northern area, the cities of Lompoc, Santa Maria and Buellton/Solvang have their own distinct bus service connecting the area. There are 23 school districts in the county, and it has a strong wine industry, with more than 60 wineries and 21,000 acres of vine. It also has a large tourism industry, with thousands of visitors each year, especially to its beaches and coastal areas.