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“There are some really excellent independently owned restaurants and wineries here,” he explains. “It’s a much more hip area than you’ll find elsewhere in the city.” Following a brief drive to Stearns Wharf to see the city’s famous pier, which was built in 1872, badly damaged by fire in 1998, and rebuilt by 2000 (at a cost of $13.5 million), we head out of Santa Barbara and on to the open road.

As we leave the city, State Route 1—aka Highway 1—skirts the gorgeous coastline, and the incomparable vastness of the ocean and beguiling views are a taste of the magnificence that lies in store. It’s our first opportunity to really stretch the Mazda3 and it adds to the exhilaration by proving so joyful to drive.