In the 1820s, hunters and trappers arrived in Santa Barbara by ship and horseback eager to club sea otters and seals to sell their pelts and blubber to the highest bidder back home in the USA. Fishing was also permitted along the coastline under an agreement with Mexico, who had just acquired California from the Spanish. To these early visitors, the coastal settlement of Santa Barbara was an El Dorado, birthed from rich, fertile soil, and spanning vast undulating hills. The land and temperate climate were perfect for ranching. They marvelled at the exotic Spanish architecture and the Santa Barbara Mission building.
After the US-Mexican War, and during the California Gold Rush, this cosmopolitan seaside community, purposefully built on a grid and featuring stucco-walled houses with red roofs, became an unlikely den of looters, bandits, drunks, prostitutes, and murderers. It was also home to some of the most diverse fauna in North America, including bobcats, cougars, and red foxes. In the last 50 years, the Santa Ynez valley, just north of the city, has come to rival Napa Valley for its incredible vineyards, driving tourism to the Santa Barbara area, located a two hour drive north of Los Angeles.