Buellton, California is located on the central coast of California near the city of Santa Barbara. It is located in the scenic Santa Ynez Valley, the heart of Santa Barbara County wine country. It is approximately a two hour drive from Los Angeles. The Santa Ynez Valley is at the center of the county and is partially surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest. The region is famed for its wines as well as the rustic, beautiful scenery. It boasts peaceful country living among the gentle hills and ancient oaks. The town of Buellton and the rest of the Santa Ynez Valley is a perfect setting for a long weekend or more of natural beauty, perfect climate and of course, extraordinary wines.
Weather & Geography of Buellton
To visit Buellton is to go to the banks of the Santa Ynez River. The town had a population of approximately 4,800 in the 2010 census and it was one of the fastest growing towns in central Santa Barbara County in 2004. Travelers along U.S. Highway 101 often stop in Buellton and it is called the Gateway to the Santa Ynez Valley. It is the first town north of the City of Santa Barbara after driving through 25 miles of undeveloped and scenic Gaviota Coast. Buellton itself is 360 feet above sea level.
Buellton has always been strategically located in the Valley due to feeding traffic in all directions. In the 1930s, Highway 101 was enlarged to handle the increased traffic using the road. In the 1940s, Avenue of the Flags became an eight lane road through town. It had four lanes for local traffic and four for north and south highway travel. In the early 1960s, Highway 101 was moved to its current location and Avenue of the Flags remained as the main street of Buellton. Buellton became an incorporated city on February 1, 1992.
Weather in Buellton is usually mild and dry in the summers and cool and wet in the winters. Summer temperatures usually stay in the low 80s, and winter temperatures are in the 60s. Winter lows may occasionally dip just below freezing. Precipitation in the Buellton area averages approximately 13 inches, with most of that coming between November and March. Air quality in the area is exceptional, and northwest winds from off shore come most afternoons throughout the year.
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History of Buellton
Buellton is named for R.T. Buell, who owned the Rancho San Carlos de Jonata Mexican land grant in the area. The original land grant was issued to Jose Covarrubias and Joaquin Carrillo on September 18, 1845 by Governor Pio Pico, last Mexican Governor of California. The winter of 1864 and 1865 were very dry, forcing many farmers to sell off land. It was this land that interested the R.T. and his brother. The Rancho San Carlos de Jonata was approximately 26,000 acres of land and the Buell brothers were able to purchase a quarter of the Rancho. By 1872 R.T had bought the entire Rancho, and dissolved the partnership with his brother Alonzo. The Buell Ranch was a complete town as far back as 1875 when R.T. Buell had established a general store, a post office, bunkhouses, blacksmith shop and family homes.
The original Rancho San Carlos de Jonata stretched from Mission Santa Ynez in the west to the middle of the Santa Ynez River in the south to Zaca Station just north of Buellton on Highway 101. R.T. Buell turned the property into a working ranch raising horses and cattle as well as acting as a dairy farm. He grew wheat and grain on the 4,200-acre Buell Flat on the east of the property. The ranch did well until the drought of 1876-77. Rainfall was so scarce that ranchers had to cut down trees to feed the leaves, branches and even the moss to their animals. R.T. Buell died on the family farm in 1905 at age 78. He was interred in the family plot which is now the parking lot of Pea Soup Andersen’s Hotel in Buellton. He was later moved to the Oak Hill Cemetery in nearby Ballard. R.T.’s eldest son Linus managed the ranch until his younger siblings were of age. The land was then divided among the children.
Another important family in the area of the city of Buellton is the de la Cuesta family of Rancho La Vega. Dr. Roman de la Cuesta immigrated from Spain and purchased the Rancho La Vega in 1851. La Vega consisted of 8,000 acres and had belonged to Raimundo Carrillo. In 1853, Dr. Roman de la Cuesta and his wife Michaela Cota built an adobe house on the south bank of the Santa Ynez River near what would later be the route of Highway 101. This adobe home is still standing, with 13 rooms and appearing much as it did when it was first built. Building the adobe was quite difficulty due to the lack of roads. Raw lumber was hauled over the Gaviota pass on the heads of oxen, as even ox carts could not get through the pass. A descendant of Dr. Roman de la Cuesta and Michaela Cota, Don Eduardo de la Cuesta, was instrumental in getting Highway 101 routed through Buellton in 1927.
Tourist Attractions in Buellton
Buellton changed rapidly after the turn of the century as more settlers came to farm and start businesses. By 1911 Danish settlers were spilling over into the Buellton area from the town of Solvang. William Budd opened a post office and it became an official United States Post Office in 1920. Stores were built on the main street of the community, and Anton and Juliette Andersen bought a store from William Budd and opened a restaurant in 1924 called the Electrical Cafe. Juliette was from France, and brought with her a recipe for pea soup. This was the beginning of the now famous Pea Soup Andersen’s restaurants. This original restaurant is still a major roadside stop and landmark along Route 101.
Other Buellton tourist attractions are the natural beauty of Lake Cachuma and Buellton’s River Park. The movie Sideways was filmed on location in and around Buellton. The climate and land of the Valley and the Buellton area make it still a prime area for agriculture. Horse and cattle ranches abound in the hills nearby. The ranches in the Valley raise unique animals such as llamas, longhorn cattle, miniature horses, emus, ostriches and mules. Almost 10,000 acres of the Santa Ynez valley are vineyards and over 30 wineries are located within only 15 miles of Buellton. The Valley sponsors two major wine festivals near Buellton every year, the Vintners Festival in April, and the Celebration of Harvest in October. Numerous other wine events are held year round throughout the Valley.
You may recall beautiful Buellton, California from the movie Sideways, starring Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen. If you want relive the Sideways journey, The characters stay at the Days Inn Windmill hotel in the town, learn the finer points of wine tasting at Sanford Winery on Santa Rosa Rd., and eat the Hitching Post on Highway 246 (pictured above) and Spurs. Click here to download the Sideways wine tasting map.
The city of Buellton, California does not allow short-term vacation rentals, however there are a number of vacation rental homes near Buellton in the Santa Ynez Valley.