Quintessential Montecito at Butterfly Beach

The Butterfly Beach area needs no introduction, so let’s cut to the chase. I parked on Olive Mill Road, just below the 101.

There’s something surreal about snowmen snowpeople as holiday decoration in a snow-free place. And this one looks like the nog got spiked.

While most of us have taken the southbound Olive Mill offramp at some point, I wonder how many of us know the name of the street (Spring Road) it flows onto. The Tudor architecture of the houses on the north side feels right for the relatively damp climate near the beach. Bonus points for the matching mailbox.

I turned left onto Depot Road, and immediately on the left was a charming house, while to the right were two properties—a slightly raffish-looking compound and a much slicker gated community of townhouses.

Depot Road dead-ends at the train tracks, but rather than returning to Olive Mill via the tracks—whatever edge I used to have is long gone—I backtracked. Someday, I promise to learn the difference between Bonnymede and Montecito Shores.

The Montecito Sanitary District has a cute little building on Olive Mill, with an equally cute parking spot. It’s a lift station, explained the organization when I emailed later to ask. A company called High Tide Technologies defines a lift station thus: “A wastewater lift station is a pumping station that moves wastewater from a lower elevation to a higher elevation. The benefit of using a lift station in a sewage collection system is that it saves a substantial amount of money in excavation costs, which involves digging for sewer pipes.”

The poor Biltmore. The misspelling is tacky and should’ve been fixed long ago; the presumption of patience and/or understanding couldn’t be more wrong. I continued along Hill Road, which runs behind the resort. If I were a tennis-playing member of the Coral Casino, I’d be peeved that the courts (which the hotel and club share) weren’t left open during the hotel’s hiatus.

I had never noticed this little lovers’ nook before. Or that the Biltmore has clunky, dated streetlights all along Hill Road.

Not far past the hotel proper is 1180 Chanel Drive, which Ty Warner owns (along with the lot across the street). The multicolored sculpture visible over the wall is an interesting remnant. UPDATE 1/2: The property “was owned for a long time by Atlantic Richfield; they used it as some sort of executive retreat,” commented Andy. “As part of their art patronage, it had and maybe still has a tremendous collection of works by Herbert Bayer, the multidisciplinary artist from the Bauhaus school and who is most known here for the Chromatic Gate. Amazon has a listing for a pamphlet that describes the work as of some time in the 80s.”

The rest of Hill Road has a variety of house styles: contemporary, California cottage, Mediterranean…. I’m a sucker for a low-slung one like in the last photo.

The highlight of this part of Butterfly Lane is most definitely the pig house, or whatever neighbors call it. The photo doesn’t do the collection justice—pigs are everywhere. (Does the owner hang out with whoever maintains the frog wall up on the Riviera? Or is there a pig vs. frog feud?) And the roofline is fascinating, of course. Elsewhere on the street is Villa Farfalla, where someone splurged on gates, and the 1905 Tudor compound at 89 Butterfly Lane. Listing photos for the latter from a few years ago are still online, if you’re curious.

The Highway 101 undercrossing is closed for renovations, as you’ve read. As part of the project, the railroad crossing will get “a new walkway, handrails and crossing arms with visual and audio signals.” The whole caboodle should be done by summer.

The main entrance of the Music Academy of the West, over on Fairway Road, can give the impression that the campus is closed to visitors. In a lovely gesture to the area, however, the school is actually porous, with several access points. On Butterfly Lane, you just walk around the gate.

With its Mediterranean architecture, much of which is pink or peach, the MAW campus reminds me of the old British TV show “The Prisoner”—a feeling intensified by only seeing two other people while I explored there. (If you’ve never seen “The Prisoner,” the first five or six episodes are a trip. And the final episode is off-the-charts bonkers, which is not a recommendation.)

The back of Hahn Hall brought to mind one of the old department stores—Buffums? Robinson’s?—at Fashion island in Newport Beach, near where I grew up.

The campus has a remarkable number of little outdoor spaces. Do they ever get used?

There are many special trees, including the one below. And I was baffled by the imprints in the sidewalk—like the leaf impressions or paw prints you sometimes see, but deeper.

The campus has another exit/entrance at the end of Monte Cristo Lane, next to the Montecito Sanitary District. The house in the second photo had a lot going on, including a seen-it-all cat outside.

Around the corner, on Channel Drive, is the Montecito Santitary District’s other entrance. I used my tall-person skills to take a photo over the fence.

Is there a more codependent way to exercise?

How exciting would it be if this equipment just started moving on its own?

Pretty foliage, like chandelier earrings.

“A dreaded sunny day, so I meet you at the cemetery gates….” Sorry, I couldn’t help but have a Smiths moment.

The Santa Barbara Cemetery might be the most uptight place this side of the Valley Club. So many rules!

The cemetery is impossibly beautiful. I can’t help but think, however, that it’s a flagrant waste. I much prefer the idea of using land as both cemetery and woodland park, so while there might be tiny markers where people could pay their respects, the land would be in a much more natural state and also actively enjoyed by the living. Imagine if this particular area could actually be used for jogging and biking and Segwaying and picnicking! Even if you believe in an afterlife, you don’t really think that your soul will spend eternity hanging out underground somewhere, waiting for an occasional visitor, do you?

Some of the tombs are quite striking—imagine the egos behind them. The entrepreneur in me thinks they’d make quirky little vacation rentals.

Many of the markers solely define the deceased by their relationship (mother, wife, daughter…) to whomever chose the wording, with few other details—which made this one for “our dearest pixie” refreshing.

I have nothing bad to say about by the veterans’ section.

I do, however, have thoughts about people who walk against traffic. Sure, it’s safer. But when someone approaches going the other direction, the burden is on you to move out into the street, because you can see oncoming traffic. This pair refused to budge an inch—or even shift to single-file—forcing me into the street.

Ty Warner’s estate really does have magnificent foliage. It’s jungle lush.

If you’re ever feeling down about this area, the Channel Drive bike-and-pedestrian path is an instant pick-me-up.

I once again got as tall as I could to show you more of Ty Warner’s place. I love the look of it from outside.

Many of the houses on Channel Drive are kind of underwhelming for such a dramatic location. Don’t get me wrong: I’d take any of them. But if I were going to build there, I wouldn’t go with a quaint farmhouse, as if it were actually deep in the Santa Ynez Valley instead of overlooking one of the most beautiful beaches in California.

Here’s the front of 1180 Channel Drive, the Ty Warner–owned property with the multicolored sculpture in the backyard that I mentioned earlier. Warner clearly isn’t interested in spending money on it—look at that sad, rusted fence. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the parking lot get used in a deal that allows the Coral Casino to be separated from the Biltmore. Right now the two entities share parking, so there needs to be a way to find more places for cars….

It never ceases to amaze me how empty the beaches are here, even on beautiful days.

The poor Biltmore.

And the poor Coral Casino, also closed due to the Ty Warner–Four Seasons spat. The club has the most beautiful pool I have ever swam in—it practically bewitched me into wanting to move here. We never ended up joining, though. Despite my snobby taste in real estate, I seem to be more of a Los Baños type of guy.


Walk With Me…
Mixing Business and Pleasure in East Beach
It’s Only Milpas Street (But I Like It)
An Aimless Wander Through Hidden Valley
Voyage to the Heart of the San Roque Spider Web
Where the Streets Have Full Names
Once Upon a Time in the Hedgerow…
On the Golden Slope of Eucalyptus Hill
The Past Is Still Present in Old Town Goleta
The Haley Corridor Is Keeping It Real
The Unvarnished Appeal of Yankee Farm
Where Montecito Gets Down to Business
The Small Pleasures of Bungalow Haven
The Small-Town Charms of Samarkand
Climbing the Back of Eucalyptus Hill
Admiring the Backsides of Beachfront Houses on Padaro Lane
Social Distancing Made Easy at UCSB
In the Heart of the Golden Quadrangle
Is There a Better Neighborhood for a Stroll Than West Beach?
Up, Down, and All Around Montecito’s Pepper Hill
E. Canon Perdido, One of Downtown’s Best Strolling Streets
Montecito’s Prestigious Picacho Lane
Whitney Avenue in Summerland
School House Road and Camphor Place


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That Ty Warner property with the sculptures has an interesting history. It was owned for a long time by Atlantic Richfield; they used it as some sort of executive retreat. As part of their art patronage, it had and maybe still has a tremendous collection of works by Herbert Bayer, the multidisciplinary artist from the Bauhaus school and who is most known here for the Chromatic Gate.

Amazon has a listing for a pamphlet that describes the work as of some time in the 80s.


Linda Beuret

Those beautiful gardens at Music Academy certainly do get used. In the 8 week summer session of the Music Academy when 140 music students are present, having lessons & giving performances, they and we the audience use them for picnics, rest between classes, lunchs with the students and outdoor performances. Join us sometime between mid June and Mid August!!!!

Leslie Westbrook

Great walking tour – felt like i was alongside you! I used to live on Channel Drive in the 1970s in a little house with two roomates and a gibbon ape (Hannimun). Those were the days… but you missed the best part of the SB Cemetery: the Alfredo Ramos Martinez mural in the mausoleum. My godmother, Virginia Cherrill (played the “blind flower girl” in City Lights and was Cary Grant’s first wife) is there – along with her 4th and final husband, Polish jet fighter pilot during WW2 Florian Martini. If those crypts could talk! Happy New Year!


I actually followed this same route on my walk today. Greatly appreciate your scenic tour which I will follow next time.
Happened upon this as I was looking up the Pig House.
Thank you!