Exploring Stearns Wharf and West Beach is now as easy as using a cell phone.

A local travel writer recently published a virtual tour guide for the Santa Barbara waterfront, providing tourists with pictures and descriptions of area landmarks. Visitors can download the guide to handheld devices like cell phones and mp3 players.

The virtual tour was designed for VisualTravelTours.com by Sheila Fox Tanksley, a freelance writer and photographer.

“The best advantage of the Visual Travel Tour is how you can take it with you,” Sheila said. “It’s easy to download and view the tour before, during and after your trip.”

The site will also sell CDs of the virtual tour, allowing travelers without handheld devices to use the guide from their home computers.

The tour covers a number of historical locations and points of interest on the waterfront, including the Ty Warner Sea Center, Harbor & Sea Landing and the Maritime Museum. The guide also includes historical information about local attractions such as Stearns Wharf, which was built in 1872 as a harbor for cargo ships, and now boasts many shops and restaurants.

Tanksley said she recommends the tour for families with small children.

“Since I have lived in Santa Barbara, since my children were in grade school and are now in college, I thought the Santa Barbara Waterfront would make a great family-oriented tour,” Tanksley said.

In addition to local attractions, the virtual tour also suggests restaurants for local travelers.

Tanksley began work on the virtual tour in 2009, after meeting the developers of Visual Travel Tours. She also runs a private photography Web site, islandfoxphotography.com.