"They were craving a smaller community and a slower pace," a source close to the couple tells PEOPLE

By Erin Hill and Elizabeth Leonard
August 25, 2020 10:46 AM
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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are feeling at “peace” in their new home in Santa Barbara, California.

After announcing they were stepping down as senior royals in January, the couple continued their brief stay on Vancouver Island in Canada before moving to California in mid-March.

Before finding their permanent home in the Montecito community of Santa Barbara, they stayed at Tyler Perry's Los Angeles estate with 1-year-old son Archie as they transitioned out of their royal roles.

“They were craving a smaller community and a slower pace — Montecito is very mellow, a charming little town and the Santa Barbara [area] offers an ideal lifestyle that they’re looking forward to,” a source close to the couple tells PEOPLE.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Samir Hussein/WireImage

The idyllic village offers many of the same aspects they came to love on scenic Vancouver Island: stunning stretches of coastline, calm waters, nearby hills with plenty of hiking trails and nature walks and fantastic dining and retail shops.

“They feel like the future holds endless possibility,” the source adds. “They can hope to give Archie as normal a life as possible there.”

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry take a Zoom call from their new home
The Queen's Commonwealth Trust

The purchase of their new home (which came with a play structure for Archie!), about 95 miles up the Pacific coast from L.A., makes Meghan and Harry first-time homeowners. An insider says they put down a third of the cost and took out a mortgage for the other two-thirds.

“They feel the new house is a place of peace — and it offers inspiration to build Archwell [foundation], which they’re focused on,” the source continues.

Meghan Markle and Archie
The Duke of Sussex/@SaveChildrenUK

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex began working on their new foundation in March, and they have been quietly focused behind the scenes on further developing Archewell amid the rapidly changing social landscape.

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"They have had the opportunity to speak with some incredible thought leaders, and those conversations have been deeply educational and helpful in identifying the work they want to do with Archewell," a source previously told PEOPLE. "They are applying all their learnings to the future of the organization. They are excited to see it all come together. It’s what they have always dreamed of doing together.”