It doesn’t get much sweeter than this; sun most days of the year, easy to get to and choices for every budget. Oceanside is full of surprises. It’s one California beach city that is too often overlooked, but that’s changing.
Perched between the military base of Camp Pendelton, and San Diego proper, Oceanside’s too often just a blip on the GPS for drivers going north or south, but they’re missing out. I love spending a day or two walking downtown, playing in the waves, exploring the museums, and discovering new restaurants and happy hours. The north harbor area is worth exploring too.
A pair of gorgeous hotels have risen near the pier. The collection completes downtown’s revitalization the final touches on a beach-side canvas and it’s a masterpiece.
New Hotels Transform the California Beach City Into A Major Vacation Destination.
I spent an afternoon investigating these sibling hotels and each has its own personality. The Seabird design team invited artists to embellish nautical themes. A sweeping shell mural twists above the concierge desk. Macrame lamps dangle from the ceiling adjacent to the ballroom, each hand crafted from t-shirts. The Oceanside Museum of Art has curated a gallery full of Southern California artists. There’s a whimsy throughout including a childlike mascot in retro swim gear whose image pops up in hallways, prints and statues. From the lounges to the lobby, glowing natural light overflows in flattering tones.
Visitors can choose from three dining experiences. The Piper with its open-kitchen design, California-inspired cuisine and local ingredients. The Shelter Club near the pool is exclusively for guests. My favorite spot faces the beach. The Shore Room is a spacious lounge and prime real estate for sunset lovers.
The Mission Pacific
A serene and classy addition to the bluff, the Mission Pacific makes the California beach city dream a reality. The indoor-outdoor lobby features woody touches and burnished artwork. An Oceanside icon, the Top Gun house from the 1980’s film has been restored to its 1887 beach cottage glory across from the pier. The crown jewel however is the ‘Rooftop Bar’ with far-flung views of the coast to one side and rolling hills to the east. Inviting alcoves and sitting areas beckon and guests splash in a long pool far above the beach. This bar concept is a destination in itself.
Diners have plenty to enjoy as well. High/Low is open from sunrise to sunset off the lobby. Every menu item is made from scratch with brunch classics and remixes of lunch favorites.
Most inspired and a reservation worth waiting for is the Valle Restaurant. One of the Guadalupe Valley’s most celebrated chefs, Roberto Alocer, was lured north to render the traditions from Mexico’s wine region with California culinary notes. The space itself is sumptuous and filling with beautiful people.
Where else to stay for your California beach adventure?
There are several BnB’s in the area and a number of hotels. The fresh, Springhill Suites Marriott, just a block from the water, is one choice. . The space is fresh with cozy spots for pictures, for cuddling, or working. Rooms face the ocean and overflow with buttery light at sunset. The pool is guest only and on the third-floor deck you can stroll over to the stairway into Baja Betty’s, bright with surf-chic charm and great grub.
The city rolls out its best for events year round. There are multiple charity runs and organized bike rides. Cultural events abound from the Oceanside museum, the Surf museum, the Starlight theater and galleries. The craft brew and gastropub scenes are percolating. Stellar sushi and seafood joints are making names for themselves. From downtown to South O hungry visitors will find foodie hangouts from luxury rooftop bars to bakeries, casual pizza, health foods, and taco stands.
What draws us all is the beach. The pier is long and worth a stroll whether it’s stormy or the sky is bright. Along the waterfront quaint bungalows line the sea wall. The wide open sand makes dipping into the water a must. If you love surfing or boogie boarding, these waves will make you delirious and draw huge surfing competitions yearly.
Enjoy the Rooftop Bar views
Where to eat in Oceanside:
- Valle on the northwest corner of the Mission Pacific Hotel
- Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub is a culinary adventure you’ll savor long after the plate’s clean. Award-winning, Chef Davin Waite features local seafood, produce, and chef-picked ingredients.
- Zig Zag Pizza Pie lets you pick your ingredients, your drinks out of the cooler and chops salads just steps from the Oceanside pier.
- Hello Betty Fish House has a California beach theme and fresh eats inside or out.
- Masters Kitchen and Cocktail is a few blocks from downtown on South Coast Highway. It’s one of many innovative brew pubs / casual dining spots in the area. (Of course I had to include my namesake!)
- Living Tea Brewing Company serves fresh, organic Kombucha in their taproom at 302 Wisconsin Avenue.
Getting to your California beach adventure in Oceanside:
Drive: The beach is just west of the Interstate 5 freeway and Pacific Coast Highway off Mission Boulevard.
Ride: The Amtrak station is close to downtown and the beach. Oceanside is also the southern terminus for the coastal route on Metrolink. Check for passes to travel anywhere Metrolink goes. It makes visiting Oceanside even easier with the terminus there and access to the Coaster and Amtrak lines throughout San Diego County (a separate ticket.) More info check the Metrolink Oceanside Schedule.
Whether it’s a short vacation or a swim stop between destinations, there’s lots to do and explore on a California beach adventure in Oceanside.