Oceanside CA Things To Do: Surfing, Shopping, History and Food

categories: Southern California

World-class surfing, craft beers, and many outdoor activities are just a few things to enjoy in Oceanside, California. Located about 40 miles from San Diego International Airport in the North County of San Diego. It’s the perfect area to get your Southern California dreaming underway.

I must admit, when I think of Oceanside, what comes to my mind is years past when the town was known as a rough-and-tumble Military town. It certainly wasn’t on my radar to visit. But, an exciting transformation has washed ashore in this once-overlooked and skipped city.

The inviting Oceanside Pier

Oceanside Pier

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Things to Do in Oceanside

Oceanside Pier

Let’s start with the big Oceanside pier (pictured above) which has a commanding presence. Originally built in 1888, the wooden structure is nearly 2,000 feet long. People fish from the pier or stroll along while soaking in the endless rolling and splashing waves. The views of the Pacific Ocean and coastline are so mesmerizing it’s guaranteed you’ll lose track of time. And that’s a good thing when taking a step back from a hectic life. A well-thought-out feature for pedestrians is the separate lanes for walking onto and leaving the pier. Seeing the pier lit at night is a sight not to miss and hearing the waves makes for a good night’s sleep.


From beachy and natural terrain hiking trails to golf courses, there are plenty of activities for all age groups. For those yearning to catch a wave, surf classes are available for various skill levels. Oceanside is known for its prime surfing conditions and hosts many types of surfing competitions throughout the year. Two resources to check for surf conditions are surf-forecast.com and surfline.com listing water temperature, size of the waves, and wind directions. If hanging ten is not for you, give stand-up paddling, boogie boarding, and kayaking a try. How about going out for moonlight kayaking May-September and experiencing kayaking on the glistening water under the moon?

Consider renting a relaxing electric Duffy Boat at Oceanside Boat Rentals and dive into aquatic clothing and accessories at the family-owned Whitlock Surf Experience and Surf Ride. Everything you need for being in the water from surf lessons to board rentals is happening here.

As a reminder, always take precautions in nature’s waterways and talk with the closest lifeguard about the ocean’s unpredictable movements. Lifeguards are happy to share their knowledge about the beach to keep you safe.

California Surf Museum

California Surf Museum

Close to the pier is the California Surf Museum and it is small but mighty. On display are the history of surfboards from long to short and transformation into boogie boards. Famous surfer’s memorabilia including Bethany Hamilton’s torn swimsuit from her tiger shark attack in Hawaii and collections about legendary surfers who have been dedicated to the sport. International surf contests have a spot in the museum and a section devoted to equipment for adaptive surfing are on exhibit. On the day you visit, an old-time surfer volunteering as a docent might give a tour and explain more than you ever knew about surfing. 

San Luis Rey trail

Biking and hiking routes are plentiful and the San Luis Rey trail extends 10 miles from the beach to the east side of oceanside near the Mission San Luis Rey. The trail follows the San Luis Rey River and includes a walking trail with bird sightings among nature’s habitat. Look for the quiet and small Blue-gray Gnatcatcher or California Gnatcatcher bird with a long white tail. The birds roam around coastal sage scrub for food and are an endangered species. More trails and descriptions can be found at alltrails.com/us/california/oceanside and ci.oceanside.ca.us/gov/ns/parks/amenities/hiking_trails.asp


More adventurous, get ready to jump out of a plane and skydive over the coastal sites with Go Jump Oceanside.


If you want to stay on the ground, golfing awaits at Goat Hill Park. The public golf course keeps the relaxed SoCal atmosphere where all are welcome to golf without the stress of some well-known and high-end courses. Because of the location on a hill, check out the beautiful sunsets from the golf course.

Thursday Farmers Markets

Want to take it a bit easy and enjoy the fresh air? Then take a leisurely stroll through two different Thursday farmer’s markets and buy local produce, handmade soaps, and apparel. During the daytime market, try a mini sweet potato pie at Booboo’s Sweet Potato Pie booth, an organic apple, or buy a jar of Feraco’s Italian tomato sauce and the must-have cannoli.

The Thursday evening market named Sunset Market is loaded with international eats and many one-of-a-kind finds including fresh flowers and specialty gifts. A favorite take-home gift is Cheryl’s Caramels made by hand and sold under the red and white striped canopy. Make sure to buy enough caramels for yourself in many delicious flavors.


Oceanside murals

Oceanside Murals

Get on the hunt for the many colorful murals around town. The murals are an important part of Oceanside’s arts and a map of the murals becomes a scavenger hunt to find each one.

For the adults on vacation, craft beer, wines, and coffee can be found throughout the city. A complete list of this type of hopping can be found at Visit Oseanside.

San Luis mission Raenette weaving

Mission San Luis Rey

The San Luis Rey River with fertile land made the ideal location for Mission San Luis Rey which was founded in 1798 and is a National Historic Landmark. East of highway 5, the Spanish Colonial style mission is the largest of the California missions with a cemetery established in 1798 and a museum sharing its history. On the day I visited the museum, women demonstrated basket weaving using willow branches to make baskets. Raenette Anguiano, of the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians, teaches traditional basket weaving and told me willow is a natural insecticide that made baskets ideal for storing acorns. Raenette demonstrated weaving Juncus plants around yucca and deergrass which are native plants their ancestors used to make baskets for storage and gathering.

As I continued to walk through the adobe building, I was surprised to find the original document signed by Abraham Lincoln one month before he died. The document gave control of this California mission back to the Catholic church. Information about the mission’s family activities and behind-the-scenes tours is located at sanluisrey.org.

Oceanside Museaum of Art - Duke Windsor burger butterflies

Oceanside Museum of Art

Head over to the Oceanside Museum of Art for visual inspirations in the galleries. This is not a boring art museum by any means, with changing exhibitions and artful experiences for all. Select local artists have works on display that adds to the collections of trendy and more traditional sculptures and paintings. I was invited to view the recent exhibit, “Duke Windsor: Nothing’s Impossible” and there were 29 paintings of well-made and juicy burgers. Mr. Windsor told me art has no limitations and the burgers were a different type of still-life food painting. The reaction from visitors was that the paintings created a powerful craving for a hamburger.

Duke Windsor paints still-life hamburgers with butterflies to show life

The museum is celebrating its 25th anniversary and is an inviting cultural place in Oceanside, even bringing people internationally for the Plein Art Festival. 

Where to Dine

A favorite activity in the California sunshine is a picnic on the beach or at a park. Many of the parks like Buccaneer Beach and Buddy Todd Park have convenient tables, restrooms, and parking. Play areas for children are available and sunset views are a given.

Beach Break Cafe

There’s no shortage of delicious food in Oceanside where “flip flop” dining is acceptable. To start the day and get into the ocean mood, Beach Break Cafe offers a hardy breakfast and a popular large piece of coffee cake. Hanging surfboards and beach decor line the restaurant and if there is a long wait to eat, grab a seat at the counter. My friend and I did just that on a busy Sunday and it was a fun change from sitting at a typical table. 

Miss Kims bbq

Miss Kim’s by That Boy Good (BBQ)

When it’s time for lunch and a cold brewski, head over to Miss Kim’s by That Boy Good bbq joint.

Southern style is served here with collard greens, cornbread, gumbo, and bbq meats. It’s a lively place with a funky vibe and creative cocktails. A popular order is their famous dirty fries piled high with meat, mac n cheese, bbq sauce, and jalapenos. I went for a sampling of meats, beans, and cornbread.

Drink a spiked sweet tea to put out the fire!

Blade 1936

Dinner time offers many upscale and modern restaurants scattered about the town. Blade 1936 is housed in the old Blade Tribune newspaper building and has retained the original art deco design. The pasta, pizza, and sauces are made fresh and an extensive menu is offered in the restaurant and for drinks in the bar.

333 Pacific

If you are in the mood for fresh fish or a sizzling steak, 333 Pacific sits across the street from the ocean and many of the tables have views of the ocean. Check cohnrestaurants.com/333pacific for reservations and the menu. I sat in a booth with friends and it was high enough to see the sun set on the ocean. A specialty cocktail adds to the ambiance.

Ready for some fried chicken? A great place to eat after all this activity on the east side of Oceanside is Felix’s BBQ with Soul. Felix told me he cooks Alabama-style food which is his home state. I couldn’t help myself but to munch down on crunchy fried chicken, catfish, and black-eyed peas. Felixsbbq.com lists the menu and other information.

Where to Stay

New hotels have been added to the scenic shoreline and I stayed at The Seabird Resort, (a Hyatt resort). Rooms are designed in a nautical style and have decor from the local Oceanside Museum of Art. The resort caters to families and has plenty of information about activities and dining. After my good night’s sleep listening to the ocean waves, my morning swim in the rooftop pool was especially relaxing. Across the street is Seabird’s sister property, Mission Pacific Hotel, and sunsets on the rooftop bar should not be missed. Reservations for the bar are required since it’s quite popular at certain times of the year.

The Fin Hotel, (a Hilton Hotel), is near downtown yet only a half mile from the beach. Noted as a boutique hotel, the modern rooms provide comfortable amenities. Don’t miss the Tiffany windows from 1927 and the mural of old cars on the outside of the building.

If camping or RVing are your preferred methods of staying, check visitoceanside.com for suggested places to fit your needs. Those with military access can also review sites available near US Marine Corps Camp Pendleton.

Oceanside Pier 11.18.19

Getting to Oceanside

The transit center is the hub for many transportation ways to access San Diego and more. Amtrak has the Pacific Surfrider which operates trains throughout the day to downtown San Diego and Los Angeles. The Coaster goes from Oceanside to downtown San Diego with coastal stops along the way. The Sprinter travels east to Escondido and the Metrolink heads to many areas in Southern California, Riverside, and San Bernardino. Local buses also use the transit center and parking is available.

These various modes of transportation can be handy for day trips to many places in Southern California. No freeway driving or looking for parking in popular areas.


Oceanside is a must-see destination that offers a cool and calm vibe throughout the year with plenty of activities and relaxation along Southern California’s coast. Come for the day or stay a week and soak up the adventures of sand, eats, and a bit of history.

Visit Oceanside has a great deal of information to make your trip pleasant and memorable.

 Oceanside CA Things To Do: Surfing, Shopping, History and Food #travel #trip #vacation #oceaside #california #san-deigo #surfing #beach


M'Liss Hinshaw

by M'Liss Hinshaw

M'Liss became a freelance travel writer after retiring from county service in San Diego, her home town. When traveling, her husband assists her with photography and together they explore new places and don’t mind revisiting our favorites. She says "travel is a window to the world and we like to open the window for others."

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