Get Some Fun PCH Gifts Here
Oceanside is a typical southern California beach town with a surf culture and with the Pacific Coast Highway running right through it.
Oceanside is about 90 miles south of Los Angeles International Airport, so if flying into LA you could be in Oceanside in 90 minutes. It's also about 40 miles north of San Diego, less than a 40-minute drive if you take I-5, though we prefer the slower oceanfront road through places like Del Mar and Carlsbad.
Jet Skiers near Oceanside Pier
When to Visit Oceanside?
Oceanside has an ideal climate so you can visit any time of the year. You're more likely to see some rain in the winter months, but from April to October there's less than an inch of rain each month.
There can be days in winter when it will fall below freezing at night, but they're few and far between. The average daytime temperature is in the 50s in winter and the upper 60s in summer, but it's likely to be warmer than that. Even in January they've experienced a record high temperature of 92 degrees!
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia
Oceanside was first settled by Native American peoples, partly because of its location on the San Luis Rey River. These days there's an enjoyable hiking and biking trail alongside the river.
The first Spanish missionaries arrived in 1769 and founded the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. This is about five miles inland from the Pacific Coast Highway, and well worth making the detour to see. The church on the site today was built in 1815 and is a beautiful building and a National Historic Landmark.
Oceanside slowly developed as an agricultural community, thanks to the supply of fresh water from the river. The town grew from that, aided by tourism in the 20th century and today it has a population of about 175,000.
What to See and Do in Oceanside
In addition to the river trail and the mission, here are some of the other things to see and do in Oceanside.
Buena Vista Audubon Society Nature Center
Right by the Buena Vista Lagoon Ecological Reserve, as you head south towards Carlsbad, is this nature center. It shows you
what you're missing if you speed north on I-5, which goes right by the eastern
end of the 220-acre lagoon. There are viewing platforms, exhibitions, and a
nature trail which has a neat interpretive map for your cell phone that tells
you what you're seeing as you walk round.
The reserve is particularly known for its birds, including turkey vultures, peregrine falcons, hawks, owls, herons, and kingfishers.
California Surf Museum
The California Surf Museum
The California Surf Museum has displays on surfing life and culture that should appeal to both surfers and non-surfers, and are also a good family attraction. There's naturally a huge collection of surfboards, including one that a shark has taken a bite out of. As well as surfing memorabilia and music, there are changing exhibitions too.
Golfing in Oceanside
The Arrowood Golf Course in Oceanside
Oceanside is home to Goat Hill Park, which
was the first golf course in San Diego County, and the sport has continued to
grow ever since. No matter what your ability, you'll find a course to suit you.
Some of them offer ocean views, too. You can find a list of courses on the
Visit Oceanside website's golf page.
Oceanside Harbor is no regular harbor. For
a start it has three different areas, including stretches of beach. It's used
by surfers and paddleboarders, and is where you can book whale watching cruises
or deep-sea fishing trips. There are plenty of shops and eating places around
Oceanside Museum of Art
The Oceanside Museum of Art
Not far from the California Surf Museum, a
few blocks back from the pier, is the Oceanside
Museum of Art. The museum opened in 1997 and is spread across two
buildings, with the collection featuring contemporary artists of southern
Surfers in Front of Oceanside Pier
Oceanside Pier was built in 1888 and is 1,942 feet long. If you visit Oceanside you just have to walk to the end for the views, and there's also the chance that you might see whales. The pier is a popular spot for fishing and for surfing, as the waves crash in either side of the pier. It's a good vantage point if you want to watch the surfers. There's also an amphitheater adjacent to the pier that's used for holding events.
The Amphitheater near Oceanside Pier
As with other places like Dana Point and San Diego, Oceanside is a good place for whale watching. You can sometimes see whales and dolphins from the pier, and if you want to go out on a boat head to the harbor where there are plenty of tour boats to choose from.
Oceanside hosts many major events throughout the year so if you're planning to stay overnight you should book your accommodation well ahead in case your visit coincides with one of these big events, which normally attract huge crowds.
January sees the Surf Cup and the Scholastic Surf Series. There are other surfing events throughout the year. In February there's an International Film Festival.
Oceanside's Beach Soccer Championships
In late May Oceanside hosts the Beach Soccer Championships.
In mid-June Oceanside acts as the starting point for the annual 3,000-mile Race Across America bicycle race, regarded as one of the toughest sporting challenges in the world. June also brings the USA Surfing Championships.
The Club Wyndham Oceanside Beach Resort
Where to Stay in Oceanside
More California coast pages
Pacific Coast Highway Travel recommends some of the top wildlife spots along the California coast.
Pacific Grove is a small city on the California coast, next to Monterey and close to Carmel, with attractions including its historic Victorian houses.
Lonely Planet's Coastal California guidebook is the ideal travel guide for driving or cycling the Pacific Coast Highway from the Oregon border to Mexico.
This Visiting Hearst Castle page gives all the practicalities including location, types of tour, length of tours, how long to allow, and much more information.
Dana Point in California is the official start or end of the Pacific Coast Highway, and its attractions include whale watching, and Doheny State Beach.
La Jolla in southern California is north of San Diego off the Pacific Coast Highway and has museums, restaurants, hotels, beaches, and the Birch Aquarium.
The Stanford Inn by the Sea in Mendocino on the California coast is an eco-resort with yoga classes and the award-winning Ravens Restaurant.
Malibu is a beach city north of Los Angeles famous for the celebrities who live there in expensive homes and the Pacific Coast Highway runs through it and there are beaches and hikes for all to enjoy.
Drive the Pacific Coast Highway and you have to cross Bixby Bridge in California, ten miles north of Big Sur and 30 minutes south of Monterey.
Crescent City is on the Pacific Coast Highway in northern California and noted for its crescent-shaped beach, Ocean World sea park, and nearby redwoods and state parks.
Standing on the Pacific Coast Highway in California, Santa Barbara is an attractive resort with a historic downtown, sandy beaches, a mission, and good museums.
The Point Reyes National Seashore is an hour’s drive northwest of San Francisco on the Pacific Coast Highway and is maintained by the National Park Service.
Carlsbad is a beach city north of San Diego in southern California famous for its flower fields, LEGOLAND resort and water park, surfing and SEA LIFE Aquarium.
The Pelican Inn and Suites in Cambria on California's Central Coast has oceanfront views, swimming pool, gardens, and is right on the beach near Hearst Castle.
Whale watching in California is one of the most popular things to do along the Pacific Coast Highway, in places like San Diego, San Francisco and many more.
Mendocino in Mendocino County is a small but pretty California coastal town, popular with artists and with travelers. It has featured in many songs and movies.
Morro Bay is a delightful small town on the California coast roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles and noted for the huge Morro Rock.
A walk around the Point Lobos State Reserve near Monterey and Carmel provides lots of photo opportunities, especially of the Harbor Seal Birthing Area.
Monterey in California is off the Pacific Coast Highway and home to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Monterey State Historic Park.
The Lighthouse Inn at Point Cabrillo is a romantic, historic guesthouse on the Mendocino California coast, on the Pacific Coast Highway.
The Casa Laguna Hotel and Spa in Laguna Beach is right on the Pacific Coast Highway and has luxury rooms, a swimming pool, and real gourmet breakfasts.
San Clemente in California is a small city on the Pacific Coast Highway midway between San Diego and Los Angeles, noted for its beaches and surfing.
The Pacific Coast Highway goes right through Laguna Beach, a relaxed artsy beach resort whose attractions include shopping, galleries, dining, and beaches.
Santa Monica in California is famous for its pier, and beaches, and is one of the best west coast vacation spots, with hotels, restaurants, surfing, museums.
San Luis Obispo in California is half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, on the Pacific Coast Highway and with lots of things to do and see.
May 10, 23 09:47 AM
A food and drink expert charts the perfect course from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Apr 26, 23 10:07 AM
California is home to some of the most diverse and beautiful natural landscapes in the world, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The state of California offers a wide range of outdoor activiti…
Apr 25, 23 11:08 AM
The latest study by Upgraded Points sets gas cars against electric vehicles to see which vehicle is truly the most economical on five American road trips. Examining the time and fuel costs along iconi…