Oceanside Pier, Beaches, and Local Attractions


Location: Oceanside (38 Miles / 40 Minutes North of Downtown San Diego)

Features: Longest Wooden Pier on the West Coast; 3 Miles of Beaches; Boat Harbor; California Surf Museum; Art Museum; Theatre; Thursday Night Hot Spot

oceansideOceanside Introduction: Oceanside, CA is the first city in San Diego County that visitors can explore when driving south on highway I-5 from Los Angeles and Disneyland. It provides a nice break for drivers who enjoyed views of the Pacific Ocean during their 17-mile drive through Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton but didn’t have an opportunity to pull over to get their feet wet in the surf. (If you are lucky, you will get to see the Marines practicing an amphibious landing while driving through the Base. However, don’t stop to watch or you’ll get a ticket from the Highway Patrol.)

Once you reach Oceanside, you will want to pull off at Exit 54a to visit the California Welcome Center, which you will find at the end of the exit ramp. After picking up brochures and discount tickets to San Diego attractions, you are only a few blocks away from enjoying the classic California beach culture that Oceanside has to offer.

Nature Trail

If you need to stretch out your legs and enjoy a few quiet moments with nature before starting your adventure, go for a walk or bike ride on the San Luis Rey River Trail. This 7.2 mile trail is for pedestrians only and runs along the San Luis Rey Riverbed. It starts just a couple blocks away from the Visitors Center.

California Surf Museum

Otherwise, your first stop should be the California Surf Museum. The official surf museum for the State of California takes visitors on a journey through the history of surfing, which helped make California beaches famous around the world. You will see pictures, memorabilia, and trophies for champion surfers from the days of George Freeth, nicknamed Brown Mercury by author Jack London, to recent champions like Kelly Slater. You will also learn about the many changes that took place in surfboard design. Examples of surfboards line the walls, including the story of world-renowned Gerry Lopez and his Lightning Bolt.

oceanside-pier-smallOceanside Pier

Once you have finished your visit to the California Surf Museum, it’s time to walk to the beach to check out the real action. (You’ll need to head a block south from the Surf Museum and take Mission Avenue across the train tracks before getting back over to Pier View Way to reach the Oceanside Pier.) The Oceanside Pier will give you the best views of the beach area. At nearly 4/10ths of a mile long, the Oceanside Pier is the longest wooden pier on the West Coast.

The first half of the Pier offers benches where visitors can relax, enjoy a bite to eat, and watch top caliber surfers attempt new tricks. You will find a small snack and gift shop half-way out on the Pier. After that point, the Pier is a little rougher to walk on (not a problem unless you have difficulty walking or use a wheelchair) and there are no benches to sit on. This is where you will get to watch people fishing in an attempt to catch dinner for the evening.

If you walk all the way to the end of the Pier you can reward yourself with a meal or treat while sitting nearly 4/10ths of a mile out in the ocean at Ruby’s Diner. They only take reservations for groups of 12 or more at 760-433-7829. Otherwise seating take place on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Lunch time and summer evenings are generally the busiest times when there is a good chance you may have a long wait to get a table.

oceanside-beachOceanside Beaches

The three-mile stretch of sandy coastline in Oceanside offers eight beaches to choose from. The most popular is Pier View South, adjacent to the Oceanside Pier. This is where you can watch surfing competitions throughout the summer. The beach is also home to the Oceanside Amphitheater, right above the entrance to the Oceanside Pier, which hosts musical performances during the summer.

Those looking for a more laid-back and quiet beach experience can head north or south of the Oceanside Pier. The City of Oceanside provides a nice description of what to expect at each of the Oceanside Beaches, pointing out where you can find a playground, play volleyball, or find good swimming spots.  You’ll also find a list of their beach rules, which include no alcohol and no dogs.

oceanside-strandMost of the Oceanside Beaches can be easily accessed along The Strand. The Strand is a 1.25 mile stretch of lightly used roadway that runs right along the beach and the Oceanside Pier. Although vehicles are allowed on The Strand, most visitors park a couple blocks to the east where most parking is free. Those with disabilities and those willing to pay the higher parking fees will use a few of the smaller parking lots along The Strand. Otherwise, The Strand is mainly used by pedestrians and cyclists enjoying the views and nice ocean breezes. With the exception of a Wheel Fun Bike Rentals and a McDonald’s underneath the Oceanside Pier, there are basically no other businesses located on The Strand. You will find the shops and restaurants just a quarter mile to the east on the other side of the train tracks and parking lots.

Kayak rentals, lessons, and tours are available at the south end of Oceanside at Carlsbad Paddle Sports. Kayak rentals are also available from Boat Rentals of America,which is located in the north end of Oceanside along the Harbor.

Surfing in Oceanside

Are you looking for the ultimate Southern California adventure? No sport is more synonymous with the Southern California lifestyle than surfing. Whether you want to rent a surf board or take a class, there are several Oceanside companies ready to serve you. If you have never surfed before, you should definitely take a class. They’ll make sure you can get up on the ‘beginners waves’ and stay out of the way of professionals. Here is a list of companies to help you get started.

Asylum Board Shop – Surf Shop that also rents surfboards and bodyboards.

Surfin Fire – Located under the Oceanside Pier, Surfin Fire offers lessons on a walk-up basis.

Team Wahine Surfing School – Located in the Oceanside Harbor and offering one-hour lessons. Also offers 5-day surf camps for kids.

Surf Camps USA – Located a couple blocks south of Oceanside Pier. Offers weekend and week long camps as well as private lessons.

Oceanside Harbor

North of the Oceanside Beaches, visitors will find the Oceanside Harbor. Here, you can take a tour of the coastline on a sailboat, head out in the ocean for whale-watching, rent boats and wave runners, or just enjoy a bite to eat and a browse around souvenir shops as you watch fancy boats sailing in and out of the harbor.

Downtown Oceanside

Mission Avenue, Pier View Way, and North Coast Highway are the main streets in Oceanside filled with shops and restaurants. You will see quite a few barber shops and supply stores that serve the Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton. You will also find a number of restaurants and tourist shops, including the popular Harney Sushi on Mission Avenue. To see more Oceanside dining options, visit the City of Oceanside’s Visitors web site.

Those who appreciate art will want to visit the Oceanside Museum of Art, which hosts visiting exhibitions that often emphasize modern art and landscape art inspired by the Southern California climate and terrain. This modern facility hosts a number of  art and film, art and music, and art with dining events each month.

In the evenings, visitors can take in a play, musical, or concert at the Sunshine Brooks Theatre, watch a movie at the Oceanside Regal Cinemas 16, or, of course, enjoy the famous Southern California sunset. Again, all of these attractions are within a few blocks of one another.

Sunset Market on Thursday Evenings

The Sunset Market on Thursday evenings year-round is a cross between a farmer’s market and a festival.  Six blocks of streets are shut down starting at 5PM with the center of the action occuring at the intersection of Tremont Street and Pier View Way. You get to enjoy live entertainment while browsing through arts and crafts displays, food, and fresh produce. You will even get to visit the California Surf Museum for free during its extended hours for Sunset Market Thursdays.

More Oceanside

If you are looking for even more to do in Oceanside, consider taking a self-guided walking tour of Oceanside. Look for a pamphlet called the ‘Self Guided History Tour of Downtown Oceanside’ sponsored by Cafe 101. You should be able to find one in the Surf Museum, Visitors Center, and other local attractions. It includes a map and description of 20 historical buildings and homes around town.

Birders will want to head two miles south on the Coast Highway to visit the Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center. Those who like big trucks and military vehicles should head north to the Marine Corps Command Mechanized Museum. Finally, for a taste of California history, you can head east to the largest of the California Missions, Mission San Luis Rey.

More extensive details on the local shops, restaurants, and beaches can be found on the San Diego Coast Life web site.

Information on Visiting Oceanside

Directions from Google Maps to the Oceanside Pier at Pier View Way and The Strand in Oceanside, CA 92054.

Traffic – Other than summer weekends, getting to and from the Oceanside Pier and surrounding beaches is relatively easy. (Learn more about getting San Diego traffic updates.)

Parking – There is parking on local streets and parking lots along Mission Avenue and Pier View Way.  Some street parking and parking lots are free for a limited time period (up to a few hours in some cases). Others spots require a nominal fee. The largest parking lots are along the train tracks, where Mission Avenue and Pier View Way meet Cleveland Street.

Transit – The Oceanside Pier and Downtown Oceanside are a quarter-mile walk north of the Oceanside Transit Center.  See San Diego Transit Information for details about the Oceanside Transit Center, which is served by AMTRAK, Coaster, and Metrolink trains.

Find More Attractions with Similar Themes or Location: Beaches & Surfing, Communities, Oceanside |

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