Looking to visit a classic Southern California beach town? Check out these best things to do in Oceanside, California to make the most of your visit.
The Oceanside Harbor Village has something for everyone — from food, souvenirs, local wildlife, and boat rentals, you can spend all day being a tourist in the Harbor.
Oceanside, California is one of the state’s most laid-back coastal towns, known for its rich surf culture, the iconic Oceanside Pier, and world-famous Top Gun House, along with stunning sparkling beaches and friendly locals.
Oceanside sits conveniently in Southern California, about 38 miles from downtown San Diego and also offers an easy trip north to Los Angeles. With plenty of local markets, public beaches, and weekly events, Oceanside is a great town to experience alongside the local residents.
Whether you’re traveling around the city with family, heading to the beach on your own, or on a trip with your significant other, Oceanside offers something for everyone. Outdoor enthusiasts, culture and art lovers, kids of all ages, and beach bums alike will find many ways to stay busy in Oceanside.
For all the best things to do in Oceanside, California, we’ve put together a list of some of the most popular tourist hot spots, local favorites, and great places for the whole family.
Dolphin & Whale Watching is a ride on a cosy boat to the hot spots where you can see some amazing aquatic life. You will be accompanied by a guide who will ensure that you get the best possible experience of seeing the dolphins, whales and sea lions. This tour has all the costs covered, so you won’t have to worry about spending any extra cash for your trip!
From Oceanside, you'll head out on a two-hour whale watching tour aboard a comfortable 50-foot (15-meter) catamaran. During the cruise, your certified naturalist guide will point out different marine species and share whale facts and folklore. Enjoy incredible views of migrating gray whales in the winter or Pacific white-sided dolphins all year long!
This scavenger hunt will provide a unique experience for visitors to Oceanside. Unlike walking tours that rely on guides, game-based challenges and quests encourage independent exploration by providing tasks to complete along the way. Communicate with a remote game host via chat during the hunt and compare scores with other teams across the country when you’re done.
Show Table of Contents
- Fun & Best Things to Do in Oceanside, CA
- 1. Oceanside Pier
- 2. Top Gun House
- 3. Mission San Luis Rey
- 4. California Surf Museum
- 5. Oceanside Harbor Village
- 6. Oceanside Museum of Art
- 7. Oceanside Farmer’s Market
- 8. Oceanside Strand Beach
- 9. Guajome County Park
- 10. Beach House Winery
- 11. Tyson Street Beach
- 12. Beach Break Café
- 13. Hello Betty Fish House
- 14. Oceanside Brewing Co.
- What is Oceanside known for?
- How to Get Around Oceanside, CA
- Travel by Coaster
- Travel by Sprinter
- Travel by Ridesharing
- Travel by Metrolink
- Travel by Rental Car
- What are some fun things to do in Oceanside, CA?
- What is the best thing to do with kids in Oceanside, CA?
- What are some things to do in Oceanside, CA when it is raining?
For those wondering, “Is Oceanside, California worth visiting?” you’ll find this post contains activities, ideas, and events for solo travelers, families, and everyone in between. Here are a few noteworthy landmarks that you can’t miss when you visit Oceanside.
- Most significant landmark – Mission San Luis Rey
- Best park – Guajome County Park
- Best free activity – Oceanside Pier
- Best activity for kids – Oceanside Strand Beach
- Best activity for adults – Top Gun House
- Best food – Hello Betty Fish House
- Best nightlife – Oceanside Brewing Co.
- Best place to stay – Club Wyndham Oceanside Pier Resort
Fun & Best Things to Do in Oceanside, CA
As one of the most popular coastal towns to visit in California, Oceanside offers exciting events, local gatherings, music, and art experiences. With plenty of pristine beaches to ride the waves, catch fish, and spend all day on the Pacific Ocean, it’s no surprise Oceanside, California is one of the state’s most popular and loved coastal cities.
Here are the best places to visit in Oceanside, California!
1. Oceanside Pier
Address: Pier, Oceanside, California 92054
The best way to experience Oceanside’s stunning ocean views is from the Oceanside Pier, spanning 1/3 of a mile (1,943 feet) and one of Oceanside’s most memorable landmarks. The iconic Oceanside Pier is an absolute must-see for visitors and their families. Built in 1888, the pier has seen six different structures, with the most recently being built in 1987.
Take an enjoyable stroll on the historic wooden pier and grab lunch – or even catch your own. Cast a line or watch the surfers, get some bird watching in, and make a stop at the convenience store halfway down the pier for bait and tackle and souvenirs.
The pier is easy to access by car, bike, or train, with plenty of public parking for a day spent at the beach. Popular beach spots on the Oceanside Pier include Tyson Street Beach and Buccaneer Beach.
Located near the heart of downtown Oceanside, the pier is steps from the sandy beach, with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. The pier is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and has great activities to witness, particularly in the spring and summer months.
Looking for a place to stay near the pier so you can enjoy all its splendor? Try the Club Wyndham Oceanside Pier Resort.
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2. Top Gun House
Address: 250 N Pacific Street, Oceanside, CA 92054
Built in 1887, the “Top Gun House” has been an Oceanside classic landmark for over 150 years. Originally owned by Dr. Henry Graves, who spent the summers in Oceanside with his family. This house was rented by the blockbuster movie Top Gunto act as the home of flight instructor Charlie Blackwood, played by Kelly McGillis in 1986.
Since the film, the Top Gun House has been a local favorite, with visitors and local residents stopping by to admire the home’s Folk Victorian-style architecture right on the coast.
Since the hit movie was released, Top Gun House has been relocated a few hundred feet away to sit on the grounds at the new Mission Pacific Resort, where it now serves as a Top Gun-themed pie shop called High Pie, attracting tourists with its brilliant, original sky-blue color and offering tasty pies, craft beverages, and Top Gun merchandise.
Located across the street from the Oceanside Pier, the Top Gun House is a must-see for fans of film and architectural lovers alike.
3. Mission San Luis Rey
Address: 4050 Mission Avenue, Oceanside, CA 92057
One of Oceanside’s most historic landmarks, Mission San Luis Rey has been called the beach town home since the 1800s. As California’s largest mission, it is known as “King of the Missions” and is home to the Franciscan Friars.
Open daily to the public, the San Luis Rey mission offers a taste of Franciscan culture and heritage through self-guided tours, meditation practices, spiritual renewal programs, and private retreats. There’s an on-site interpretive museum, which is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm and costs $8 for adults. Children under 5 get in free!
If you’re in town for a few days and need extra relaxation, book a spot in the Quiet Day Retreat at the San Luis Rey mission, where you’ll unplug from all electronics and spend the day meditating, journaling, and reflecting in the private gardens or the St. Clare Retreat Chapel.
Explore the Soldier’s Barracks, Historic Mission Church, the oldest Cemetery in North County, and the Lavanderia, an open-air laundry system where Indian neophytes washed their clothing. There are endless amounts of history and culture to explore at the San Luis Rey mission.
Mission San Luis Rey is a rich serving of culture in Oceanside, California, and is packed with history. Additionally, the mission can be a nice change of pace from the beach and harbor visits when your family needs a break from the sun.
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4. California Surf Museum
Address: 312 Pier View WayOceanside, CA 92054
Oceanside’s local residents work hard to preserve the culture and history of the town. California Surf Museum (CSM) was founded to showcase the surf culture and heritage that makes the beachside community so unique. Over the last 3 decades, the California Surf Museum has become an essential tourist spot for those visiting San Diego County who are curious about the town’s bold beginnings.
The museum is open from 10 am to 4 pm daily and also hosts local events, including annual galas, book signings, film screenings, and more.
The California Surf Museum offers interesting exhibits that preserve the surf and skate culture, art, and history in Oceanside. Current exhibits at CSM include the evolution of the boogie board, Bethany Hamilton’s inspirational story, and Kelly Slater’s surfboard.
The California Surf Museum has exhibits that share many surfing legends who have spent time surfing at Oceanside beaches, making a name for themselves on the West Coast and within the surfing world.
Don’t miss the museum’s gift shop selling vintage coffee mugs, license plate covers, apparel, and unique souvenirs. Grab the kids and head down to the museum on Pier View Way for a day of culture and history.
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5. Oceanside Harbor Village
Address: 280 Harbor Drive, Oceanside Harbor, Oceanside, CA 92054
A local favorite in San Diego County, the village is located inside Oceanside Harbor and features waterfront restaurants, bars, paddle boarding, unique shops, and sport fishing. Located about 1.1 miles from Oceanside Pier, Harbor Beach and Village are both memorable spots for families, solo travelers, and everyone in between.
Step out for some fresh air and explore local artists’ creations. Wave hello to the sea lions and grab a bite at one of the many family-friendly restaurants right on the water. If you’re feeling adventurous, book a whale-watching tour, or rent a boat to explore the Pacific Ocean and California’s stunning coastline.
With many popular hotels nearby, Oceanside Harbor Village is a bustling, busy place with perfect weather all year round. Whether you’re popping in for a bite or heading out on your way to Oceanside Harbor Beach, Harbor Village is worth a visit.
Grab the kids, pack the stroller, and prepare for a whole day’s worth of outdoor activities and delicious food; this is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Oceanside, California, with kids. Stay for the stunning Southern California sunset right on the water and create beach vacation memories to last a lifetime.
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6. Oceanside Museum of Art
Address: 704 Pier View Way, Oceanside, CA 92054
Looking for a taste of contemporary art in Oceanside, California? Look no further than the Oceanside Museum of Art (OMA), a museum that explores both new and historical art in Southern California.
Oceanside Museum of Art opened in 1995 as a non-profit organization with the primary goal of becoming a nationally-acclaimed gathering place to celebrate arts and culture. Since then, residents and visitors have flocked to OMA for a serving of Southern California’s art heritage.
Current exhibits include sculptures, paintings, studio furniture, quilts, and architectural glass.
Oceanside Museum of Art is open on Thursdays and Saturdays from 11 am to 5 pm, Fridays from 11 am to 8 pm, and Sundays from 11 am to 5 pm. Regular price tickets are $10 and children under 18 get in for free. The museum also offers discounts for military personnel.
Oceanside Museum of Art offers many events for the public, from Community Art Days for kids to art workshops for adults, art auctions, and musical performances open to the public.
Don’t forget to pop into the Museum Store, where local artists sell their work; books, cards, sculptures, jewelry, paintings, and much more. It’s a great way to remember your visit to one of the most beautiful coastal towns in California.
7. Oceanside Farmer’s Market
Address: 701 Mission Avenue, Oceanside, CA 92054
Staying in Oceanside means you have to spend some time in downtown Oceanside to fully experience the vibrant energy and playful fun the city offers for locals and tourists.
The Oceanside Farmer’s Market takes place every week, so plan accordingly. The Farmer’s Market is a 30-year tradition in Oceanside, California, and brings in new faces each week to find local treasures and tasty treats.
Operating Thursdays from 9 am to 1 pm, Oceanside Farmer’s Market is filled with fresh produce, flowers, artisan baked goods, honey, and much more. Small businesses serve as vendors at the Farmer’s Market, so you can interact with local residents firsthand at this eclectic local market.
There’s no better way to give back to the Oceanside community and thank them for their hospitality than by purchasing the goods they grow or make by hand. Buy some tasty treats, meet the locals, and then head out to the beach for the day.
You’ll find the Farmer’s Market at the Corner of Pier View Way and North Coast Highway every Thursday. Visit their Facebook page for weekly updates on what to expect at the market.
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8. Oceanside Strand Beach
Address: Seagaze Dr. at S the Strand, Oceanside, CA 92054
When you’re looking for stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, fresh air, and a day full of fun, Oceanside Strand Beach is a perfect choice.
Ride bikes, walk, run, bring the stroller, and utilize the picnic tables, barbecue grills, and open space for an enjoyable day out with the whole family. Pack a lunch and enjoy the sunshine at one of Oceanside’s most popular beach spots.
Enjoy the wide, sandy beach and play a fun game of beach volleyball, build sandcastles, or work on your sun tan. Watch the surfers catch a wave and take the kids to the nearby playground.
The Strand is a great spot for people-watching. The 3.5 miles of beach are normally filled with visitors that flock to Oceanside Beach each day for the views and relaxation. If you’re a beach bum or just on the hunt for free things to do in Oceanside, the Oceanside Strand Beach is a must-see.
9. Guajome County Park
Address: 3000 Guajome Lake Road, Oceanside, CA 92057
If you need a break from the beach but still want to spend time outdoors, Guajome County Park is a convenient 8 miles from the Pacific Ocean in Oceanside, California. The park contains 4.5 miles of multi-use trails that are great for walking, running, or biking.
Grab your fishing rods and head out to see if the fish are biting at the two ponds on-site, or try your hand at bird-watching with the migratory birds that flock to this local park all year round.
Guajome County Park also features two day-use areas with new playgrounds, a basketball court, public restrooms, and expansive lawn space for picnics, activities, and spending the day in the sunshine for some healthy family fun.
If you’re the outdoor adventure type, Guajome County Park has 33 tents and RV campsites. You won’t even realize how close you are to civilization and the Pacific Ocean; Guajome County Park is a very serene, peaceful place to spend a few days.
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10. Beach House Winery
Address: 1534 Sleeping Indian Road, Oceanside, CA 92057
When it’s time to drop the kids off and relax with a glass of wine, Beach House Winery is the perfect spot in Oceanside, California. Hidden on the border of Oceanside and Fallbrook, Beach House Winery has a welcoming, family vibe, with owners Kim and George creating a warm, inviting space for everyone who walks in the door.
Visitors love this winery because of the friendly staff, generous pours, and great-tasting wines. Enjoy the rooftop for epic views and amazing photo ops, and memories to be made.
For wine tastings and stunning panoramic views, Beach House Winery is Oceanside’s first vineyard by the sea. The winery’s doors opened in 2010, with its owners falling in love with wine in the 90s and eventually opening their own winery to share with friends and family. It just so happened that the locals loved it too and keep coming back for more!
Beach Winery is open on Saturday and Sunday from 12 pm to 4 pm, so plan accordingly if you’d like to visit. It’s about 10 miles from downtown Oceanside and is off the beaten path of the sandy beach.
11. Tyson Street Beach
Address: Tyson St, Oceanside, CA 92054
One of Oceanside’s most popular beaches is Tyson Street Beach, with easy access from Pacific Street and a great location for families with kids.
Tyson Street Beach is close in proximity to the Oceanside Pier. With cheap parking and easy access from the street, Tyson Street Beach is ideal to spend the entire day. Watch the surfers, play in the grassy park, relax together, and bring food and snacks to share with the whole family.
Tyson Street Beach is located on the Strand and has a fair amount of traffic. It gets particularly busy towards the end of the day, when people are getting off work and in search of some fresh air. If you’d prefer to avoid the crowds, plan to pack a lunch and leave by 3 pm.
If you don’t mind the hustle and bustle, hang out at Tyson Street beach for the people-watching and the killer sunset over the water.
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12. Beach Break Café
Address: 1802 South Coast Highway, Oceanside, CA 92054
For breakfast lovers and early risers, Beach Break Café is a match made in heaven.
Located off the historic 101 in Oceanside, California, Beach Break Café is run by a local Oceanside family who opened the joint in 1988. This sweet beachside restaurant was voted the Food Network’s “#1 Mom and Pop Restaurant in the Country,” so it must be something special.
Locals love the Banana Crunch French Toast, Killer Burrito, and the wide variety of scrambles and omelets. For the lighter breakfast options, they serve a fresh, tasty acai bowl, oatmeal, and seasonal fruit.
Beach Break’s lunch menu includes classic items like grilled cheese, BLT, and a turkey club. Don’t miss out on their selection of savory burgers, fresh-made salads, and homemade chicken chili.
Beach Break Café is open daily from 7 am to 2 pm with dine-in and takeout services.
13. Hello Betty Fish House
Address: 211 Mission Ave, Oceanside CA 92054
After a long day at the beach, Hello Betty Fish House is a fantastic place to stop for a cold beer and some tasty beachside cuisine.
Hello Betty Fish House offers a spin on classic Baja beach favorites like margaritas, fish tacos, and fresh, local ingredients. Located a few short blocks from the Strand on Mission Avenue, this local hot spot is a great place to grab a bite and a couple of beers after a long day.
This eclectic restaurant menu features classics like fish and chips, a tuna melt, and tons of taco and seafood options. Their booze list includes an O’side margarita, Skinny colada, an impressive wine list, and 24 beers on tap.
Come for the food and drinks; stay for the energy at Hello Betty Fish House. They host a slew of local events, like Aloha Fridays, with live music on the rooftop and Happy Hour every Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 pm, which includes $1 tacos!
Bring the family for a delicious meal, come with your significant other for the cocktails, or enjoy a solo beer and the lively atmosphere. Enjoy the sunset from the rooftop lounge and smell the salty air as you sip on a tasty beverage of your choice. Anything’s possible at Hello Betty Fish House!
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14. Oceanside Brewing Co.
Address: 312 Via Del Norte, Oceanside, CA 92058
For all the beer lovers out there, Oceanside Brewing Co. has all you could want from a local brewery and more! Featuring over 22 unique brews on tap, including Ales, Lagers, Barleywines, and more, this local spot draws in tourists and residents alike as they crave craft beer during the hot summer months.
As an active member of Oceanside’s brew community, Oceanside Brewing Co. hosts various events throughout the year, including live music, local food trucks, art exhibits, and more.
With one of the largest brew selections in Southern California, there’s definitely a beer for every taste profile, even the pickiest beer drinker in your life. Their signature brews are an English-style porter, an Oceanside Styled IPA, and a signature cream ale. Their menu also includes fruit-infused blondes and ales and many more.
OBC also offers five unique beer flights, all paying homage to military aircraft throughout history. Their most popular flight features 22 tasters and is highly encouraged to share with friends.
Oceanside Brewing Co. has been an Oceanside local gem for 6 years, and it’s no surprise why. Sitting outside in the sunshine, enjoying a local craft beer and great company — what more could you ask for on vacation?
See Related: Best Things to Do in San Jose, California
What is Oceanside known for?
Oceanside is widely known for its iconic wooden pier, stretching 1,942 long, and is home to local fishermen, great surf, and a fun place to grab lunch. The Oceanside Pier is a hot spot for tourists and locals who love spending time on the water.
Oceanside Harbor Village has something for everyone — from food, souvenirs, local wildlife, and boat rentals, you can spend all day being a tourist in the Harbor.
How to Get Around Oceanside, CA
Fortunately for visitors, Oceanside, California, is an easy city to enter and leave as you please. With several efficient transportation options, you’ll have no trouble planning trips out of the city in a rental car, by train, or by ridesharing.
Travel by Coaster
Oceanside is home to the Coaster, a commuter rail train that runs up and down the California coast, with 8 stops between downtown San Diego County and Oceanside. The Coaster offers 30 trips daily Monday through Friday and 20 trips on Saturdays and Sundays.
The Coaster is an efficient and affordable way to see North County and San Diego without having to worry about driving or getting stuck in the infamous Southern California traffic.
Travel by Sprinter
The Sprinter is a commuter train that runs 22 miles between Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos, and Escondido. It has 15 stops along the 78 freeway. If you want to explore North County and get a break from the beach, the Sprinter is an easy way to see more of SoCal’s inland cities. Get the Sprinter’s daily schedule here.
Travel by Ridesharing
Uber and Lyft are both available ridesharing options in Oceanside. If you’re traveling solo or with a friend or partner, ridesharing is a great way to get around the beach city. Explore rates on Lyft and Uber in Oceanside before you go.
The Metrolink is Oceanside’s commuter train that takes you north to Los Angeles, Orange County, and even Riverside. Avoid the headache of sitting in traffic if you want to explore the big cities in the area with the Metrolink. Find the Metrolink daily schedule here.
Travel by Rental Car
For families with kids with plans to explore the city, a rental car is the best option. If you plan to spend multiple days on the coast with toys, food, and beach gear, it’s more efficient to drive and park at the beach versus walking.
If you plan to explore Carlsbad or other beach cities with the family in tow, having a car is very convenient. Plus, parking access in Oceanside is plentiful, so you’ll never have to stress about finding a spot. Click here for great rental car options in Oceanside.
What are some fun things to do in Oceanside, CA?
Outside of the beach, Oceanside is home to several awesome local breweries, museums, and parks. If you’re in the mood for craft beer, head to Oceanside Brewing Co. for a unique local brew. Get a look into Oceanside’s unique surf history at Oceanside Surf Museum, or explore downtown Oceanside and Oceanside Boulevard to experience the city as the locals do.
What is the best thing to do with kids in Oceanside, CA?
Hit the beach! Oceanside is home to spectacular beaches made for swimming, surfing, and building the perfect sandcastle. If you’re staying in a hotel on The Strand, accessing the beach is easy and you can spend all day there.
What are some things to do in Oceanside, CA when it is raining?
While Southern California doesn’t get a lot of rainy days even during the winter, there are still plenty of activities to keep you busy indoors if it does rain on your vacation. Make a stop at the Oceanside Museum of Art and immerse yourself in contemporary art by California artists, take a tour of Mission San Luis Rey, or jump on the Coaster and head to San Diego for a baseball game or some fantastic shopping.
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- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a seasoned traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers find their next adventure, whether it’s exploring new places or revisiting old favorites.
He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wonderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). He loves listening to people’s stories from around the world as well as sharing his own experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.