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14 Best Things to Do in Oceanside, California

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Looking to visit a classic Southern California beach town? Check out these best activities and attractions in Oceanside to make the most of your visit.

The Oceanside Harbor Village has many amazing things to do, including great food, souvenirs, local wildlife, and boat rentals. You can spend all day being a tourist in the Harbor.

Oceanside is one of the state’s most laid-back coastal towns. It is known for its rich surf culture, iconic Oceanside Pier, world-famous Top Gun House, stunning sparkling beaches, and friendly locals.

Oceanside is conveniently located in Southern California, about 38 miles from downtown San Diego, and 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 its residents. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular tourist hot spots, local favorites, and great places for the whole family.

Tours in Oceanside

1. Dolphin & Whale Watching Top Recommendation

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!

2. Shared Two-Hour Whale Watching Tours from Oceanside, CA

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!

3. Unique Scavenger Hunt Experience in Oceanside by Operation City Quest

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.

TL;DR

  • Most significant landmark – Mission San Luis Rey
  • Park – Guajome County Park
  • Free activity – Oceanside Pier
  • Activity for kids – Oceanside Strand Beach
  • Activity for adults – Top Gun House
  • Place to eat – Hello Betty Fish House
  • NightlifeOceanside Brewing Co.
  • Place to stayClub Wyndham Oceanside Pier Resort

Things to Do in Oceanside, California

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 is one of the state’s most popular and loved coastal cities.

1. Oceanside Pier

Oceanside Pier Night View
Image by Alessandriana used under CC Share Alike 3.0

Address: 1, Oceanside Pier, Oceanside, CA 92054, United States

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 structures, most recently constructed in 1987.

Take an enjoyable stroll on the historic wooden pier, grab lunch, or even catch your own. Cast a line or watch the surfers, get some bird watching in, and stop at the convenience store halfway down the pier for bait, 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 there are great activities to witness, particularly in the spring and summer.

Looking for a place to stay near the pier so you can enjoy all its splendor? Try the Club Wyndham Oceanside Pier Resort.

See Related: Things to Do in Brentwood

2. Top Gun House

Top Gun House
Image by Larry Hartman

Address: 250 N Pacific St, Oceanside, CA 92054, United States

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.

In 1986, this house was rented by the blockbuster movie Top Gun to serve as the home of flight instructor Charlie Blackwood, played by Kelly McGillis.

Since the film, the Top Gun House has been a local favorite, with visitors and 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 film fans and architectural lovers alike.

3. Mission San Luis Rey

Mission San Luis Rey
Image by Nandaro used under CC Share Alike 3.0

Address: 4050 Mission Ave, Oceanside, CA 92057, United States

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. The on-site interpretive museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 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. The San Luis Rey mission offers endless history and culture to explore.

Mission San Luis Rey is a rich serving of culture in Oceanside, California, 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.

See Related: Things to Do in Lone Pine

4. California Surf Museum

California Surf Museum

Address: 312 Pier View Wy, Oceanside, CA 92054, United States

Oceanside’s residents work hard to preserve the culture and history of the town. California Surf Museum (CSM) was founded to showcase the beachside community’s unique surf culture and heritage.

Over the last three 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 daily from 10 am to 4 pm and 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, which sells vintage coffee mugs, license plate covers, apparel, and unique souvenirs. Grab the kids and head to the museum on Pier View Way for a day of culture and history.

See Related: Things to Do in Los Angeles

5. Oceanside Harbor Village

Oceanside Harbor Village
Image by Ccarll used under CC Share Alike 4.0

Address: 280 Harbor Dr, Oceanside, CA 92054, United States

Who doesn’t love shopping on vacation? If that’s you, Oceanside Harbor Village should be at the top of your list of Oceanside, California, tourist attractions.

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 memorable spots for families, solo travelers, and everyone.

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 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 to Oceanside Harbor Beach, Harbor Village is worth a visit.

Grab the kids, pack the stroller, and prepare for a day’s worth of outdoor activities and delicious food; this is undoubtedly one of the best things to do with kids in Oceanside, California. Stay on the water for the stunning Southern California sunset and create beach vacation memories to last a lifetime.

See Related: Best and Fun Things to Do in Jamestown, California  

6. Oceanside Museum of Art

Oceanside Museum of Art

Address: 704 Pier View Wy, Oceanside, CA 92054, United States

Looking for a taste of contemporary art in Oceanside, California? Look no further than the Oceanside Museum of Art (OMA), which explores 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 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 more. It’s a great way to remember your visit to one of California’s most beautiful coastal towns.

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7. Oceanside Farmer’s Market

Oceanside Farmer's Market
Image by Joe Wolf used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Staying in Oceanside means spending some time downtown to fully experience the vibrant energy and playful fun the city offers both locals and tourists.

The Oceanside Farmer’s Market takes place every week, so plan accordingly. It is a 30-year tradition in Oceanside, California, and new faces come each week to find local treasures and tasty treats.

On Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Oceanside Farmer’s Market is filled with fresh produce, flowers, artisan baked goods, honey, and more. Small businesses serve as vendors at the Market, so you can interact with 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.

The farmer’s Market is located 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.

See Related: Things to Do in Monterey

8. Oceanside Strand Beach

Oceanside Strand Beach
Image by .Martin. used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Address: The Strand N, Oceanside, CA 92054, USA

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 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, where you can play a fun game of beach volleyball, build sandcastles, or work on your sun tan. You can also 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 who flock to Oceanside Beach daily 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

Guajome County Park
Image by Ken Lund used under  CC BY-SA 2.0

Address: 3000 Guajome Lake Rd, Oceanside, CA 92057, United States

Guajome County Park is a convenient 8 miles from the Pacific Ocean in Oceanside, California, if you need a break from the beach but still want to spend time outdoors. 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 the two ponds on-site to see if the fish are biting, 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 healthy family fun.

If you’re into outdoor adventures, Guajome County Park has 33 tent and RV campsites. You won’t even realize how close you are to civilization and the Pacific Ocean; it’s a serene, peaceful place to spend a few days.

See Related: Things to Do in Oakhurst

10. Beach House Winery

Address: 1534 Sleeping Indian Rd, Fallbrook, CA 92028, United States

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, 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 off the sandy beach’s beaten path.

11. Tyson Street Beach

Tyson Street Beach

Address: Oceanside, CA 92054, USA

One of Oceanside’s most popular beaches is Tyson Street Beach, which has easy access from Pacific Street and is a great location for families with kids.

Tyson Street Beach is close to the Oceanside Pier. With cheap parking and easy access from the street, Tyson Street Beach is ideal for 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 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA 92054, United States

Beach Break Café is a match made in heaven for breakfast lovers and early risers. 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 variety of scrambles and omelets. They serve a fresh, tasty acai bowl, oatmeal, and seasonal fruit for the lighter breakfast options.

Beach Break’s lunch menu includes grilled cheese, a BLT, and a turkey club. Don’t miss out on their savory burgers, fresh-made salads, and homemade chicken chili. Beach Break Café is open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and offers dine-in and takeout services.

13. Hello Betty Fish House

Hello Betty Fish House
Image source: Hello Betty Facebook

Address: 211 Mission Ave, Oceanside, CA 92054, United States

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 few beers after a long day.

This eclectic restaurant menu features classics like fish and chips, a tuna melt, and many 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 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. Anything’s possible at Hello Betty Fish House!

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14. Oceanside Brewing Co.

Oceanside Brewing Co.
Image source: Oceanside Brewing company Facebook

Address: 312 Via Del Norte, Oceanside, CA 92058, United States

For all beer lovers, Oceanside Brewing Co. has all you could want from a local brewery and more! This local spot draws in tourists and residents as they crave craft beer during the hot summer, featuring over 22 unique brews on tap, including Ales, Lagers, Barleywines, and more.

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: Things to Do in San Jose

What is Oceanside known for?

Palm trees and the Oceanside Pier in Oceanside, California
Keith / Adobe Stock

Oceanside is widely known for its iconic wooden pier, which is 1,942 feet long. It 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.

How to Get Around Oceanside

Fortunately for visitors, Oceanside, California, is easy 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, train, or ride-sharing.

Travel by Coaster

Coaster Commuter Rail in Oceanside, California
Mathew / Adobe Stock

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 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 worrying about driving or getting stuck in the infamous Southern California traffic. Check out the Coaster’s trip planning tool to determine your destination.

Travel by Sprinter

Sprinter Commuter Rail Service in Oceanside, California
Mathew / Adobe Stock

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 App on a phone with map and car backdrop
Proxima Studio – stock.adobe.com

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.

Travel by Metrolink

Aerial view of a Metrolink rail train in Oceanside, California
Markus Mainka – stock.adobe.com

The Metrolink is Oceanside’s commuter train that takes you north to Los Angeles, Orange County, and Riverside. If you want to explore the big cities in the area, you can avoid the headache of sitting in traffic with the Metrolink. Find the Metrolink daily schedule here.

Travel by Rental Car

Different parked cars in Oceanside, California
Jason / Adobe Stock

A rental car is the best option for families with kids who plan to explore the city. Driving and parking at the beach are more efficient than walking if you plan to spend multiple days on the coast with toys, food, and beach gear.

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.

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