200 N the Strand
Oceanside, CA 92054
Region: North County Coastal
If you’re looking for wide open golden sand with relatively small crowds, head to Oceanside, California. With easy access to the beaches, fewer parking hassles, boardwalks and a pier, Oceanside offers the quintessential Southern California beach experience. For a more secluded experience head toward Buccaneer Beach on the south side of Oceanside. If the fast lane is your thing, cruise the Strand by the pier at the foot of Mission Boulevard. Oceanside is one of those places you can hit on a lunch break for a quick jog, or idle a long summer day away in the sun. There are plenty of family-friendly restaurants in the area (most notably, Ruby's Diner on the end of the pier and the fish & chips seafood joints in the Harbor) and fun '50s style motor lodges (some with pirates and other themes).
Where to go
- Oceanside Harbor, aka The Jetties, is a popular surfing area, especially in summer south swell season. Fishermen can try their luck off the end of a jetty (beware of high surf and high tides), or surf cast on the south side by the San Luis Rey river mouth. You can also catch a sport fishing boat out of Oceanside Harbor or launch your own at the boat ramp.
- Oceanside City Beach, aka The Strand, is the classic West Coast beach complete with boardwalk, pier and wide open sand. The coastline is razor-straight here with a shallow sand shelf that slows and mellows the surf as it rolls in and laps gently on the shore. This makes Oceanside an ideal spot for children to swim or ride the inside whitewater on boogie boards. The outside offers decent beachbreak for board surfing, but it's usually bigger and better up by the harbor. There are a number of small parks along the boardwalk with restrooms, picnic tables, barbecues, and an excellent playground by the pier. Other beach-related attractions include the nearby California Surf Museum and seasonal surf and volleyball competitions.
- Buccaneer Beach is a couple miles south of the pier where the beach narrows and the road dips down to sea level. It's a popular spot for kids to practice their surfing with easy access and lifeguard supervision close at hand.
- The parking for Oceanside beaches is a mix of free, paid, metered and private (for slip holders in the marina), and much of it is time-limited, so check the signs carefully before choosing a spot.
- There is a lot of free parking on the residential streets and up near the train tracks, but if you prefer to invest in beachfront real estate, bring quarters for the meters or dollar bills for the self-pay lots.
Bathrooms & Showers
- Plenty of bathrooms and showers at Oceanside City Beach and Buccaneer Beach
- Oceanside beaches are well staffed with lifeguards on duty throughout the year.
- Surfing, boogie boarding, kayaking, paddle boarding
- Swimming, but in designated areas in the summer. Watch for signs.
- Fishing off of the Oceanside Pier
- Walking, jogging and bicycling on the boardwalk
- Summer outdoor concerts in festivals at Oceanside City Beach.
Directions to Oceanside Beaches
- Head west on Mission Boulevard from the 5 FWY. Take a right on North Pacifc St. to Pier View Way and the Oceanside pier. Continue north on Pacific Street to head up to the Harbor or south toward Buccaneer Beach. You can drive down onto the Strand to drop off passengers, but there's virtually no parking here and you're liable to get trapped in a slow-moving traffic parade. Public right of ways become more and more scarce as you head south down the coast, until you ultimately arrive at a gated residential community by the Buena Vista Estuary and the road turns inland over the train tracks. Buccaneer Beach is midway between the pier and the lagoon at the intersection of Pacific and Morse streets.
What to Love
- At 1,942 feet, the Oceanside Pier it's one of the longest wooden piers on the West Coast.
- Ruby's Diner at the end of the Oceanside Pier.
- Catch a surf contest at Oceanside Beach - several are held throughout the year.
- California Surf Museum for surf related artifacts and memorabilia.
- Buena Vista Audubon Society Nature Center with views of the lagoon and good bird watching.
- Free concerts during the spring and summer at the Oceanside Pier Plaza Amphitheatre.
What to Know
- The California Welcome Center on North Coast Highway in Oceanside offers local and regional visitor information including maps.
- Oceanside is home to the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and does have some of the challenges associated with large base cities. Be particularly careful if walking along the beach at night.