Drive Time: About 1 ½ hours from LA, 2 hours from OC.
Weather: Onshore breezes keep Oxnard warmer in winter than inland spots. Average daytime temps are about 60 degrees. Of course, it can get breezy and nighttime temps definitely drop. Bring a jacket, hat and gloves for cool days and evenings.
Stay: Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort (Booking.com affiliate link)
Eat: Toppers Pizza for lunch, Chinese Dumpling House and Fisherman’s House Sushi for dinner. Complimentary breakfast buffet at Coastal Grill, the on-site restaurant at Embassy Suites. IHOP is nearby on the corner of Channel Islands Blvd and Victoria Ave. If you are looking for amazing Mexican food, try Yolanda’s Mexican Cafe at the Seabridge Marina. And Mrs. Olson’s Coffee Hut is within walking distance of our hotel and has the BEST breakfasts which you could eat for lunch! Portions are HUGE and there is a view of the harbor.
Play: Bike riding or scootering, Oxnard Beach Park (Plus, two spots on our list to check out in the future: Gull Wing’s Children’s Museum & Seabridge Marina playgrounds). We should note that this is NOT a good place for swimming at the beach. There are rip tides and strong currents. Although, you’ll occasionally see a few surfers or tourists attempting to swim, we recommend staying out of the water here. Both Channel Islands Harbor and Ventura Harbor have “kiddie beaches” within the calm of the harbors.
Nature: Oxnard Beach, Channel Islands National Park Headquarters in Ventura Harbor, and Channel Islands Boating Center lobby/exhibit area. On the harbor side, there is a sidewalk that runs along the marina all the way from the residential neighborhood of Mandalay Bay to the harbor entrance. Seabridge Marina also has many miles of sidewalks around the water area where you can spot sea birds, crabs, and sometimes sea lions. You can even rent kayaks/paddleboards or travel out to Channel Islands via an Island Packers trip.
Channel Islands Harbor (map – doesn’t include Seabridge) sits in a triangle between Harbor Blvd and Victoria Avenue in Oxnard. It’s a very large harbor with many different sections. You will probably exit the 101 Freeway from Victoria and have to drive quite a few miles before reaching the harbor area.
- Seabridge Marina (new and nice): The base of the triangle is formed by Wooley Road where Seabridge Marina houses shops and restaurants at the corner of Victoria & Wooley. A second section of Seabridge is reachable by turning right into Leeward Way a little past Wooley off Victoria.
- Victoria Side: Following the Victoria side of the triangle across Channel Islands Blvd brings you to Fisherman’s Wharf and a lot of the fishing charter boats before taking you past Kiddie Beach and into the Silver Strand neighborhood with beachfront homes. You can take it to Ocean Drive which will lead to Jenelle Park and view of the Port of Hueneme (pronounced Why-Knee-Me) entrance where big ships come and go.
- Channel Islands Blvd: This main road parallels Wooley Road and slices through the top of the triangle — connecting Victoria with Peninsula and turning into Harbor Blvd going towards the Embassy Suites. It takes you to Mandalay Village Marketplace Shopping Center for some of the restaurants mentioned if you take it past Victoria towards Port Hueneme.
- Peninsula Road: This is where Toppers Pizza is located and there’s a small playground and grassy area at Peninsula Park. Of course, it’s a peninsula so you’ll have to return the way you came from Channel Islands Blvd to get back to Victoria or Harbor.
- Harbor (favorite side): Harbor is the main road that takes you from Oxnard to Ventura along the beach. Embassy Suites is at Harbor and Costa de Oro. Coming from the hotel, you’ll bear right and stay on Harbor to reach the Harbor side of Channel Islands Harbor. This is how you’ll get to Mrs. Olson’s Coffee Hut, the Sunday Farmer’s Market, places to rent kayaks or paddleboards at Marine Emporium Landing, and the Channel Islands Boating Center. You can even walk on the beach all the way from Embassy Suites to the breakwater of the harbor. A great place for running on the beach.
PM: For the past 12 years, we have visited Oxnard during winter break, usually some time between Christmas and New Year’s. We leave LA after lunch, allowing us enough time to reach Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort and settle in before watching sunset on the beach.
We like to eat at the Chinese Dumpling House for dinner. It’s a short drive from the hotel (just down Channel Islands Blvd. to the Mandalay Village Marketplace Shopping Center), doesn’t usually have a wait and serves super yummy food.
The hotel comes complete with tons of amenities if you want them – a heated outdoor pool, two whirlpools, a spa, plus bike, boogie board and beach gear rentals from Wheel Fun Rentals (coupons on their site). As budget travelers, we especially appreciate the complimentary breakfast, which unlike many other hotel breakfasts, is quite an extensive buffet.
But honestly, the reason we keep coming back is LOCATION – almost every room at the hotel is just steps from the beach. While the rooms aren’t especially fancy, we like that each one is a suite, complete with two bathrooms, a kitchenette (sink, fridge, and microwave), a private bedroom, plus a separate living area. The extra space is especially great for families with young kids.
AM: Our goal during our Oxnard beach stay is to take it easy, relax and not overplan our days. We start with the breakfast buffet at Coastal Grill, which is located right inside the hotel complex. For the past two years, we’ve then rented a surrey from the stand out in front of the hotel. A surrey is a bike built on four wheels, with a narrow bench to sit on and a covered top. Two people pedal, the others sit back and relax. Riding as a family takes teamwork, but is a lot of fun! We ride to nearby Oxnard Beach Park, a pirate-themed playground that young kids love, where we play for a while before navigating the remainder of the bike path around the hotel area.
After biking, we hit Toppers Pizza for lunch, where we look for a table by the window to enjoy a view of the marina while we eat. When the kids were younger, we’d take a walk to look at the boats once we finished lunch and before naptime.
PM: We spend the afternoon playing at the beach outside the hotel. If there’s a breeze, this is the perfect spot for kite flying. We can easily spend the entire afternoon here, heading back to the room late afternoon to get cleaned up for dinner. Kids might want to sneak to the pool or Jacuzzi at this point, too.
For dinner, we love Fisherman’s House Sushi at the nearby Channel Island Harbor. It’s definitely casual (it’s located in a food court) making it easy to either dine in or take out, depending on how everyone’s feeling. Or you can head over to Seabridge Marina for a nice Mexican dinner on the harbor – but get there early because it can get packed.
This is just one way you could spend the day. There are so many other options! Other activities we’d like to explore in the future:
Channel Islands National Park: Try the visitor center Junior Ranger program, which can be completed without needing to take a boat to the islands.
Channel Islands Boating Center: Gives a great overview of the natural history of the area and local wildlife. It’s entirely free and fun to explore.
Gull Wings Children’s Museum: Geared for kids ages 2-12, this small hands-on museum features exhibits that reveal the local nature of Ventura County.
AM: Breakfast buffet at Coastal Grill. We pack up, check out and head to the beach one last time before leaving for home. Stay and play as long as you like!
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