Oceanside California Weekend Getaway

As a California girl, I grew up taking family road trips to San Diego County…but never to Oceanside. It was known as a military town and a little rough around the edges, but WOW times have changed! Today, Oceanside, CA is a designated “Main Street America City” and 1 of California’s 14 Cultural Districts for its work cultivating diversity and inclusivity through art opportunities. Their beaches host major surf competitions, from the Super Girl Surf Pro to the US Open Adaptive Surfing Championships. And O’side’s Sunset Market is the county’s premier weekly food event with 150+ international vendors taking over the streets every Thursday.

We came for a long weekend and quickly fell in love with this town. Not pretentious like some beach communities, Oceanside, CA felt artsy, diverse, young, retro cool, and certainly on the rise. To plan our Southern California weekend getaway, we reached out to our friends at Visit Oceanside. We told them we were interested in local makers, sustainability successes, outdoor adventures, and what makes O’side so unique, and they helped us plan the absolute best itinerary! We went everywhere from their beaches to their birthplace as a Spanish colonial settlement, and crafted this list of the best things to do in Oceanside for the perfect Southern California weekend getaway.

Spend a Day at the West’s Longest Wooden Pier

The icon of Oceanside and the heart of the beach is their wooden pier…the longest in the West! Walk their palm-lined promenade and out along the 1,954 feet of planks and you’ll quickly get a vibe on this cool beach town. You’ll pass busking musicians, fisherman casting their lines, couples holding hands, and surfers riding the break below. You’ll get fantastic views of the sandy coastline dotted with beach umbrellas, cute houses, chic hotels, and a bike path that stretches as far as the eye can see. The area around this 19th-century pier is adventure central, where you can get a surfing lesson, rent a bike, join a tai chi class, or catch a variety of events that pop up here.

Oceanside Sunset Market

How did Oceanside turn itself around from a rough and tumble town to a So Cal cultural hub? The Sunset Market took back the night. In the early 2000s, divey bars and motley patrons kept people out of downtown, then in 2007, the nonprofit community org MainStreet Oceanside had the idea to combat that with power in numbers! This weekly celebration of food and music has grown to 150+ stalls and attracts upwards of 7,000 people each Thursday night, and it’s still growing with another block of vendors being added this summer!

We met the founder Kim Heim, who could not have been more proud or passionate about the success of the Sunset Market, and got his insider tips on eats. Do not miss the The Belgian Fry Fix, The Pad Thai Stand, Barracruda Cevicheria (great vegan options), and Andalucia Foods’ dips to go! And eat away; a portion of proceeds fund more community events like the July 4th parade, Mother’s Day Sweets, art installations, and more.

O’sider Tip: Head down Dessert Row (aka N. Tremont Street); there’s a stage with a few tables to sit and enjoy the music and your food.

California Surf Museum

Surfing is at the core of Oceanside culture, so it’s only fitting they have one of the country’s premier museums on the topic—right on the main drag! The California Surf Museum collection chronicles the history of surfboards, science of waves, and spotlights surf heroes and local legends. In addition to having an 11-foot redwood surfboard from the 1800s, they also have Kelly Slater’s World Championship board and Bethany Hamilton’s shark-bitten board with a great exhibit on how she continued to win competitions with just one arm! Also, did you know the Boogie Board was invented in San Diego County and got its name because the founder was a jazz musician who liked to boogie? Make sure you chat with the California Surf Museum staff, they are die-hard surfers and a wealth of knowledge!

Cocktail, Beer & Coffee Bar Hop with O’Side Sips

best bars in oceanside

With 12 coffee shops, 10 breweries & tap rooms, 5 cocktail bars, 6 wine bars, and 3 juiceries, Oceanside needed an app for that. Enter O’side Sips. Filter by what you’re feeling and discover cool spots, deals, and prizes the more they check-in. For drinks, we loved Coast Craft’s small-batch beer, tacos, and lively scene. Kilowatt Brewing was a ton of fun with its bar games (we got into quite the Uno Match with some young marines) and glow-in-the-dark decor…but the kicker? Hiding in the back is a 1950s Atomic-Era speakeasy! Frankie’s had the style of a classic cocktail lounge, but a menu far more innovative than cosmos and Manhattans. They have a new, themed cocktail list every quarter! The next morning coffees were clearly needed with a stop at North County Roastery and the hip Communal Coffee for good measure.

Oceanside Harbor Village

Oceanside Harbor Village

Head over to Oceanside Harbor and it feels like a totally different town…and side of the country! We felt good New England vibes with its striped lighthouse, boardwalk-style comfort food, souvenir shops, and hundreds of bobbing boats. It’s a great place for a stroll, bike ride, paddle, or whale-watching tour. No matter your mode of transport, head over to the classic mid-century Oceanside Sign, it’s a great photo opp—especially because this zone is where the sea lions like to hang out! Kayaking is the best way to do some stealth wildlife watching (we saw herons, pelicans, and seals up close), check out the boats from around the world, and exchange hellos with all the happy cruisers living the good life.

Bike the San Luis Rey Trail to the Mission

San Luis Rey Mission, oceanside ca

Oceanside is a Silver-Level Bike Friendly City with 96 miles of bike lanes and paths connecting downtown with the smaller neighborhoods and great outdoors. We rented e-bikes on the pier from Wheel Fun and took the nine-mile San Luis Rey River Trail to California’s largest mission! We rode along the coast, and where the river meets the sea, followed it inland through the hills, past the small-craft airport (keep an eye out for skydivers and microlights!) and sweet skate park, then cut into the neighborhood of San Luis Rey, where Oceanside began 225 years ago! There lies the “King of Missions,” once the biggest building in the state! The Spanish colonial church and grounds are exquisite and the museum gives a good sense of the area’s beginnings and evolution.

O’side Tip: On your bike ride back, stop at the Heritage Park Village and Museum to learn about post-Spanish times and see some of the area’s oldest buildings, like the 19th-century schoolhouse, train depot, and jail, gathered around a lovely park.

Golf Eco-Friendly Goat Hill

We’re rarely interested in golfing, but Goat Hill Park is not your average course. Not only is it gorgeous, with 75 rolling acres and ocean views, but this 1950s club is also shaking up the sport to be as inclusive as possible by scrapping the dress code, playing rock music, serving craft beer, and inviting kids, dogs, and even bees to enjoy the grounds! When they saw swarms building makeshift hives along the cart paths and getting dangerously close to guests, they brought in Parker Anderson of Greener Golf to give them a better home with nine bee boxes, a garden of flowering plants, and course design that fosters biodiversity. We had the great privilege of joining Parker on his beekeeping duties—donning bee suits and all! Watch the video (above) of HoneyTrek’s first beekeeping session and stop by Goat Hill, be it to play 18 holes of disc golf, drive a bucket of balls, or just grab a beer and enjoy the scene.

Eat, Drink, & Sleep at The Brick

Dating back to 1888, this downtown building has worked hard as everything from a cash grocery to a laundromat, but after a five-year renovation, this historic establishment is ready for some fun. Just open as of 2022, The Brick is a hotel and cultural hub with some of downtown’s coolest bars, restaurants, breweries, and coffee shops.

When you walk in the front door, you enter the New Orleans-style Q&A Restaurant. Continue past their swanky bar, and you’ll find yourself in the courtyard garden of Succulent Coffee; take three more steps, and you’ll be in Stone Brewing, San Diego County’s premier brewery. Still thirsty? Head to the rooftop where Cococabana is serving excellent cocktails and views over town. We stayed at The Brick for three nights and were blown away by the energy of this venue; each one of its businesses was always buzzing with a cool crowd and good vibes.

O’side Tip: Be sure to read the Instagram post, above, it’s the wildest story about how back in 2014 we helped the current owner plan her 16-month trip around the world and then coincidentally reunited as her hotel guests—nine years later!

Farm Fun at Mellano

Mellano Farms U Pick

With a name like Oceanside, naturally, you think this place is all about the beach, but head inland to South Morro Hills and you’ll find idyllic countryside. Our first stop was at Mellano Farm Stand, a family agriculture business approaching its 100th year, with 375 acres of flower fields and produce ripe for the picking! We walked up to their farm stand, styled out of a Martha Stewart shoot, and grabbed a basket to pick our own strawberries. It’s so rewarding to harvest your own produce and taste how fresh fruit can be! Keep an eye on their calendar, they run kids camps, farm festivals (including their signature Watermelon Festival), DIY bouquet making, and they regularly fire up the tractor for hayrides.

Beach House Winery

Beach House Winery Oceanside CA

Continue your South Morro Hills Road Trip into the South Coast AVA. Husband and wife team, Kim & George, have taken their 50+ years of winemaking experience and started Beach House, the first and only vineyard winery in Oceanside. As a popular weekend hangout, the parking lot was packed when we arrived, so George swept us up in his ATV to take us to the tasting room on the hill. Kim was behind the bar-meets-barrel room, and couldn’t have been sweeter or more knowledgeable about the wines, which have been winning awards left and right.  

After trying their excellent Zinfandel, Sav Blanc, and more, we took a self-guided tour of the barrel room, wandered the rows of vines, and set up a picnic on their rooftop terrace. Sipping wine and nibbling on our freshly picked berries with our expansive views of San Diego County, this felt like a true Southern California getaway. Beach House is open on Saturdays and Sundays and also co-hosts a monthly sunset wine cruise, so check out their website to get on board!

Join a Beach Cleanup

Beach Clean Up San Diego County

We always like to give back to the places we visit so a Surfrider beach cleanup seemed like the perfect thing to do in Oceanside. Saturday morning at the Oceanside, CA pier, we met up with 50+ volunteers for a quick briefing and got our trash tongs, glove, and totes for a two-hour session. While walking the beach and picking up trash, it was amazing how many locals stopped to thank us for our service and wish us a good day, and meanwhile, we had a lovely walk and met so many nice people…win, win! Surfrider Foundation runs beach cleanups every month in Oceanside and every weekend in SD County, so if you can’t catch this one, see where else you can help out…we all share the same ocean!

Catch a Festival

Things to do in Oceanside California

One thing that really struck us about Oceanside was how much was going on in this town. In our weekend alone, there was the Beach Soccer Championships, the Pride by the Beach Festival (see our Tiktok), the Friday Art Walk, and a taekwondo competition with 500 kids kicking butt on the sand. We were super impressed by how robust the events were, especially since these aren’t even their biggest festivals, like the World Bodysurfing Championships, Oceanside International Film Festival, Super Girl Surf Pro, and Race Across America. Be sure to check VisitOceanside.com/events when you visit; no doubt there will be something fun going on.

Best Restaurants in Oceanside, CA

Best Restaurants in Oceanside CA
  • Dija Mara: The creative Balinese-inspired dishes earned Oceanside its first Michelin nod. There are lots of wonderful plant-based options at Dija Mara, like Charred Eggplant with tomato sambal and Tofu Rendang with pickles and peanut sauce.
  • Petit Madeline: Before downtown O’side hit its stride, this cute cafe and bakery had a vision and started making everything from scratch for a discerning clientele. Don’t miss Petite Madeline’s vegan pop tarts with apricot “butter” cream.
  • Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub: Chef Davin and Jessica Waite are starting a sustainable dining revolution in Oceanside. What started as pop-up sushi and omakase restaurant is here to stay, by popular demand and respect for their work. We tried the vegan sushi at Wrench & Rodent’s sister restaurant The Plot, see below, so if they can turn lion’s mane mushroom into succulent softshell crab, preparing sashimi is a walk in the park.
  • Toasted Gastrobrunch: This is definitely the cool kids’ brunch spot. We walked into Toasted’s contemporary space and a Friday Funday party with laughter in the air and bottomless mimosas flowing. They bake their own bread and, since it’s California, the avocado toast couldn’t be better. Non-vegans, get the Eggs in Purgatory—it’s a work of art!
  • High Pie: Remember that scene from Top Gun where Maverick and Charlie ride back to her beach house for that love scene? Well, that 19th-century Queen Anne cottage is now the cutest hand pie shop right on the Oceanside Strand. Whether or not you feel like a pastry, you gotta stop at High Pie for a selfie on the Maverick motorcycle.
  • The Plot: With a plant-based menu, hyper-local sourcing, and zero-waste program, this is one of the most inspiring vegan restaurants we’ve ever been to! Sitting in their on-site veggie garden by our personal fire pit, we got to enjoy comfort foot we hadn’t eaten since 2015, like sushi, meatloaf, and chicken & waffles…all vegan! We loved The Plot so much that we did a whole Facebook gallery about it, see below.

Best Hotels in Oceanside, CA

  • The Brick: Not just any boutique hotel, The Brick is one of downtown’s most historic buildings, renovated by fourth-generation O’siders and full of heart! Our room was thoughtfully decorated with reclaimed wood, local photography, and a landscaped balcony. Plus, it came with welcome drink tickets, complimentary gym passes, and an invite to yoga on the rooftop. It had the best of both worlds—the autonomy of a vacation rental and the perks of a boutique hotel. If you want to be in the heart of the downtown action (for a fraction of the price of the waterfront) and love supporting independent businesses, this is your spot!
  • The Seabird Resort: We’re not usually one for corporate-backed hotels, but the Hyatt did an amazing job making this beachfront property bespoke and cool. The Seabird’s artwork is curated by the Oceanside Museum of Art, giving it a sense of place, and their wellness amenities are so good they won USA’s Today’s Best Hotel Spa and Best Pool in the county. Plus, the rooms are so quite pretty.
  • The Green Room: In South Oceanside, this 12-room boutique hotel is making waves with the press for its stylistic nods to the surf and sound subcultures of SoCal. Chic design and fantastic amenities like cedar tubs, fire pits, and a complimentary surfboard make The Green Room a blissed-out Southern California getaway weekend.

How to Get to Oceanside, CA

How to get to Oceanside California

Set between two of California’s major cities, Oceanside is easily accessible, no matter if you arrive by plane, car, or train. Thirty-eight miles from San Diego and 80 miles from Los Angeles, it’s a straight shot on the 5 Freeway from both major airports, but we love that O’side is also accessible by four different train lines, including the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner and SD’s Coaster commuter train. Once you get to Oceanside, virtually everything is walkable or bikeable (especially with its bike-friendly infrastructure). Of all the aforementioned things to do in Oceanside, the only two that need a car is Mellano Farms and the Beach House Winery…but it’s smarter to get an Uber for a day of drinking wine anyway! For all your transit options, check this handy link.

The Perfect Southern California Weekend Getaway

Oceanside Best California Weekend Getaway

Oceanside is definitely on the rise and smart enough to know they need to grow responsibly. In addition to an impressive amount of recycling cans and signage for a clean Oceanside, we noticed posters around town asking for feedback from locals and visitors alike to make sure O’side keeps it real. And most impressive of all, they are among the first towns in California to implement a Sustainable Tourism Master Plan. We left feeling nothing but good vibes and can’t wait for our next Southern California weekend getaway in Oceanside!

Many thanks to Visit Oceanside for inviting us to their city and supporting our storytelling! To show our gratitude to this community and continue our HoneyTrek Cares initiative, we’ve donated to Studio ACE urban arts education, One Kitchen Collaborative addressing food insecurity for underserved communities (love their focus on reducing food waste), Surfrider Foundation for their work protecting the oceans, and the Oceanside Historical Society for preserving the culture of this cool town!

To further plan your trip, check out VisitOceanside.org and drop any questions in the comments. Happy to help…we ❤️ Oceanside, CA!

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