If you’re looking for your next getaway destination near Los Angeles, look no further than Ventura County Coast. Located just an hour north of L.A., you can enjoy a myriad of activities along the coast and inland. Check our getaway guide for ideas on where to stay, what to eat, and fun things to do in Ventura County Coast.
Ventura County Coast is comprised of 4 cities including Ventura, Oxnard, Camarillo, and Port Hueneme.
The region has a lot to offer including the only all-suite beachfront resort in Southern California, a botanical garden overlooking the Pacific, the 9th Spanish Mission established in California, charming downtowns, historical sites, new retail establishments, and a number of dining establishments to satisfy the palate.
Its landscape is so diverse that you can be building sand castles in the morning, strolling downtown by noon, picking strawberries in the afternoon, and capping the day with a sunset dinner by the harbor.
Where to Stay in Ventura County Coast:
Embassy Suites by Hilton Mandalay Beach in Oxnard
As the only all-suite beachfront resort in Southern California, Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach, located in Oxnard, is a getaway destination in itself. One may never need to leave except maybe to grab lunch or dinner.
Enjoy a daily breakfast buffet, head to the giant heated pool or the 2 spas, play games in the game room, take a nap, hit the beach, grab a free drink (including alcoholic drinks) and snacks in the afternoon and enjoy them at your room balcony overlooking the ocean as you wait for the sun to set.
Residence Inn by Marriott Camarillo
Should you prefer to stay in a hotel rather than a big resort or if you prefer to stay more inland which enables you to access the freeway more easily, I would suggest staying at Residence Inn by Marriott in Camarillo.
The hotel looks so new and clean as though it just opened yesterday. Enjoy a suite or a studio with your own kitchen and an adjacent living room that comes with a double sofa bed.
Your stay comes with free breakfast, free parking, free and really good WiFi connection, and free snacks in the afternoon as well. During our stay, afternoon snacks were burgers and fruits located at the hotel lobby.
A bonus for shopaholics, you are not very far from Camarillo Premium Outlets when you’re staying here.
You can also enjoy the pool, a game of billiards, and a fire pit at night.
Things to do in Ventura CA:
Stroll, Shop, & Play at Ventura Harbor Village
There are plenty of things to do in Ventura but I would suggest starting your trip with a visit to Ventura Harbor Village.
If you intend to ride a boat to visit the Channel Islands, you can depart from here or from the Oxnard Harbor through Island Packers.
While here, I highly recommend checking the sock shop and Barefoot Boutique – you’re going to want to buy everything. While the adults check the art galleries, kids can enjoy a vintage carousel ride, play arcade games, and a candy shop.
Dining here gives you an amazing view of the harbor. After lunch, go for some watersport activities and grab dessert at Coastal Cones before leaving.
Parking is free.
Ride a Duffy Boat at Ventura Harbor Village
While you’re at Ventura Harbor Village, make sure to rent a Duffy boat and go for a leisure boat ride around the Ventura Keys.
The kids were able to steer the boat which I thought was a really neat experience for them. This was probably the most memorable thing we did in Ventura as it was our first time doing it.
If you’re not visiting Ventura with kids, I still recommend doing it, I think it would be pretty romantic.
Rental will only cost you $67/hr via Ventura Boat Rentals. If you want to do a little more work, they also rent out kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and pedal boats which the kids really wanted to do except my legs were not up for the legwork that day, haha.
Dine at The Greek Restaurant
You have a few restaurant options at Ventura Harbor Village. During our visit, we dined at The Greek Mediterranean Steak & Seafood Restaurant and it didn’t disappoint.
You can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner here or you can also just grab drinks by the bar. I believe they also have nightly entertainment during weekends.
I do recommend ordering the Surf N’ Turf Platter – the lamb chops were really good and tender, the rice was really good too.
Since we arrived early (before lunchtime), the kids shared a huge plate of French Toast but also had some of our chicken kabobs.
On a future visit, I would like to order other things on the menu that I was eyeing during our visit yet do not have space for like the Saganaki flaming cheese, baklava cheesecake, moussaka, and many more.
Grab a Taiyaki at Coastal Cone
Oh wait, we spotted a mermaid at Ventura Harbor Village – in ice cream form!
Visit Coastal Cone while you’re in Ventura and order your ice cream on a Taiyaki cone (Japanese fish-shaped waffle cake). You can order from their pre-set signature flavor combinations or build your own. The Oreoyaki was really good as they spread Nutella inside the cone before topping it with Oreo ice cream.
Besides Taiyaki cones, you can also visit Coastal Cone if you’re a fan of Disneyland’s Dole Whip.
Other things on the menu? Shakes, sundaes, plenty of other ice cream flavors, and other desserts with locally grown strawberries.
Stroll through Ventura Pier
After visiting Ventura Harbor Village, you can go for a quick drive to visit Ventura Pier and Ventura Beach Boardwalk.
Ventura Pier, made of wood with steel pipings, is the 8th longest pier in California. It was once one of the longest but they shortened it by 300 feet in 1996.
At the very end of Ventura Pier, you’ll find an American flag. Go for a stroll before sunset and gaze inland to Ventura’s hills on your way back.
At the start of the pier right when you get up the stairs is Beach House Tacos. Try to time your visit so you can grab some tacos and deep-fried bananas. There is a line to order food, I would have waited except we were too full to eat – another reason to visit Ventura again.
Rent a Bike at Ventura Boardwalk
Looking for things to do in Ventura with kids? Put surrey bikes on top of your list. We rented a single surrey which can fit 2 adults and 2 young kids in the front through Wheel Fun Rentals located just under Ventura Pier.
Our 8 yr. old actually cannot fit in the front anymore so she sat with us in the back. I’d say another year and she should be able to help us pedal already.
For bigger families, you can rent a double surrey to fit 4 adults and 2 young kids. They also have other bikes for single riders like the “chopper”.
There are other spots in Ventura County Coast to rent them. If you’re staying at Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach, just head out of the back gate towards the beach and you can rent them there.
Play at the playground adjacent to Ventura Pier
Surrounding the Ventura Pier is San Buenaventura State Beach where there is a play structure. Let the kids burn off some energy for a great naptime back at your hotel or to work up some appetite before dinner.
Stroll through Downtown Ventura
After some time in the sand at San Buenaventura Beach, head for a quick drive to stroll around Downtown Ventura where you’ll enjoy perusing through unique stores, bakeries, and restaurants.
You may park at the free parking structure on Santa Clara St. and California St.
On your way in into Downtown Ventura, you will find San Buenaventura City Hall at the top of California street. It is the former Ventura County Courthouse built in 1912-13.
A State of California Historical Landmark listed on the National Register for Historic Places, it is noted for its gleaming terra cotta exterior, copper-sheathed dome, and elegant Italian marble foyer.
Visit Mission San Buenaventura
Founded on March 31, 1782, Mission San Buenaventura was the ninth Spanish mission established in California.
Go for a self-guided tour of Mission San Buenaventura while visiting Downtown Ventura.
A Self-guided tour includes seeing the museum, grotto, Mission Church, a licensed replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta, and Padre’s Burial and Settling Tank. The Mission has a very beautiful garden as well that I hope we can replicate in our backyard complete with a fountain in the middle. Visit it to see!
Indulge in Gelato at Palermo
While we were strolling the charming Downtown, we spotted a gelato/coffee place where we had one of the best gelatos we’ve ever tried – at Palermo Coffee & Gelato.
Their gelatos are $5 per small cup but it was so rich both in flavor and in ingredients. The kids shared a chocolate gelato while I had the macadamia coconut gelato. Yummy in my tummy!
Hike Ventura Botanical Garden
After strolling Downtown Ventura, I highly suggest visiting Ventura Botanical Garden for a hike.
It is located behind the Ventura City Hall and it has a magnificent view from the top overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
While hiking up, you can see lots of wildflowers. You have the option to cut through and take the stairs or walk the path.
It’s not really a hard hike for the kids but we decided not to finish the whole thing just to be sure. We just went all the way to where it overlooks the view below.
Entrance is free every Tuesday.
Things to do in Camarillo CA
Grab Breakfast at Waypoint Cafe
Before exploring and doing all the fun things to do in Camarillo, we stopped by Waypoint Cafe for a hearty breakfast.
This local spot is pretty famous in Camarillo so I would suggest coming early before the wait times start.
I ordered a Belgian Waffle topped with banana and walnuts while the hubby ordered a Belgian Waffle Breakfast Combo that came with eggs and bacon. The kids, on the other hand, enjoyed their mac and cheese with a basket of fries.
If you’re visiting Camarillo with kids, do go to the back of the restaurant where they have a mini version of a runway and an air traffic control tower to sort of replicate the airport runway that’s next to the restaurant.
Shop & Save at Camarillo Premium Outlets
Make sure to visit Camarillo Premium Outlets while you’re in Ventura County Coast to save on name brands. There are 160 featured retailers including Ted Baker London, Kate Spade new york, Michael Kors, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike Factory Store, Lululemon Athletica, and many more.
I had my shopping list set to buy Corelle plates & bowls but also scored huge glass bowls with lid for $3.99 each at the Corningware store that would normally be about $25 each. Score!
Stroll through Old Town Camarillo
Old Town on Ventura Boulevard provides charming shopping and dining alternatives for visitors and is also the site of the weekly Farmers’ Market held every Saturday.
Make a stop at Mister Softee Ice Cream or grab a burger & homemade milkshake from BLVD Burger.
If you’re traveling with kids, I would suggest riding the free trolley bus. It is available on Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday until 9 p.m. along Old Town that can take you around town which also stops at Camarillo Premium Outlets. You may flag down the trolley to board anywhere along its route.
Take a Tour of the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology AKA the Bird Museum
Camarillo’s Bird Museum is both a natural history collection specializing in eggs and nests of birds from around the world and a research and education institution dedicated to bird conservation. The Foundation’s collections are among the largest in the world.
During our visit, I learned about the importance of saving every species’ nest because it enables researchers to figure why a particular species is all of a sudden missing from where they typically have their nest.
As an example, a certain species of birds that place their nests on a willow tree all of a sudden went missing. Researchers found out that bamboos had started growing in the area and has been sucking most of the water in the area. They took down the bamboo trees and the birds started coming back to the area to start their nest.
The Bird Museum in Camarillo is not open to the public and can only be visited every last Friday of the month from 3 to 4 PM or every second Wednesday of the month from 3:30 to 4:40 PM.
Make sure to call in to reserve as they only allow 20 people per tour. Admission is $7/person; children 5 and under: free; free for member.
Go Strawberry Picking at McGrath Family Farm
There are a lot of farms in Ventura County Coast and what’s a visit without going to a U-Pick Farm in Camarillo.
While I enjoyed the Bird Museum a lot, my daughter’s favorite activity in Camarillo was picking strawberries at McGrath Family Farm. She wanted us to stay all day just to pick strawberries.
They have a deal for families to go strawberry picking for $30 which enables you to pick 3 baskets full of strawberries to take home.
During the fall, you can pick tomatoes and winter squash as well as pumpkins every October.
Grab late night sweets at Rolling Pin Donuts
There’s a famous donut shop in Camarillo and we had to try it!
Rolling Pin Donuts is pretty famous that when we arrived at 930 PM, there was actually a line and they were still actively kneading and frying new donuts.
We each ordered what seemed delicious. I really enjoyed the Cronut (Croissant-Donut) filled with custard and their blueberry cake donut. I would suggest ordering a variety and sharing as each donut is pretty big.
Things to do in Oxnard CA:
Attend the California Strawberry Festival in Oxnard
Every 3rd weekend of May, you can attend the California Strawberry Festival in Oxnard for fresh strawberries, strawberry-themed food like strawberry nachos, games, rides, shopping, and more.
Check out our previous visit to the California Strawberry Festival.
Dine at The Waterside Restaurant & Wine Bar
While visiting Ventura County Coast, dine at The Waterside for a beautiful view of the Channel Islands Harbor while you dine.
I ordered a seared ahi tuna, hubby had a mushroom alfredo, and we shared a really delicious moussaka.
The kids each had a cheeseburger and a pepperoni flatbread. So hungry right now.
Tour Maritime Museum in Channel Islands Harbor
A quick 2-minute drive from The Waterside Restaurant is the Channel Islands Maritime Museum in Oxnard.
It has a collection of maritime paintings, ship models, and artifacts that rival some of the finest European and U.S. collections.
Admission is $7 for adults and $3 for kids, free for children under 6. They are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Free on the 3rd Thursdays of the month.
Outside, kids can enjoy playing pirate. Ahoy Mateys!
Visit Heritage Square
If you’re an architecture enthusiast, driving more inland in Oxnard, you can visit the Heritage Square.
Heritage Square’s beautifully restored structures preserve some of the special histories of Oxnard’s early pioneer families.
The homes have been re-purposed for business use, but you can still find a glimmer of what was, in historical Oxnard.
An exterior docent-guided tour is offered year-round, Saturdays 10-4 pm and Sundays 1-4 pm (weather permitting and closed some holidays). The tours are approximately 45 minutes long. Tours are $5 per person.
Heritage Square’s outdoor Main Plaza captures the beauty of the Victorian mansions and surrounding gardens.
Visit The Collection at Riverpark
10 minutes away from the Heritage Square, and closer to the 101 freeway, is The Collection at Riverpark.
The Collection at RiverPark in Oxnard is an outdoor lifestyle center filled with shops and restaurants and anchored by Target, Whole Foods Market, The Container Store, and a sixteen-screen Cinemark cinema.
When we came here, I literally wanted to move to Ventura County Coast already.
Dine at The Annex Food Hall
While you’re at The Collection at Riverpark, make sure to visit The Annex Food Hall to grab lunch or dinner.
The Annex Food Hall is the first Food Hall in Ventura County. The Annex shops and eateries feature an eclectic collection of purveyors within a shared space.
We really enjoyed our dinner at Korean BBQ Sausage. Everything they serve is delicious. I would go back for more.
Play at Mandalay Beach
Since we were staying at Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach, the beach is literally in our backyard. The best part, it is so private as most of the people that come here are from the resort.
Even though it was chilly the weekend we visited, the kids still enjoyed it a lot. They played with sand, built sand castles, and dipped their feet on the water to catch the incoming waves.
I sat and watched the waves while indulging on the strawberries we picked from McGrath Family Farm.
Play at Oxnard Beach Park
If you want to take the kids to a giant playground in Ventura County Coast, take them to Oxnard Beach Park to enjoy a pirate-themed play structure.
You can also enjoy free public barbecue areas, volleyball courts, skating and jogging paths and if you keep walking towards the west and you’ll be at the beach in no time.
Dine at Pizza Man Dan’s
We were supposed to try out a famous pizza place while we’re in Oxnard – Toppers Pizza, but it was packed that we ended up at Pizza Man Dan’s and I’m glad we did.
Their pizzas were delicious and topped with a lot of ingredients. I do suggest ordering a big box and bringing it back to your hotel as a snack for the kids after a dip in the pool. Delish!
For additional ideas on lodging, dining, and activities you can do, visit the Ventura County Coast’s website.