Vacations are often aimed at large cities and when going to California most travelers head for Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Diego. There are so many other aspects to the golden state that have great appeal and give a taste of what comprises California as seen from a small town view.
Oxnard, California is an agriculturally-based coastal community approximately 62 miles north of Los Angeles. I’ve lived in the L.A. area for some time and really never gave Oxnard much thought as a travel destination, but recently had the opportunity to explore its diverse and historical offerings. If you drive in from Los Angeles the coastal route to Oxnard will take a bit longer than the freeway route, but the beautiful ocean scenery and picturesque stopping points along the way make it worth the extra 20-30 minutes (in no traffic) and is ideal for a day trip.
When you get there:
There seems to be a celebration of something in Oxnard year round – tamales, strawberries, salsa dancing and multi-cultural events – if you love festivals, this is the place for you.
There is a rich and layered history in California – and the sea plays a long and profound part of its past. Located on the water at Bluefin Circle off of Harbor Boulevard, the Channel Islands Maritime Museum is a superb place to explore the coastal past of California and has a rich mix of art and artifacts on display. Even if maritime history isn’t your thing, there are surprising stories and an intriguing cast of characters that are represented to pique just about anyone’s interest. The docents are deeply knowledgeable and quick to answer guests’ questions.
Helpful Tips: Docent Partricia Wynhoff is an excellent guide with a great sense of humor – she’s onsite Saturdays, 11am – 2pm. The museum will soon have an antique ship moored to its pier, which will also be open to the public.
The square is comprised of historical buildings which were listed to be torn down and instead were moved from various areas of Oxnard to the one location. The quaint buildings now house shops, restaurants and even a playhouse. Known particularly for its Christmas festivities, being there feels like walking into the past and gives a quick view of what Oxnard looked like over a century ago.
Helpful Tips: Holly Trolly tours start at Heritage Square on certain days in December and can include a wine tasting, homes tour and trip through Christmas Tree Lane.
Kayaking & Boat Rental
Kayaking is a great way to see the wildlife of Oxnard’s coastline and learn about the culturally rich and historical Santa Barbara Channel. Channel Islands Kayak Center is owned by pro surfer and coach, Mike Lamm, and you don’t get a more homespun Southern California feel than you can from getting a tour from this local. The kayak excursion starts with a close to shoreline cruise through a manmade cave that exhibits historical displays ranging from a pygmy mammoth replica named Chippy to examples of Spanish armor – and then a cruise around the harbor to check out the local sea life. You will inevitably get a little wet kayaking and dressing in layers is advised. If that’s not your speed there is the option of renting a boat to captain yourself around the harbor.
Oxnard beaches are clean and wide with views of the Channel Islands on the horizon and during my visit I had them and the stunning sunset all to myself. If beach camping is your thing, fifteen miles south of Oxnard is Point Magu, which has camping with sand, surf and 70 miles of hiking trails.
To read my food, wine, and shopping post click here.