By Ann Nelson
After years of being overshadowed by
affluent Laguna Beach to the north and La Jolla and Del Mar to the south, the
Southern California city of Oceanside is coming in-to its own. This seaside
community of approximately 170,000 residents is now a destination for soaking
up art, culture, food and history. The magic of what the city has to offer will
be on full display with the 125th Anniversary celebration starting this summer.
Special deals and recognitions are planned throughout the year.
Oceanside is a true coastal treasure,
with 3.5 miles of sandy beaches and the longest wooden pier on the west coast.
There is a harbor, a lagoon, a nature center, farmers’ markets and a historic
park with an old city jail, general store and a blacksmith shop. The Oceanside
Museum of Art, with Daniel Foster at the helm, is becoming one of the most
notable in Southern California.
My husband and I really had our hearts
set on staying in a beach front cottage with our dogs, but didn’t know if it
was even possible to find a place like this to rent. After researching, we
contacted Beach Front Only. They found exactly what we were looking for! The cottage, located on a quiet street with
plenty of parking, was just steps to the sand. The full kitchen was equipped
with everything we needed. We went out for breakfast and lunch, but opted to “stay
home” for dinner. We had front row seats as we barbequed on the grill on the
beach front patio, while we watched the sun drop into the ocean.
Many of the historical roots that make
up the foundation of Oceanside have been preserved. Small businesses that dot
Highway 101 operate in the original buildings. 101 Café, established in 1928,
is the oldest, continuously operating café along Highway 101. This is the
perfect place to enjoy old-fashioned, home-cooked food while listening to
classic hits playing on the jukebox. John Daley, one of the owners, is not only
a local historian, but he leads complimentary guided walking tours sponsored by
the Oceanside Historical Society. Daley knows as much about the history of
Oceanside as he knows about trains. He has memorized the arrival and departure
time of every train coming into town. He informed us the train tracks were
built close to the coast because the land was flatter, so fewer bridges were
required. The location of the tracks has nothing to do with the ocean view
Scenic Highway 101 has a colorful
history. Wagons and primitive autos began using the bumpy, dirt surface at the
turn of the twentieth century. In 1918, thanks to the vastly improved
automobile, the stage was even set for road racing. The Los Angeles to Phoenix
automobile race ran south through San Diego County and then east into Arizona
in 1911. The races continued for years.
Prior to my visit, friends informed me
that I could not leave the city without having lunch at Privateer Coal Fire
Pizza. Since the pizza is cooked at 850 degrees, 300 degrees hotter than most
pizzas, extra crispy means extra crispy. Two of the local owners have been
friends since meeting at Southside Elementary School in the second grade.
Culinary-trained chefs create fun and flavorful side dishes, such as marinated
brussel sprouts and citrus salad. This restaurant is classy, simple and
The Apotheque Lifestyle Spa, about a
ten-minute walk from the pier, is located in an old brick 1880’s commercial
residential structure. The high ceilings, original windows and wide wooden
floors offer a feeling of warmth and simple comfort to all who visit. I grew up
in a house that was built in 1906 and have a great appreciation for places like
this. The spa itself offers all types of
ancient healing modalities, along with yoga classes and community acupuncture.
I have visited upscale spas surrounded
by acres of lush, rolling hills with endless views. But there is something
special about this cozy little place. I had no idea what hidden treasure
awaited me as I entered a small courtyard garden. What a surprise! The
whimsical, fun, colorful succulent art garden designed by Peter Loyola simply
took my breath away.
After leaving Apotheque, we headed over
to the Oceanside Harbor with the intention of renting a boat. We looked at
power boats, sailboats, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and electric dingys.
After much discussion, we opted to try out the pedal boat and couldn’t have
been happier with our decision. We spent the afternoon cruising around the
harbor, checking out the yachts and sea lions from our special vantage point.
The harbor village is filled with charming shops and restaurants that dot the
We wanted to ride bikes on the path
that runs along the waterfront and headed down to the pier to see what was
available. Dennis and I decided to try out a deuce coupe because we’d never
heard of it before and it looked like it could go fast if we both pedaled hard.
As we were speeding down the path, I felt like a six year old. Our entire day
could have easily been spent trying out every bike in stock. I’ve never had so
much fun riding bikes at the beach.
A surprise highlight of our trip was a visit
three miles east to Mission San Luis Rey. The mission is often described as the
most beautiful of all the California Missions. The Mission, encompassing over
six acres, was completed around 1815 and home to 3,000 Shoshone tribal Indians.
At one time the mission owned 22,010 head of cattle, 23,532 sheep and over
8,000 horses. The architecture is extraordinary, featuring colorful
hand-painted murals, hand-carved wooden doors, and red adobe roof tiles.
It’s easy to see why Ocean-side has
been chosen as a backdrop for so many Hollywood movies, including Top Gun.
Oceanside is now one of my very favorite places to visit.
Oceanside Anniversary Events: Call –
(760) 722-1534 or contact www.visitoceanside.org
Beachfront Only Reservations: Call -
(888) 338-0061 or contact www.beachfrontonly.com
Wheel Fun Rentals: Call – (760)
828-0166 or contact www.WheelFunRentals.com
Oceanside Boat Rentals: Call – (760)
722-0028 or contact www.BOATS4RENT.com
Apotheque Lifestyle Spa: Call - (760)
967-7727 or contact www.APOTHEQUESPA.com
The Privateer Coal Fire Pizza: Call -
(760) 453-2500 or www.theprivateercoalfirepizza.com
101 Café: Call – (760) 722-5220 or
Ann Nelson is a freelance writer
residing in San Diego.