Oxnard—one of Southern California’s best kept secrets—offers miles of pristine beaches, sand dunes, flat walking and biking paths and a huge harbor to explore by kayak, paddleboard or electric Duffy boat. So, why would a San Diego family travel four hours north to vacation in Oxnard? Simple. To enjoy SoCal’s beautiful coastline, breathtaking ocean views and a peaceful reprieve from the crowds of people who flock to our hometown. Here are tips for your next family beach vacation—fun things to do with kids, where to eat and where to stay during your relaxing Oxnard getaway.
Activities | Fun Things to DO with Kids in Oxnard
Rent watercraft from Hopper Boat Rentals at Channel Islands Harbor. Choose from a Duffy (electric) boat, pedal boats, hydrobikes and more. A Duffy boat is a really fun way to explore and cruise the calm waters of Channel Islands Harbor with your family or a group of friends. Feel free to bring your own food and drinks on board. You may even get lucky and spot some harbor seals!
Take a History and Wildlife Kayak Tour through the calm, safe waters of Channel Islands Harbor. Mike Lamm of Channel Islands Kayak Center in Marine Emporium Landing guides families on a fun adventure they won’t forget.
Take a private Venetian gondola ride with Gondola Paradiso through the Harbor’s peaceful Seabridge Canals. Whether a romantic ride for two or a family cruise for six, Mark won’t steer you wrong. Reservations required.
Rent bikes or surreys from Wheel Fun Rentals and take the path along Hollywood Beach and Mandalay Beach, where you’ll find a huge playground at Oxnard Beach Park. A perfect place to picnic and spend the afternoon. Ride the opposite direction to Channel Islands Maritime Museum at the end of the marina.
Shop, dine and play at The Collection at RiverPark, Oxnard’s “collection” of stores, restaurants, Bowlero bowling alley, Red Door escape room, movie theaters and more (axe throwing coming soon). Located on the east side of Hwy. 101.
Where to EAT in Oxnard
Toppers Pizza Place
Oxnard, Camarillo and Ventura
Chances are, your family will want pizza at some point on your trip, so be sure to visit Toppers Pizza Place, an award-winning local favorite. Not only do they have awesome pizza, but a large salad bar with fresh ingredients. Some locations even deliver to nearby hotels. Toppers is a local chain to Ventura County—there are half a dozen locations in the area—visit the website to find the location nearest you. Toppers makes a great meal stop even if you’re just passing through town!
3550 South Harbor Blvd., Oxnard
Sea Fresh is a casual harborside eatery offering an expansive menu of fresh seafood and sushi. Your only issue here will be choosing which yummy meal to try! Join the locals for Sea Fresh’s popular happy hour. We sat on the outdoor patio where we had fun watching (and listening to) sea lions during our meal.
Mrs. Olson’s Coffee Hut
2800 Harbor Blvd., Oxnard
Mrs. Olson’s Coffee Hut is a favorite with locals and offers indoor or outdoor casual dining right on the harbor. Breakfast favorites include blueberry pancakes, corned beef hash and breakfast burritos. Also open for lunch.
Ox & Ocean
2101 Mandalay Beach Rd., Oxnard
Fabulous breakfast in particular on the property of Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach (pictured: avocado toast), but the Oxtail Bao Buns are not to be missed (pictured above). Read more about Ox & Ocean below.
Where to STAY in Oxnard
Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach
2101 Mandalay Beach Rd., Oxnard
When you take your family to Oxnard to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, there is no better place to stay than Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach. The all-suite, oceanfront property offers two full bathrooms in every room, making it the perfect getaway for families. It's just steps from expansive white sands, playful dunes and ocean waves, so if family fun on the beach is what you have in mind, you’re in the right spot.
Those familiar with Oxnard may remember the Zachari Dunes property as an Embassy Suites, but the recent extensive renovations have breathed new life into the wonderful accommodations, grounds, eateries and amenities. Enjoy the huge pool, oversized jacuzzi and firepits on the property, including one firepit that seats about 15 people. Roasting s'mores is welcome and encouraged! Also on site is Henry's Gear Rentals, offering everything from boogie boards and board games to Go Pros, Xbox and Poloroid cameras to use during your stay. You can even rent a record player for your own family dance party in your suite! Two hours of "adventure gear" rental is included in the daily (nominal) resort fee.
For parents who want an hour or two to themselves, DIVE is a super cute and fun lounge space on site for adults only, offering a bar, darts, shuffleboard and big screen TVs. Open on weekends only. Other perks of staying at the resort include complimentary beachfront yoga classes on weekend mornings.
Ox & Ocean is their full-service restaurant and bar offering meals and cocktails indoors or poolside. I highly recommend breakfast -- the strawberry smoothie, jalapeno corn fritter benedict and avocado toast are exceptional. Special shout-out about the apple bacon chutney on the grilled pork chop (dinner menu) -- it should absolutely be bottled and sold! Opening this year is Sugar Beets, a unique outdoor dining option featuring an airstream trailer that will offer coffee, breakfast and lunch items.
Dallas Cowboys fans love visiting Oxnard to watch the Cowboys practice during Spring Training Camp every July–August. There are plenty of fun opportunities for youth, such as cheerleading and football camps. Visit the website for schedule and to learn about admission and parking (there’s a parking perk for people staying in Oxnard hotels).
The nearby Ventura County Fair takes place during the first couple weeks of August.
When Lisa Gipson isn’t editing San Diego Family Magazine, she loves to discover new places with her husband and daughters.
Looking for more fun in the area? Read “6 Fun Stops Along California’s Central Coast.”