Downtown Oceanside: Hip Restaurants, Boutique Hotels, and One of the Longest Piers in California

Downtown Oceanside: Hip Restaurants, Boutique Hotels, and One of the Longest Piers in California

The beach north of the Oceanside Pier in Oceanside, Calif., on March 7, 2024. (Kimberly Hayek/The Epoch Times)

Kimberly Hayek
Kimberly Hayek

6/23/2024

Updated: 6/23/2024

0

Oceanside, California, is home to a beloved local icon—one of the longest piers on the west coast, according to the city. Although recently ravaged by fire, the pier has since reopened. It reaches out into the Pacific from the western edge of the city’s bustling downtown, which is set upon a bluff overlooking the ocean.
A fire burns on the West end of the Oceanside Pier, in Oceanside, Calif., on April 25, 2024. (Sandy Huffaker/AFP via Getty Images)

A fire burns on the West end of the Oceanside Pier, in Oceanside, Calif., on April 25, 2024. (Sandy Huffaker/AFP via Getty Images)

The Oceanside Pier is seen off in the distance in Oceanside, Calif., on March 7, 2024. (Kimberly Hayek/The Epoch Times)

The Oceanside Pier is seen off in the distance in Oceanside, Calif., on March 7, 2024. (Kimberly Hayek/The Epoch Times)

The community began all the way back in 1798, when the Spanish established Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, sparking the creation of a nearby village and an increase in activity in the area. However, it wasn’t until 1888 when the town of Oceanside was officially founded.
Today, lavish and modest short-term rentals abound throughout the coastal part of the now vibrant city. Property values are skyrocketing, state mandates are pushing increased density near public transit, and the Oceanside city council is approving major construction projects.
Overall, Oceanside is now quite expansive. Set north of Carlsbad, west of Vista, south of Camp Pendleton, and west of the Pacific Ocean, it is home to panoramic views of the ocean and sweeping hills that shine with gold at sunset.
On the north side of Oceanside, where it abuts Camp Pendleton, CA-76 runs east to west. As you drive the Oceanside stretch of 76 among the valleys and hills, home to residential single family houses, condos, and apartments, you’ll first pass notable landmarks such as Mission San Luis Rey on your left and later Guajome Regional Park on your right.
The corner of Coast Highway and the 76 is the gateway from the north to Oceanside and San Diego County. This loud, boisterous intersection offers reasonably priced gas and other services on the southern edge of the 20-mile break between San Diego County and Orange County. Many use it as a transit stop between Tijuana, San Diego, and the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area.
Just north of this busy intersection, the line for In-N-Out Burger pours out of the parking lot and blocks passing traffic. Further north is the Oceanside Harbor area, which features one of Oceanside’s two beach playgrounds, boat slips, and seals.
Cruising north along the 101, a series of lights guides you through a boisterous coastal downtown. Barber shops and military gear depots remain as a testament to the old Oceanside, alongside new luxury hotels, cafes, and restaurants. The Star Theatre and Sunshine Brooks Performing Arts Theatre in downtown Oceanside offer live theater for all ages.
Trains travel on tracks through the city of Oceanside, Calif., on Nov. 2, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Trains travel on tracks through the city of Oceanside, Calif., on Nov. 2, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The Civic Center in Oceanside, Calif., on April 14, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The Civic Center in Oceanside, Calif., on April 14, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Within downtown Oceanside lies one of 14 designated cultural districts in California, a walkable area along the Coast Highway with the above-mentioned theaters, an Art Walk, and museums. On the first Friday of each month in the Civic Center plaza, you might find art vendors marching to the beat of a drum circle.
The Civic Center is in the heart of downtown, built in 1990 with white arches, plain white walls, colorful tiles, a large public square, and a fountain. Handel’s with its long lines for handmade ice cream is across the east side of the 101 Coast Highway.
At Oceanside’s western edge on Pacific Street, two opulent hotels rise up on either side of the street like bookends. The mid-rise boutique resort hotels, the Seabird and the Mission Pacific, opened in 2021. Hyatt Resorts operates both properties.
Atop the six-story Seabird Resort is a rooftop bar. The seven-story Mission Pacific Hotel shares a property with the restored Graves house, famous for being the home of Tom Cruise co-star Kelly McGillis’s character in the movie “Top Gun.” Today, it’s a museum and coffee house. The signature dish, the High Pie, brims with local fruit beneath a topping of mascarpone ice cream. Next door to Mission Pacific on Pacific Street, is the Valle restaurant, one of only five Michelin star restaurants in San Diego County.
High-Pie at the "Top Gun" house, part of the Mission Pacific Hotel, is a great place to grab a sweet treat while visiting Oceanside, California. (Photo courtesy of Jakob Layman.)

High-Pie at the "Top Gun" house, part of the Mission Pacific Hotel, is a great place to grab a sweet treat while visiting Oceanside, California. (Photo courtesy of Jakob Layman.)

A family learns to surf at The Seabird Resort in Oceanside, California. (Photo courtesy of The Seabird Resort)

A family learns to surf at The Seabird Resort in Oceanside, California. (Photo courtesy of The Seabird Resort)

Heading east, under the pedestrian walkway beneath the railroad bridge, Q&A Oyster Bar is in the Brick Hotel complex. Next door, Frankie’s, a social lounge, serves a variety of $16 cocktails. The Brick Hotel’s first floor leads to the Succulent Café coffeehouse and an outdoor patio and Stone Brewing tap room, while Cococabana serves Caribbean-style craft cocktails with ocean views on its rooftop. Down Cleveland headed north, Pannikin Coffee & Tea, a beloved local coffeehouse with locations in Leucadia and the San Diego Airport, operates out of the 1886 brick Bunker House.
Along the water, sand is at a premium on the rocky, eroding beach in Oceanside. The downtown stretch of beach on either side of the pier still has plenty of sand to offer, however. Children enjoy the beach playground just to the south of the pier, sliding into the sand from above and then running around in all directions.
If parents are lucky, eventually they’ll tire out and catch the sunset from the comfort of a swing. On the opposite side of the Strand just to the south, Tyson Street park has grass and a playground, as well.
If you keep heading south along Coast Highway, you come across a variety of hip businesses. At The Jazzy Wishbone, a small and dark jazz bar, music—jazz, fusion, RandB, classic rock, and more—fills the wooden room and pours into the sidewalk and street. Space is tight, so get there early.
Or grab a coffee at one of the many coffee shops in town—Pier View Cafe, Communal, and Revolution Roasters. The Communal back patio is filled with sun in the summer months. Bottlecraft—where you can grab a beer, cider, or alcoholic kombucha—shares this same back patio.
Nightlife is best on Thursday nights in Oceanside after the Thursday morning Farmers Market and carnival-esque Thursday evening Sunset Market, attracting hundreds of people to local businesses.
Copy
facebooktwitterlinkedintelegram
California Insider
Sign up here for our email newsletter!
©2024 California Insider All Rights Reserved. California Insider is a part of Epoch Media Group.