This beach town's claim to fame is that it is the Gateway to the Channel Islands. But wait a minute, a few miles northwest of Oxnard, Ventura also claims to be the Gateway to the Channel Islands. So confusing!
But no, not really. They both have a lovely harbor with regular service to the Channel Islands, but I think Oxnard's harbor is more fun.
The channel islands harbor has an extensive canal system making it look and feel like Venice, Italy, or Venice, CA. You can even get gondola rides on those canals.
On both sides of those canals, you can find homes with ramps, restaurants, and recreation areas.
Although the harbor and beaches are the main attraction, the city of Oxnard has many other points of interest.
So what can you do while in Oxnard? Visit the beaches and parks, bike, boat, the channel islands, the Mullin Automotive Museum or the Channel Islands Maritime Museum, or dine in the harbor.
Here are a few of my favorite places
Oxnard Beach Park
What a great combination! You get a nice family park overlooking a long strand of beach.
This gorgeous stretch of beach features rolling lawns, public barbecue areas, volleyball courts, a play area, skating, and jogging paths.
You can also reserve covered group picnic areas.
The Pacific Coast Bicycle Route runs through the park offering an excellent resting place for bicyclists on a long ride.
This white sandy beach has spectacular views of the Channel Island National Park and Marine Sanctuary – and if you time your visit right, you can watch as the sun sets behind the islands.
At this gorgeous beach, you can sunbathe, kayak, fish, bodyboard, and surf, of course.
When you visit t his beach, you are in good company. Clark Gable lived here. Rudolph Valentino filmed a movie here.
Hollywood Beach is a great spot for beach volleyball, swimming, sunning, fishing, bodyboarding, surfing, and viewing the Channel Islands offshore.
The beach is Dog Friendly. Dogs on leash are allowed before 9 am and after 5 pm (Must bring poop bags).
Open flames are not allowed at County beaches; this includes portable fire pits and portable grills.
The beach area is also home to my favorite breakfast spot in Oxnard: Hollywood Beach Café. More on that later.
Oxnard Shores Beach
One of my favorite beaches, Oxnard Shores, has a grassy area with a jungle gym for kids and equipment rentals for beach parties.
The beach has a trail with benches that winds between the dunes offering a good hike and great views of the beach and the channel islands.
This beach is secluded most of the year, making it ideal for nature walks and photography.
Now that we got the beaches out of our system, let's talk about some history.
Before the European explorers, the Chumash native Americans made the area between San Luis Obispo and Malibu their home. They thrived for millennia sustaining on the land and the sea.
The channel between the shore was easier to navigate due to lower sea levels, so they extended their habitats into the Channel Islands.
The modern era of Oxnard started with farmers cultivating barley and lima beans in the 1850s. But the town of Oxnard was not born until Henry T. Oxnard, a beet sugar factory owner, agreed to build a $2 million factory in this area.
Oxnard intended to name this town after the Greek word for "sugar", zachari, but frustrated by bureaucracy, they named it after himself.
To read more about Oxnard's history, go here.
Things to do
Mullin Automotive Museum
The Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard is unique and dedicated to the personal car collection of businessman and philanthropist Peter Mullin.
The Museum has a large collection of vintage Bugattis, and many of the cars are fully restored and can be driven.
The building housing the collection was remodeled recently to be more energy efficient by American architect David Randall Hertz, using solar panels and reflective roofing to reduce heat.
The architect managed to incorporate elements that retain the Art Deco style and motifs of the era of the cars on display.
Besides its selection of classic French automobiles and Grand Prix race cars, the Mullin also houses a collection of Art-Deco furniture and contemporary paintings and sculptures.
Channel Islands Maritime Museum
The name is a little misleading. It is not a museum about the Channel Islands – it is located at the channel islands harbor.
But it is still worth a visit, especially if you love maritime history.
The Museum's showcased a large collection of maritime paintings, ship models, and artifacts.
The collection also includes Seascape paintings by European painters.
The Upper Deck hosts interactive contemporary exhibits and featured temporary exhibitions.
The Museum windows look out over the Channel Islands Harbor's passing sailboats and gorgeous views.
The Channel Islands National Park sits just offshore, and the sea lions on the dock out front add tremendous character to the traffic stream.
You can enjoy the art at your own pace or take advantage of the free guided tours.
Nestled in Historic Downtown Oxnard, this city block offers a unique perspective on historic homes.
You can stroll through this piece of history surrounded by delightful gardens, fountains, Restaurants, a Wine Tasting Room, a Live theatre, gift shops, and a visitor center.
Many of the town's activities, such as Summer Concerts, are held here.
Nature and Hiking
Central Park is a good place for a leisurely walk, and it has a lot of paths with greens and fountains.
The atmosphere during the day is tranquil and beautiful whereas, with the fountains lit up at night, it becomes more romantic.
Emma Wood River Trail
If you are looking for an easy hike, you will need to venture into the city of Ventura.
This trail is located inside the Emma Woods State Beach, features beautiful wildflowers, and is suitable for all skill levels.
Note: As of October 2021, the beach had a large homeless population.
Arroyo Verde Park
This 132-acre park with miles of hiking trails is actually in the city of Ventura, but it is close enough to Oxnard to warrant a visit.
It has open grass areas, shade trees, a nature center, and a new playground.
The has several hiking trails to choose from, but the main one is a 2.3-mile moderate loop with many side trails – some with steep inclines.
Oxnard is a large city with many dining options. You can find Italian, Thai, Mexican, Mediterranean, Japanese, Brazilian, or even kosher cuisine.
Tourists usually flock to the harbor for waterfront seafood, but many of the unique restaurants are in downtown or sprinkled through the neighborhoods.
Moqueca restaurant offers a unique Brazilian food experience with great views of Channel Islands Harbor.
Moqueca (mo-KEH-kah) is also the authentic Brazilian cooking style – mainly a seafood stew. The restaurant also offers a Full Bar, Steaks, Pasta, and delicious appetizers.
The waiter was attentive, explained their signature dishes and specials, and gave us recommendations for drinks.
Before the meal, they served toasted garlic bread with Eggplant dip. An excellent start to our evening.
For drinks, we tried their authentic Caipirinha cocktails, and they were excellent! I loved my original, and my wife really enjoyed her passion fruit.
For the main course, we ordered the Mahi Mahi Moqueca and the Fish Filet with white rice and fried bananas. The food was delicious, and we had a lot of leftovers.
For a great finish to this dining experience, we shared a passion fruit mousse.
I highly recommend this place when you visit Oxnard or Thousand Oaks.
Note: Moqueca is on the second floor, and you can take an elevator up or the stairs.
For seasonal California Cuisine right on the water, visit this lively place at channel islands harbor in Oxnard.
Waterside prides itself on offering inspired dishes prepared using the finest and freshest quality ingredients available locally in Ventura County.
Besides delicious food and drinks, the restaurant offers live entertainment on the outdoor porch.
The restaurant offers a wide variety of American favorites like steak, burgers, and roasted chicken – but during our visit, we ordered soup and salad.
We both enjoyed a cup of Clam Chowder. I ordered the Mediterranean salad, and my wife ordered the caesar salad. We both shared the Greek fries. We enjoyed our delicious food while gazing at the boats in the harbor.
For a great finish, we shared the bread pudding, which was very tasty.
We love sushi, so we had to try Genmai Sushi in Oxnard. The restaurant is a full Japanese cuisine and Sushi bar, so you can find a large variety of dishes and a great selection of rolls.
Some of the items they offer are dynamite sushi roll, the Oxnard roll, shrimp fried rice, spicy garlic edamame, sashimi salad, and the vegetable teriyaki bowl.
The interior of Genmai Sushi is stylish and festive, with TV screens to keep you entertained.
During our visit, we tried many of their sushi rolls – we actually ordered too much and had leftovers.
We loved almost everything, especially the roll named after the city of Oxnard.
The crunchy roll was not what we expected. We expect shrimp tempura filling with a crispy topping of toasted panko breadcrumbs – and sometimes garlic. This one was a fried roll topped with eel.
The service was quick and attentive – I would visit this place again.
Hollywood Beach Café
I went to Hollywood Beach Café twice for breakfast and loved both the food and experience.
It is hard to go wrong with breakfast, but this beachside spot goes the extra mile to make your meal memorable.
During our two visits, we tried the breakfast burrito, the California Breakfast (2 eggs + pancakes + bacon), and make your own omelet. All choices came out just right and with very large portions.
The service was friendly and fast, and coffee kept coming.
Bistro 13 is in the neighboring city, Camarillo, and is worth the short 15-minute drive. For a classy Italian meal, this is the place to be.
During our visit, we enjoyed the ambiance, service, food, and drinks. Our waiter was attentive, explained the specials, and recommended wines to go with our dinner.
We ordered the lamb special and the butter squash ravioli - both were excellent.
For dessert, we tried the homemade tiramisu and loved it.
If you are in Camarillo or close by, you must visit this place.