Few people who have visited the California coastline need convincing of its endless attributes of beautiful sunkissed beaches, gorgeous weather and supurb wineries. Central California is resilient in it’s ability to attract travelers who’d rather enjoy the relaxation of a sunny beach town instead of the headaches of a congested city adventure. Just a 90 minute drive north of Los Angeles, Ventura County offers visitors a getaway, to the seaside charm of the coast.
Like Los Angeles, Ventura County enjoys a year-round, vacation-like weather thats suitable for nearly any discerning traveler searching for a beach getaway. The harbor serves as a home to a fleet of fishing boats, shops and impressive restaurants, where visitors may select from dozens of casual and upscale cafés, breweries, wineries and tapas bars that are fuled by over 125,000 acres of local farms, orchards and vineyards. Combined with Ventura’s rich, natural landscape and thriving cultural scene, the region is the ultimate seaside escape.
I’ve visited California nearly a dozen times but never had a chance to venture in to Ventura, so we partnered with Ventura County Coast for a glimpse of the county’s rich beauty and culinary experiences. I even invited my friend and LA style blogger, Michelle Zuzek of @StyleBeacon, who lives nearby in Laguna Beach, along for the adventure. After a quick culinary tour of LA, we rented a jeep and head toward the coast for the 90-minute drive to Ventura.
Drive the Coastline
Kick off your journey to Ventura by crossing off an item on your bucket list. Take California Highway Route 1 from Santa Monica for a coastal cruise along the coastline. The drive will take you through Malibu and along the most scenic road in entire state with multiple spots to pull over for to take those FOMO-worthy Instagram shots.
Where to Stay
The Crowne Plaza Hotel is Ventura’s only hotel located on the beach and just two blocks from historic downtown. It’s any easy walk to explore all the the downtown area has to offer. Every room in the hotel offers incredible views of the water and surrounding foothills. If you’re like us, you’ll probably spend a vast majority of your time exploring the area instead of staying in your room all day, but the hotel’s amenities will keep you comfortable. Each room has HDTV, free WiFi, bathrobes, coffeemakers, a private balcony, whirlpool tubs, sitting areas and minifridges. The hotel also offers a full buffet breakfast served every morning and a wine and cheese hour is held each evening. 450 E Harbor Blvd, Ventura, CA 93001
Pete’s Breakfast House is a family-owned and run breakfast and lunch restaurant that has been serving Ventura County since 1981. Pete’s is well known to locals as serving the best breakfast dishes in town, using fresh ranch eggs and farm produce. This local favorite was even featured in an episode of Diners Drive-ins and Dives, where Guy Fieri featured the “righteous” house favorite, the Pancake Roll with yogurt and berries. The entire dish is as legendary as it is gigantic, so make sure you arrive super hungry or be prepared to share it with a friend. Local patrons have been dining here for years and tend to make it part of their weekly routine. After experiencing the super friendly service and a few delicious dishes, we can see why it’s so popular! 2055 E Main St, Ventura, CA 93001
What to Order: Pancake Roll, Homemade Corned Beef Hash, Huevos Rancheros.
This quaint little spot in Oxnard dols out hearty portions of American breakfast and lunch dishes and has been doing so since 1974. This diner also gets major bonus points for their amazing new location overlooking the water in the harbor. Make sure you schedule time for a long bike ride or a nap after your breakfast. The hearty servings seem like they’re designed to put you in to a wonderful breakfast coma. 28000 S Harbor, Blvd., Ste. A Oxnard, CA 93035
What to Order: Tri-Tip Omellette, skillet potatoes, pancakes and bacon.
This is a beautiful harborside restaurant and wine bar located in the Channel Islands Harbor. This adorable spot boasts indoor and outdoor patio seating and while serving classic American fare with local brew, wine and inventive cocktails. Waterside is located in the Marine Emporium
Landing, 3500 South Harbor Blvd. Suite 1-100, Oxnard, CA. 93035
What to Order: The House Burger, Cheese Board, Grilled Shrimp Salad
Ventura Harbor Village a vibrant, seaside attraction boasting 35 seaside boutiques, art galleries, and waterfront restaurants, entertainment venues and harbor boat tours. Those with an appetite and a taste for local fare will find plenty of unique eateries. The village serves as the epicenter of waterfront dining and savory seafood in Ventura, boasting 16 restaurants and cafés, most with beautiful harbor views and a range of delicious and diverse cuisine. (Above: Brophy Brother’s Seafood) 1583 Spinnaker Drive D-7, Ventura, CA 93001
Andria’s Seafood – named after the owner’s only daughter – was opened as a small fish market on Haley St. in Santa Barbara then moved to Ventura Harbor in 1982, before the Ventura Harbor Village existed, when Michael signed a lease to build a Seafood Market with “some cooking.” Andria’s is well known for their legendary original Fish & Chips, homemade clam chowder, and casual atmosphere. They we provide the freshest seafood available in the harbor, both to enjoy in the restaurant and to take home from the market.
What to Order: Fish & Chips, Clam Chowder, Onion Rings
The 805 Bar & Grilled Cheese is a cozy and romantic restaurant featuring crunchy crostinis lined with melting cheeses, specialty meats, and love notes written in pesto. The restaurant was originally known as Andres’ Wine and Tapas bar when it opened in 2010. After a few years evolved to feature unique gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, select cuban dishes from their sister restaurant Copa Cubana, which offers Cuban-American fusion cuisine and classic dishes. The owner Andres Fernandez, seems to be the busiest man in the harbor. His team serves some of the best cuisine in the harbor and his restaurants are thriving, but he’s also the co-owner of the Ventura Harbor Comedy Club nearby. With his roots as a stand-up comedian from New York City, Andres brought his talents to Los Angeles and eventually landed in Ventura to establish his business and expand on his passion to serve good food, great wine and cocktails with the gorgeous view of the harbor.
What to Order: Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Empanadas, Fried Yuca, Platanos, Lechon Asado (Cuban style roast pork).
Brophy Brother’s is everything you could ever want in the most dream worthy clam bar. It boasts a fun, lively atmosphere with beautiful views of the Ventura harbor and the distance mountains. We sat at the full length bar facing the harbor view and the clam bar, but nearly any spot in the restaurant gives you the feeling of an authentic seaside restaurant. The only thing missing was the sound of a few sea lions outside begging for fish from the patrons.
What to Order – Oysters Rockerfeller, Ceviche, Shrimp Cocktail, Crab Cakes.
Nestled within the strawberry fields and farm rows of Oxnard, California lies Herzog Wine Cellars. Here, under the watchful eye of head winemaker Joe Hurliman, the winery combines the artisan craft of premium California winemaking with the deliberation and unyielding standard of kosher supervision and Herzog family’s heritage that dates back nearly six centuries. Also located inside Herzog Wine Cellars, is Tierra Sur, recognized as one of the finest restaurants in Southern California. Head Chef Gabriel Garcia and his team bring his ideas of bold and exciting dishes to life using only the fresest seasonal ingredients from local farmers. 3201 Camino Del Sol, Oxnard, CA 93030
What to Order: Tastings start at $10/person with up to 6 servings.
Institution Ale Company proudly brews American ales in a variety of styles. All the beers are produced in house by their brew team to be flavorful, modern interpretations of traditional styles. The brewery and tasting room boasts a rotating selection of beers as well as their freshly baked flatbread pizzas and soft pretzels. Indoor seating is available with tvs, entertainment and an outdoor patio with fire pit. 3841 Mission Oaks Blvd., Camarillo, CA 93012
What to Order – Seasonal rotation of beers, Sausage and Mushroom pizza, Soft Pretzel.
Ventiki Tiki Lounge & Lanai is like a mini transport to a small tropical oasis in the heart of Ventura. Ventiki features the best traditional cocktails, modern tiki drinks, and Polynesian inspired cuisine. The lounge seems to be the best spot for everyone to escape the work week. We arrived just before the crowd and it didn’t take long for the place to get completely full. We were already super stuffed from a long day of eating so we only stayed for 45 minutes for a couple of drinks, but got a glimpse at a few dishes as the servers passed us. I’m pretty sad I don’t have two stomachs. 701 E Main St, Ventura, CA 93001
What to Order – Voodoo Temptress of the Seven Pleasures, VenTiki Mai Tai.
Rumfish is easily one of my favorite dinner spots in Ventura. Owners John and Pam Solomon have brought the experience of their Placencia, Belize restaurant to downtown Ventura with Rumfish Y Vino. The restaurant is a “gastro-bar” offering a full bar, and a ‘small plates’ dining experience boasting a menu of Belizean classic comfort foods and international fusion fare. The sleek interior is artistically contemporary with a nod to the styles of the island of Belize, featuring a series of tall tables. The outside garden features a gorgeous array of seating, with heaters and a welcoming fire place. 34 North Palm Street, Ventura, CA. 93001
What to Order – Conch Fritters, Grilled Fish Tacos, Smoked Pork Belly, Creole Seabass.
Twenty 88 feels like one of the most California restaurants in the entire county. This modern martini lounge and contemporary bistro boasts a sleek design in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. I heard they’re known for thier amazing cocktails and martinis but we drank quite a bit of wine just an hour before we arrived, so we skipped the cocktails since I still had to drive back to Ventura afterward. Their menu features New American and Gourmet Fusion style cuisine lined with delicious and modern dishes. The special of the night featured several options of an appetizer (side salad), small plate (house mac n’ cheese) and a main dish (beef short rib) all for only $36. I was surprised to see that the serving size of each plate was so substantial that I was too full to finish the short rib I ordered. Don’t wory, I finished it as a late night snack that evening. 2088 Ventura Blvd, Camarillo, CA 93010
What to Order – Peach Burrata, Beef Short Rib (when available), Citrus Crusted Halibut, House Mac N’ Cheese.
Michelle isn’t a big foodie, but she’s always on fleek with her style and astute sense of fashion. Stylistas will appreciate Ventura Harbor Village’s seaside boutique shopping of more than 18 shops, boutiques, and art galleries. Visitors can shop for jewelry and fine gifts at Treasure Cove, or pick up Ventura wear and a souvenir at Casa de Regalos. Barefoot Boutique, Ventura Swimwear, and Beach Break Surf Shop, offer trendy clothing that speaks to the California lifestyle. 1583 Spinnaker Drive D-7, Ventura, CA 93001
The Collection The Collection Riverpark is Oxnard’s most prominent shopping and entertainment center. The Collection at Riverpark features a rare blend of retail stores, restaurants, cafe’s, grocery, and outdoor spaces that boldly embrace the coastal California climate and lifestyle. 2751 Park View Court, Suite 261, Oxnard, CA 93036
Browse shops in Downtown Ventura
Notes: From there, you can walk around Main Street which is known for its awesome antique stores, thrift stores, bookstores and unique boutiques. Some of the favorite stops are: Iron & Resin, Garage, Palermo Coffee House, Spice-Topia, The Refill Shoppe, Tiki Girl, Vom Fass, We Olive and Ventura Antique Market.
Fun, Sun and Surf in Ventura
A museum might not be your typical idea of fun, but after spending a few days in the area you’ll discover that Ventura County is treasure trove of rich and exciting history. For those interested in coastal exploration, visit the Maritime Museum for a tour of five centuries of unique maritime art that has sailed the beautiful Harbor in Oxnard. The Museum’s collection is a paintings, ship models, and priceless artifacts rival some of the finest European and U.S. collections you’ll see anywhere in the world. The hour-long guided tour is only $7 with a super friendly staff that will ever make you a fine cup of coffee. 3900 Bluefin Cir. Oxnard, CA 93035
After 3 hours of eating our way across Ventura Harbor Village, Michelle and I rented an electric Duffy boat to explore the beauties of the harbor. The The harbor spares no shortage of beautiful views and is filled with fishing boats, private yatchs and small vessels. The channel leads out to the open waters of the Pacific as well as hundreds of luxurious homes. Some of the homes are modest while others were nothing short of breath taking. We even saw a few sea lions playing in the water and had a close encounter with one as it passed us and head out to the ocean. Ventura Boat Rentals also rents kayaks, stand up paddle boards and even wave runners. They also offer dinner cruises, private charters and even burials at sea. 1583 Spinnaker
Drive D-7 Ventura, CA 93001
Like most people, I’m drawn to the beach and the ocean. There’s a natural calmness to the ocean that boasts a feeling of relaxation that we just can’t experience on a lake (here in Austin). Ventura Beach provides some of the most stunning and picturesque sunsets and sunrises you’ll ever see. The cool breeze off the coast makes it perfect for picnics and beach side bonfires. Surfers will find solace in the waves crash against the sea wall all day. It’s an ideal spot if you’re looking for those moments to shoot the perfect photo. Wake up early, grab a cup of coffee and catch the sunrise every single day you’re there.
Special thanks to Ventura County Coast and Visit California for travel assistance. For intineraries, travel tips and visitor information for the city of Ventura, contact the visitor’s bureau for details.