During a recent search for places to stay near Santa Barbara, the town of Oxnard fell into our lap and the first thing I imagined (when I heard the name) was an over-populated residential area in Ventura County — but as it turns out, this couldn’t have been further from the truth.
The town of Oxnard lies on the coast of Southern California, just a few miles away from Channel Islands National Park — also known as “the Galápagos of North America.” Even holding the title of the 19th most populous city in California, Oxnard feels extremely spread out.
During the 70’s and 80’s, developers tried to build houses on every inch of this land, but thanks to a grassroots effort, much of this area was saved from cookie cutter homes with tiny yards. It is now California’s largest strawberry producer and the town hosts the California Strawberry Festival each summer.
We initially came to Oxnard because of its close proximity to the Channel Islands, but this agricultural town captured us with its charm and has quickly become one of our favorite Southern California travel destinations.
Where to Stay in Oxnard
We wanted to stay within walking distance to the Channel Islands Harbor since that’s where we planned to spend most of our time.
Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort is in an ideal location and it took us about fifteen minutes to walk to the harbor. It’s in a safe area too, so we didn’t feel uncomfortable walking late at night after a few glasses of wine.
This is the first resort I have ever heard of offering free happy hour drinks. The guy standing in line ahead of us told us to get two drinks per person to avoid a long wait the next time around. The bartender didn’t ask questions and we took our drinks to the hot tub, which we had all to ourselves.
The suites are huge, extremely clean and tastefully decorated. Our ocean view suite had a bedroom, living room and two bathrooms. These suites have plenty of space for at least four people and would be perfect for a couple with kids.
The breakfast buffet was more than we expected considering it’s included in the room price. They have hot food, pastries, coffee, tea and juice. We got in and got out quickly which is the ideal breakfast before a day of sightseeing. All in all, this resort is a great little getaway.
A Day Trip to the Channel Islands
Island Packers was the only company we could find who offered trips to the Channel Islands, so we booked a tour to Anacapa Island (the closest island to the mainland).
The boat ride to Anacapa took about an hour and we saw tons of dolphins along the way. They rode along the bow and side of the boat. The Island Packers crew were very informative about the wildlife in the area and they made sure to slow down so we could get some good photos and video footage.
A National Park volunteer was offering a guided tour once we arrived to Anacapa, so we tagged along to get some information and history about the island. Since they don’t offer any services on Anacapa, it is advised to pack a lunch and plenty of water. Locals highly recommend visiting these islands in the spring, when the flowers are in full bloom. We traveled here in January and the first bit of color was just starting to show.
The boat picked us up at 3:30pm and we headed for the mainland. Little did we know, we were in for a surprise. You can read about our unexpected boat ride back at Our Once-In-A-Lifetime Whale Watching Experience in the Channel Islands.
Our Favorite Restaurant in Oxnard
The Hollywood Beach Wine Company is located in the harbor and this is where we spent our Saturday night.
We were blown away by the service at this restaurant. The staff, owner and sommelier made it feel like we were out to dinner with a group of friends. We were impressed with how the chef and owner are focused on buying their produce locally and it seems they are making an effort to contribute to the community.
There was a live band inside the restaurant, playing cover tunes. In addition to laid back seating indoors, they have outdoor tables with heaters and a gorgeous view of the harbor.
Our favorite dishes include; the Jalapeno Apricot Tort, Shrimp Swimming in English Cheddar and Chives with Biscuits, Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon and Banana Nut Bread Pudding for dessert.
Oxnard was the relaxing getaway that we desperately needed and we have every intention of returning soon. There is plenty more for us to discover!
Have you ever traveled to a place that ended up surprising you?