Super Fun Things to Do in Oxnard Harbor

by | Feb 25, 2023 | Day Trips From Los Angeles, Family Adventures, Weekend Trips, West Coast

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It may only be about an hour’s drive from Los Angeles, but Oxnard in Ventura County is a different world. This sleepy coastal town is a refreshing change of pace from LA’s hustle and bustle, making it a perfect destination for an easy family day trip or weekend getaway.

With everything from boat excursions and watersports to street art and tidepools, even the hardest to please in your group will agree it’s a great place for the whole family. Here are our family’s favorite things to do in Oxnard:




Cruise the Channel Islands

Did you know Oxnard’s Channel Islands Harbor is the gateway to Channel Island’s National Park, considered by many to be the Galapagos of North America? Comprised of eight islands, this national park is home to more than 2,000 plants and species, many of which can be found nowhere else in the world.

There are 27 different species of dolphins and whales, including the blue whale, fin, and humpback whale. Oxnard’s harbor is also home to California sea lions, elephant seals, and harbor seals, as well as exotic bird species. If you venture offshore and get lucky with timing, your family may also be able to stumble upon tidepools. Among Southern California’s best, the Channel Islands’ pristine tidepools boast anemones, sea stars, urchins, and mussels.

Located 11 miles off the coast, the only way to get to these islands is by boat.

Book a full – or half-day boat trip with Island Packers, and you won’t regret it. Among the excursions available are whale-watching trips, wildlife cruises, harbor trips and even overnight camping trips. We’ve enjoyed trips to Anacapa Island and Scorpion Cove.


Pro tip: Make sure to book your boat ride in advance as reservations can fill up fast, particularly during high season.


DON’T MISS! Cave Kayaking in the Channel Islands 


Seal at Channel Islands Harbor - Oxnard Harbor

Catch sightings of sea lions, seals, and other marine life in Oxnard Harbor. Photo by Mike Kitchen for Unsplash.


Best Family-Friendly Activities in Channel Islands Harbor

Get active at the Channel Islands Harbor. Kids can’t stomach the sea? The beautiful Channel Islands Harbor, also known as Marine Emporium Landing, is a destination in its own right, with gorgeous views, waterfront activities, and opportunities to see sea lions, whales, and other marine life.

Fun activities span the gamut. Adventurous families can opt to stand-up paddle board, parasail, jet ski, kayak, rent an electric boat, and bike. Even gondola rides are offered from the harbor landing.


Channel Islands Maritime Museum

Plus, the harbor is home to the Channel Islands Maritime Museum, which is a museum filled with maritime artwork, artifacts, and ship models.



Family Friendly Channel Islands Restaurants

Round out your visit with a meal at one of the harbor’s waterfront restaurants. Mrs. Olson’s Coffee Hut is a solid option for brunch, and Toppers is a safe bet for pizza.


Pro tip: Come on a Sunday and enjoy the weekly farmer’s market.



Best Oxnard Beaches

Don’t miss out on the top-tier beaches; Oxnard’s picturesque beaches can’t be beat. Of course, LA has more than its fair share of incredible beaches, but Oxnard’s beaches have the advantage of being relatively untouched — all the easier to sink your toes into the sand without anyone obstructing precious views.


Silver Strand Beach

A paradise for surfers and kayakers alike, Silver Strand Beach is even home to the remains of a shipwrecked luxury liner. Murals of mermaids and ocean animals from local artists dot the surrounding walls. On a recent visit, my children spotted several seals near the shoreline. We were also lucky enough to discover a few tidepools.


Hollywood Beach

Named after the A-listers who used to frequent here (think: Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, and Charlie Chaplin), Hollywood Beach offers up fine white sands, blockbuster sunsets, and unperturbed views of the Channel Islands. The bike path provides views of the nearby multimillion-dollar homes. Kids needing to burn some energy will love the awesome pirate-themed playground behind the beach, complete with see-saws, swings, and separate play areas for toddlers and older children. It kept our daughters entertained for a good few hours.


Mandalay Beach

Mandalay Beach may be tucked away, but it’s a must-see, with its miles of white sand, winding hills, and scenic views. Enjoy a picnic on the beach and catch the sunset. Families can rent beach cruisers or even tandem bikes to enjoy along the ample bike path; bicycles are available to rent.


Pro tip: If your children are on the younger side and aren’t quite ready for big waves, Hobie Beach and Kiddie Beach are safer options.


Oxnard Beaches in Oxnard Harbor, California

Take in the picturesque views at Oxnard’s beaches. Photo by Zac Sopak for Unsplash.


Best Family-Friendly Oxnard Restaurants

Whether your family is craving fish tacos or locally caught seafood, Oxnard offers an ample selection of seafood spots.


Fisherman’s Catch

Our family loved the fare at local market and casual eatery Fisherman’s Catch, which dishes up a wide selection of fresh catches as well as clam chowder bowls.


Moqueca Brazilian Cuisine

For those with more adventurous palates, Moqueca Brazilian Cuisine (located at the Channel Islands Harbor) is a local favorite known for its namesake traditional seafood stew; parents can also imbibe in caipirinhas, Brazil’s national cocktail.


More Dining Options

Among the numerous eateries dishing up fish tacos and other classic Mexican staples are Sea Fresh, Mi Pueblo Mexican Grill, Cabo Seafood Grill & Cantina, and Montezuma Restaurant.


Pro tip: In the mood for something super casual? Check out the street-style taco trucks like Sea Sand and Tacos La Bonita.


Best Desserts in Oxnard

Of course, the perfect ending to a family day trip is a sweet treat. Our family ventured a little further to nearby Ventura Harbor (about a 15-minute drive) to check out Coastal Cone’s signature fish-shaped waffle cones and “fish-zookies”; all of the 40+ flavor combos and ice cream cones are ideal for Instagram. Our daughters enjoyed their ice cream cones as sea lions frolicked in the harbor; they are still talking about their “mermaid” cones.

If you’re looking to stay within Oxnard, check out one of the three Spudnuts stores, a popular choice for donuts at the Channel Islands Harbor. Honey Cup Coffeehouse & Creamery offers pastries and ice cream, along with coffee drinks for grown-ups in need of a pick-me-up.


Pro tip: Families with a designated driver on hand may want to round out their visits with a glass of wine or two at Herzog Wine Cellars.




Ice cream in Oxnard Harbor, California

No visit to Oxnard is complete without ice cream. Photo by Aron Visuals for Unsplash.



When You Go



Getting to Oxnard from Los Angeles

Oxnard is just about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles, although the exact amount of drive time can take anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes depending on traffic. Simply travel north along Highway 101, or take the Santa Monica Freeway to Pacific Coast Highway to Pacific Coast Highway North. Oxnard is just 35 miles of Santa Barbara, and only 10 miles away from Ventura.


DON’T MISS! Scenic drives in LA to take with your family


Where to Stay in Oxnard

Kids in love with Oxnard and don’t want to leave? We get it. . . For an oceanfront experience, check out Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Bay. More budget-friendly options include Homewood Suites and the Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor.




Kristin Viola is an LA-based freelance writer and mom of two young children. She loves exploring SoCal’s best beaches and eateries. She can be reached via email at