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California Dreaming: A Beach Vacation in Oceanside

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

Imagine a place where the average daytime temperature is usually in the 70s. The sun almost always shines after a little morning fog lifts from a long stretch of white sand beach. You must be dreaming of summertime in California, which always earns its name of the Golden State.

San Diego’s North Shore is anchored by the smaller city of Oceanside, a classic beach city with that casual vibe that makes California so special. As someone born and raised in southern California, I’m somewhat of a connoisseur of the California beach experience. I love Oceanside for its lack of pretension and a lower cost than some better-known spots.

When vacationing at the beach, I always want to stay right on the ocean, but the sound of the surf can cost a bundle and the price can be prohibitive. We have twice chosen to rent a condo at Northcoast Village, a 550 unit development which is right on the beach and offers affordable prices, particularly if you rent on the non-beachfront side. It’s a nice complex with great swimming pools, barbeque areas and even a koi pond. There can be small drawbacks. For example, the last unit we rented had so many plastic flower arrangements and fake plants that we had to gather them all into one of the bedroom closets in order to accommodate our luggage. But that’s really the worst problem we’ve had to face.

A very short walk from the condo is the very kitschy Oceanside Harbor, a faux Cape Cod-style collection of restaurants and specialty stores. Sitting outside at the Nautical Bean and watching the boats go in and out of the marina with a steaming latte is a great way to start the day. Our favorite place for breakfast, The Beach Break Café, recently closed, but its sister restaurant of the same name is still open a few miles away. This is also the place to rent all kinds of water sports gear including paddleboards, kayaks, and sailboats. For lunch, my husband likes to duck into the Harbor Fish and Chips for a plate of nicely battered cod and crunchy French fries.

The main attraction of a beach vacation is, of course, the beach. Oceanside has a lovely wide beach with lots of sand to park you chair and towel. The surf can be rough, but the surfers really love that. I tried surfing once, but it wasn’t something I think I’ll repeat.

A short walk up the beach and you arrive at the Oceanside Pier and the heart of the city. The pier was first built in 1888 and was refurbished for the sixth time almost 100 years later. It’s one of the longest wooden piers in the west. I’ve never fished off the pier, but lots of folks seem to love spending hours and hours waiting for a bite. No need for a license, just grab your rod and reel (if you have one!).

As the day grew longer, we walked to the end of the pier for an adult beverage at Ruby’s, a ’50s-style diner.

If you want a lovely more formal dining experience, just one town over in Cardiff by the Sea are several beachfront restaurants. A new favorite is the Pacific Coast Grill. I loved my fish tacos, while my husband enjoyed the lobster version. The Chart House is right next door, an old stand-by. It’s part of chain of wonderful restaurants, and this one is as lovely as many of the others I’ve visited. Floor to celling windows make you feel like you are right on the beach—but without the sand.

If you want a break from the beach, San Diego County also offers a world-class zoo and even Legoland for the younger set. Enjoy your own California dream on a sunny beach this summer.

I’d love to hear your best summer vacation ideas. Email me at Check out all my beach stories at

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