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Story by Mary McGrath

ooking for a charming seaside getaway not too far from Los Angeles? Look no more. Oceanside is one of many charming coastal communities of Southern California. About 1.5 hours south of Los Angeles, it's hard to believe that this quaint city is currently celebrating 125 years.

Oceanside's been a bit under the radar compared to some of its neighboring communities, but that's changing. Although it still reflects a laid-back sleepy surfer vibe, Oceanside is blossoming into a coveted beachside community, reflecting the tastes of what most travelers expect when visiting a beautiful coastal town. It was an exciting discovery for us.

Wyndham Oceanside Pier Resort
Wyndham Oceanside Pier Resort. Photo courtesy of JLK Marketing

We stayed at the breezy Wyndham Oceanside Pier Resort, adjacent to one of the longest wooden piers in Southern California. It was a perfect location, with many attractions easily within walking distance from the hotel. From our two-bedroom suite, we enjoyed panoramic views of the Pacific, as the weather was a balmy 78, with not a cloud in sight. Overhead, pelicans did their aerial patterns, while the waving palm trees below cheered them on.

I'm picky about pillows, and the Wyndham had some of the loveliest pillows I've enjoyed, enabling me to sleep-in well past my usual rooster hour. I loved the cool coastal colors inside the resort, which added to the relaxed vibe of the property.

If you're looking to purchase in Oceanside, you can investigate the timeshare component of the Wyndham. Beachfront property is escalating in price in Oceanside, and from the pier nearby, you can see a plethora of nicely appointed condos within walking distance. This place is catching on, and catching on fast.

Adjacent to the Wyndham on the other side of the pier, you can see business booming nearby, with a monumental mixed-use project underway. I imagine within a few years, this area will be bustling with many more fine restaurants, and even more things to do.

surfers near the Oceanside pier at sunset
Surfers at Sunset. Photo Courtesy of JLK Marketing

Still alive is the prominent surfer vibe that is reflected in the personality of this town. Many of the local restaurants pay homage to the sea, with some sporting long and short surfboards on the walls and ceilings, and a smattering of surfer history for those who are interested.

One of these places is the ever-popular The Privateer, reflecting the growing local beer and cuisine scene, which combines a bit of the old and new of Oceanside. Sitting down with co-owner Charlie Anderson, I'm faced with an astute businessman whose publishing background with a few surf titles makes him somewhat of a local celebrity. His boyish looks, sun-bleached locks and easy smile make you feel at home, but listening to him, you know he knows Oceanside, and he knows food.

Funghi Pizza at The Privateer, Oceanside
Funghi Pizza at The Privateer. Photo by Mary McGrath

The Privateer serves the only "coal fired" pizza in Southern California. In fact, this oven dominates the kitchen, and is the focal point of the restaurant. The menu utilizes many innovative ingredients like pesto, Brussels sprouts, and artichoke hearts on their pizzas, but there are many other dishes from which to choose. It's a foodie's paradise without an attitude. No wonder it's crowded.

the Beach Break Cafe, Oceanside
Beach Break Café. Photo by Mary McGrath

Another local favorite is the Beach Break Café, voted the #1 restaurant in Oceanside, according to Trip Advisor. Portions at this place are huge, healthy and reasonable. I loved their fish tacos, dense with chunks of marinated mahi-mahi. Save room for their famous coffee cake, which owner Zell Dwelley insisted we try. We demolished it in minutes. I rarely eat dessert at lunch, but I had to make an exception with this one. It was definitely a mortal sin, and I vowed to go to confession afterwards.

the Oceanside Museum of Art
Oceanside Museum of Art. Photo courtesy of JLK Marketing

If it's art you're after, a stop to the Oceanside Museum of Art is in order, giving you a sampling of photography, sculpture, and a wide variety of other disciplines. We did some damage in their gift shop, purchasing several pieces designed by local artists.

writer shopping for a surfboard
Mary shops for a surfboard. Photo by Erika Komarck

And of course, there's the California Surf Museum. Ask for Sam when you go, and he'll gladly tell you more about the history of surfing, show you a sampling of some old and new boards, and tell you about Oceanside's famous "soul surfer" Bethany Hamilton, who overcame tremendous odds to get back in the water after being attacked by a shark.

What's a trip to the coast without some water activities? Surfers punctuated the waters next to the pier where the waves proved challenging, but for those less ambitious, head to the harbor, where you can rent boats, kayaks, wave runners, and other types of watercraft. We opted for a relaxing self-guided harbor cruise on one of their cute electric boats through Boat Rentals of America. After a busy morning, it was nice to kick back and enjoy the views of the sea lions, pelicans, cormorants and other shorebirds.

The oldest mission in Southern California is only about fifteen minutes inland. Mission San Luis Rey was founded in 1798. This place definitely takes you back in history, and while we were there, we even saw friars on the premises giving tourists a snapshot of the mission's past.

Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside
Mission San Luis Rey. Photo by Mary McGrath

Oceanside is one of those cities to watch. Like Ventura, Oxnard, and Pismo Beach, this seaside community is on the rise. It's only a matter of time before it catches up to some of its popular neighboring coastal communities. Until then, kick back, catch a wave and enjoy the slower pace of this charming seaside town.

For more information:

Visit Oceanside

Wyndham Oceanside Pier Resort

The Privateer Cial Fire Pizza

Beach Break Café

Oceanside Boat Rentals

California Surf Museums

Oceanside Museum of Art

Old Mission San Luis Rey de Francia

Related Articles:
Oxnard; Ventura; Orange County's Oceanfront; Pismo Beach; The Grand Del Mar: One Day, A Great Old Dame; Hotel Del Coronado; California's Central Coast; Long Beach; Sammy's Woodfired Pizza & Grill

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I enjoy your newsletters -and particularly Patti Nickell's article about the 'Pudding Club' in the Cotswold's. An old friend of mine is taking a holiday there this year and plans to try their Jam Roly Poly and Spotted Dick - amongst many!

--- John & Maggie - UK


The way I read this article, you stayed at the "Breeze and Waves". Do you have any pictures of the cottages, and would you recommend to some first time visitors to Caramoan?

--- Richard Simons, Stockton, CA

Hi Richard,

Breeze and Waves was still under construction when I stayed there in Feb. 2010. It should be finished by now. You can see pictures of the resort on this page. We got to stay in one of the small cottages in the picture. I'll recommend it to budget travelers but you might want to look at other options. We chose it because of its location right by the beach. You can try other resorts in the Caramoan town proper (you have to get a ride to get to the beach and the jump-off point to go island-hopping but it's a relatively short distance). There are also two higher end resorts located on a cove and very near the islands: Gota Village Resort (unfortunately there is something wrong with their website right now) and its twin resort Hunongan Cove. Caramoan is a relatively new tourism development so resorts are just now being built.

You can go to this site for a good list of choices for accommodations in Caramoan.

I should add that it might be good to go to Caramoan (and almost anywhere in the Philippines) during the dry season from December to May. June to November are the typhoon months and sometimes typhoons will still come during early December.


* * * * *

Hi, I'm planning to go to Caramoan this coming May. Would you know the number of Breeze and Waves Cottages? Thanks!

--- Ann, Manila, Philippines

Hi Ann,

Breeze and Waves' phone number is 0908-2911072. Look for Freddie. Hope you have a grand time at Caramoan!



For Nature's Playground: The South Island of New Zealand

Hi Wendy,

In winter, Heritage Heights Apts. now offers free shuttle service to and from Queenstown 24/7 to guests without cars. We own a 7-passenger 4-wd Toyota Highlander used specifically to taxi guests up and down the hill during winter months. We also run advance purchase winter promotions which include a 4-wd rental.

If any of your readers head over this direction, I will enjoy extending Heritage Heights hospitality!!


--- Ailey, Owner, Queenstown, NZ

* * * * *

New Zealand text and pix top drawer! Almost as good as making the trip. ( but one still wants to. . . ) Full of useful detail. Only trouble with the website: It's tough figuring out which feedback goes with which article, and the more there are, the tougher it gets!

--- Ken W., Camarillo CA

Thanks Ken..."álmost" is right, you really have to experience the South Island firsthand. Granted this piece is long, but still all I can think about is how much I left out! I agree abut the relevancy factor re the feedback--it can be confusing...sometimes I have a "Wait a minute...what?" moment myself.

Thanks for writing,


* * * * *

Okay Wendy, from now on whenever you book your travel, please reserve space for me. I will carry your luggage, bring you cold drinks, massage your shoulders, and change the film in your camera (oops, I guess you don't have to do that anymore). Wonderful ideas and recommendations. Can you get to New Zealand from Boston in less than a week?

--- Carl A., South Easton, MA

Ha ha ha Carl, you're quite the comedian! But you'd be surprised how short that flight feels. I suspect Qantas isn't the only airline who's figured out that 3 movies, 2 full meals, lots of snacks and a complimentary travel pack (eye mask, warm socks and neck pillow) equals a quiet, well-behaved cabin. It really isn't bad. Just fly direct--pick the shortest flight w/ no lengthy layovers and you'll be fine. Re: signing on as my Super Sherpa...why not? I think you know I seldom travel in anything less than Party mode. There's just that pesky background check...

Thanks for writing,


For Excellence Riviera Cancun:

Wendy, I truly enjoyed your info especially since we leave in a week to celebrate my 50th Birthday. Was it necessary to make reservations at the restaurants? Was there a dress code for the restaurants? What would you recommend not missing while there? Was the spa experience worth it? Did you travel away from the resort while there? Thanks,

--- Kim P. Fuquay, Varina, NC

Hi Kim.

Sorry for the delay in had heavy competition with the holidays. Reservations at Excellence restaurants are not necessary and you will not find a wait. The dress code is basically no bathing suits and flip-flops...with a decided a mix of atmospheres. Mostly the open-air beachside spots are super casual, the rest slightly more formal. Truly, as long as you are clothed, I don't think you'd be turned away anywhere, though most people seemed to enjoy dressing up at night...I suspect more for their own pleasure than any sense of decorum.

The spa experience was worth it, though my favorite part wasn't the actual massage. The precursor was a 45 min. or so rotation from sauna to a series of (kind of wild) water jets which was very different and very cool, not just for women. In its' entirety, and with the serenity of the beach/champagne/strawberries, it was memorable.

We did not travel away from the hotel this trip, but the hotel is very helpful in arranging day excursions to fit your desires and you do not have to book these until you arrive.

Have a great time!

--- Wendy


I enjoyed Nino's contribution, since we all read about the frightening terrorist attack. Having travelled somewhat through India years ago, I am continually impressed with this country and the gentle spiritual aspects of this nation. Some day I look forward to going back. Nino has encouraged me. Thank you!

--- Yoka Y., Westlake Village, CA


Dear Mr.s/counselors Brown and Koro,

Thank you for a very informed and succinct article on motorcycle accidents and the law. It inspired me to think about getting a motorcycle, but not have an accident. But, if I do I am now well informed with the basics of what to do providing I do not perish in the accident. Any tips about that too?

--- Unnamed

Dear Rush and Chuck,

I wish I had read your article before our camping trip the Friday prior to President's Day.

My wife and I were in a car accident on our way to a camp ground. We were "rear-ended" and the impact caused our car to crash into the car in front of us. The contents of the truck that we were riding scattered onto several lanes. It's a miracle our two dogs decided to stay inside the car. My wife and I were shaken up badly but despite the mess, I was still able to walk out of the car. I got the license plate of the driver in front of me but, to my surprise, after reviewing the little damage on his car, he then sped off. I didn't know you could do that! The driver who hit me from behind gave me his information and then he too left the scene without saying good 'bye. When the police arrived all I had to go by was the little information I had jotted down which I hope was truthful. What if it was bogus? What if I had written the plate number incorrectly? How would that affect my insurance? What if we were unconscious, who would have written down all that information?

I do have one suggestion if you are injured in an accident. The police asked if my wife wanted an ambulance to bring her to the hospital but we declined the offer. I remembered when I rode an ambulance years ago that it was not a comfortable ride. I was strapped to the stretcher and there were all sorts of medical equipment dangling noisily above me. As long as you are able, it is a more relaxful ride inside a car. Besides, isn't there a fee for ambulance service?

--- Dave S. of Pasadena, CA

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