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A Ventura County Adventure

A U-M alum shares a guide to exploring California’s Ventura County.
By Adrian Arvizo, ’15


Read time: 4 minutes

Los Angeles (LA) is a great city with nearly unlimited things to do, but sometimes it’s nice to escape the chaos of crowds and traffic. Ventura County is the perfect solution if you need respite. The area has plenty of great restaurants, shopping, and attractions to please just about anyone.

Getting There and Getting Around

Similar to LA, a vehicle is the only practical way to get around Ventura County. Fortunately, the route traverses one of the most scenic and famous stretches of road in the US: the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu. From Los Angeles International Airport, get on California State Route 1 North (Lincoln Boulevard) and stay on it as you go through the cities of Venice, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, and Malibu. You’ll know you’re entering Ventura County when you see Neptune’s Net on the right side, the restaurant made famous by the original “Fast & Furious” movie.

A few minutes later you will see Mugu Rock, featured in countless car commercials.

Point Mugu Rock
Mugu Rock

What to See and Do

If you want a beautiful beach without the LA crowds, check out Oxnard Beach Park. The beach is very wide with soft sand and the park has space for BBQ, soccer, flying kites, volleyball, and a playground.

Oxnard Beach Park
Oxnard Beach Park

The Channel Islands Harbor is perfect for those who enjoy water activities. Rental options at the Marine Emporium Landing include stand-up paddleboards, jet skis, electric boats, and kayaks. Channel Islands Expeditions offers day trips, diving, and private charters.

Channel Islands Harbor
Channel Islands Harbor

History buffs will enjoy the Mission Basilica San Buenaventura in downtown Ventura. This historic mission was founded in 1782 by Father Junipero Serra.

Mission San Buenaventura
Mission Basilica San Buenaventura

Less than a mile behind the mission is Serra Cross Park with a beautiful overlook of Ventura and the bay.

Serra Cross Park
Serra Cross Park

The Ventura Pier and Promenade are great places for a stroll or to go fishing. If you want to burn more calories, take your surfboard to Surfer’s Point on the north end of the promenade.

Venture Promenade
Ventura Promenade

Where to Dine

One of the most popular brunches in the county is at Waypoint Cafe at the Camarillo Airport. Foodies from near and far come here for their famous Tri-Tip sandwich. The menu has something for everyone, from cinnamon roll French toast to chorizo and eggs.

Waypoint Cafe
The Tri-Tip Sandwich at Waypoint Cafe

Other great brunch options include Café Nouveau in Ventura and Mrs. Olson’s Coffee Hut at the Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. If you’re in the mood for seafood, you can’t go wrong with Lure Fish House (locations in Ventura and Camarillo) or Brophy Bros. at the Ventura Harbor Village. More unique cuisine can be found at Moqueca Brazilian Restaurant at the Channel Islands Harbor (only open for dinner). Their moqueca specialty is a choice of seafood mixed with a variety of vegetables and spices in a clay pot.

Seafood moqueca at Moqueca Brazilian Restaurant

If you’re traveling in a group that can’t decide on one cuisine, check out The Annex Food Hall at The Collection shopping center in Oxnard. Choices include Nashville hot chicken, pho, ramen, Mexican dishes, and acai bowls.

The Annex Food Hall
The Annex Food Hall at The Collection

Where to Stay

There are several great options should you choose to extend your day trip. The Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort is ideal for those who want to relax on the beach just a few steps from the property.

Embassy Suites
Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort

For those desiring a highly luxurious and more secluded stay, the Ojai Valley Inn has been recognized as one of the world’s finest hotels and offers a breadth of amenities, from golf to horseback riding to a 31,000-square-foot spa.

Ojai Valley Inn
Ojai Valley Inn Resort and Spa
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