Ventura California Vacation Guide

Where to Stay And Things To See In Ventura CA.

Ventura California is a delightfully unassuming beach town located 62 miles north of L.A. and about 30 minutes south of Santa Barbara. A beach vacation here is more of a quiet, laid back affair compared to most other Southern California beaches.

The main attractions are the small downtown, Ventura Harbor with its shopping and dining, the camping locations, and the beaches.

The small historical downtown includes the Ventura County Museum of History and Art. Nearby is the Mission San Buenaventura, founded in 1782.

The Ventura Beaches

The beach just north of the old fashioned pier is called Seaside Park. It has a wide promenade that goes along it. The Ventura County Fairgrounds are adjacent.

South of the pier has San Buenaventura State Beach, which bears much wider sands. A bike path runs along the coast and there are lifeguards, a snack stand and volleyball courts.

Ventura Beaches Map

Marine Park is a great place to bring kids and kites. Ever hear of the Ventura Beach pirate ship?  It’s parked on the sand and there’s this zip line kids like to swing from and fall in the sand.

Ventura beach with palm trees

There is a small sandy beach next to the old ship, but the water is rough and current strong. A playground sits just behind the beach with a large, hilly grass park beyond. At one end there is also a walking path along between the beach and the harbor. Some days you can watch the sailboats go by.

Three sailboats practicing in Ventura Harbor
Sailors practicing tacking maneuvers in Ventura Harbor.

A better place for children to swim is the beach across from the Channel Islands National Park Visitor’s Center near Ventura Harbor Village. This beach is protected by jetties, so has no waves and a roped off swimming area with an overlooking lifeguard stand. However, check signs or the lifeguard if you go because the water quality is sometimes not good for swimming.

Seal and Dolphin statues at Channel Islands Visitors Center in Ventura
Seal and Dolphin Statures at Channel Islands Visitors Center

Up the coast from Ventura are several beaches, many where you can camp (see below.) Faria Beach is popular with surfers and stand up paddle boarders.

For a real back to nature Southern California coastal experience, you can take an excursion to the Channel Islands National Park.

Ventura Harbor

The Ventura Harbor Village is nice for a stroll along the walkway overlooking the fishing boats and sailboats. Waterfront restaurants afford pleasant views of the picturesque marina. Whale watching, kayak rentals, pedal boats, electric boats and harbor cruises can all be found here.

There are also lots of restaurants. One of the most popular is Andria’s Seafood. There’s usually a long line out back, but it moves quickly. You order and pay at the counter, gather your drinks, silverware and multiple condiments, then go grab a table until your order is called. There are indoor and outdoor tables. The huge variety of fried fish they sell includes halibut, cod, shrimp, calamari, scallops, clam strips, and oysters. They also have cole slaw, clam chowder and more.

Where To Stay In Ventura California

See Ventura California beach hotels for a directory of places you can stay in this beach town. Some of the more popular ones include the Ventura Beach Marriot, the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach and the Four Points By Sheraton in Ventura Harbor.

Emma Wood State Beach has a group campground for RVs or tents and a family campground for RVs only.

McGrath State Beach is in a setting back from the beach. It has a nature trail, dunes, a lake, an estuary and lots of birds and other wild life. McGrath State Beach is a lovely area, full of nature. Within view are the mountains, the ocean, sand dunes, the boats coming out of Ventura Harbor, and lots of estuary. This is where the Santa Clara River meets the sea, and lots of birds and wildlife are attracted here.  McGrath has two and a half miles of sandy beach and dunes. Though the campground is near the beach, an inland lagoon prevents easy access to the actual ocean, but it’s a pleasant half mile walk to get there.  There’s a nature trail to the Santa Clara Estuary Natural Preserve, where there is a decent opportunity for bird watching. The McGrath Trail goes along the beach, past McGrath Lake (behind some dunes) and all the way to Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. This is a 12 mile roundtrip hike.

Ventura Beach RV Resort is mostly for RVs, but there are some tent sites as well.

Getting To Ventura

Ventura is right off the 101 freeway near the junction of the 126, which goes inland through the beautiful Heritage Valley towards Santa Clarita and the Interstate 5 freeway (about 45 minutes away).

Ventura California Events & Festivals

The Ventura Music Festival happens in early May at various venues around downtown. Each year there is a different theme.

The Ventura County Fair happens at the fairgrounds each August, lasting around 12 days. There are all kinds of shows and exhibits and rides. The Ventura County Fairgrounds are right across from the beach.

The WSA Ventura Tournament is a surfing competition sometimes held at Surfers Point.

About 15 minutes north on the 101 in Carpinteria, the annual California Avocado Festival draws huge crowds each October to enjoy food, music, fun and…avocados.

About 15 minutes in the other direction is Oxnard, where the annual Tall Ships Festival is held in Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard.

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