The longtime home of Camp Pendleton, the sprawling military base dedicated on September 25, 1942, Oceanside is also becoming known for tourism, welcoming visitors from afar and locals looking for a staycation. Two new resort hotels, the Mission Pacific and The Seabird, have sprung up along Pacific Street in the past year, just steps from the iconic Oceanside Pier, the longest wooden pier on the West Coast. The hotels, both Hyatt properties and boasting six restaurants combined, debuted last spring, marking the largest oceanfront hotel development in San Diego County in 50 years.
My husband and I stayed in a contemporary oceanfront room at the 161-room Mission Pacific, where 80 percent of rooms have sea views. We sipped wine on the terrace overlooking bustling Pacific Street, watching a parade of people, bikers, and classic cars passing by. For lunch, we sampled light bites at High/Low, the hotel’s breezy café. On the sixth floor, we especially enjoyed The Rooftop Bar, the only rooftop pool/bar in Oceanside, offering bottle service, craft cocktails, and small bites. A new DJ series and live entertainment launches this summer. You can’t beat the view, especially at sunset, or a moonlight dip in the pool.
One of the highlights of our stay was a winemaker’s series dinner at Valle, the hotel’s fine dining venue helmed by Ensenada native Chef Roberto Alcocer, who trained in Michelin-star kitchens before opening his own restaurants. Alcocer paired cuisine from Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe with wines from the valley’s Lechuza Vineyard. Winemaker Kristin Shute was on hand to share her expertise. (The winemaker series will continue throughout the year.) Valle restaurant offers four-course tasting menus from 5-9pm Wednesday through Sunday, or drinks and appetizers at the bar. 866.723.8906, firstname.lastname@example.org
The historic 1887 Graves House, better known as “The Top Gun House” after it was immortalized in the popular Tom Cruise movie, has been relocated to the hotel’s courtyard and restored, earning a preservation award from the Save Our Heritage Organisation. Originally built as a vacation home for Dr. Henry Graves, the Victorian-style cottage will reopen May 14 as The High Pie, complete with a showing of the original Top Gun movie. The dessert bar’s signature dish is a hand pie filled with locally picked apples and house-made mascarpone ice cream, and fried to order. Chef and restaurateur Tara Lazar of F10 Hospitality, which also operates High/Low, came up with the concept. 844.330.1722, missionpacifichotel.com
Guests at Mission Pacific also have access to amenities at the 226-room Seabird Resort next-door, which has the look of a chic coastal retreat, designed in hues of blue with nautical art and accessories. The resort’s Piper Restaurant is a casual, stylish place open for breakfast, dinner, and weekend brunch where among its staff there’s Carl, a veteran surfer with a sunny personality, who serves it all up with a smile. (My fave: the avocado toast with cherry wood-smoked salmon and poached eggs.) The open kitchen design features an organic juice bar and a made-to-order pasta station. The Shore Room off the lobby has a sleek bar serving such signature cocktails as the Maiden Voyage and Maritime Martini, and the outdoor, ocean-view patio is warmed by firepits and features selections from the seafood bar, cheese, and charcuterie. After a swim in the resort’s ocean-view pool, guests can relax in The Shelter Club, decorated with framed vintage bathing suits, where they can order food and beverages and play pool or board games. All three restaurants are helmed by Executive Chef Kurtis Habecker alongside Chef de Cuisine Taylor Martin-Funk.
The resort caters to kids and families, offering a “Surfing by The Seabird” program, a surf valet experience and lessons with the North County Surf Academy alongside pro surfer Duran Barr, a third-generation Oceanside resident. The “Little Seabirds” program will keep young guests engaged with interactive, ocean-inspired activities that include building sandcastles and hunting for “treasure.” A meticulously restored 1941 beach Rambler now on the Oceanside Strand is stocked with everything guests need for a day on the beach from umbrellas to snacks to sand toys. When Mom (or Dad) needs a break, it’s time to book a “farm-to-sea” treatment at Sunny’s Spa and Beauty Lounge, a 7,700-square-foot space complete with a relaxation lounge overlooking the sea. I enjoyed one of the best massages I’ve ever had and learned that locals from San Diego and Orange counties get treatment upgrades Monday through Thursday and a glass of “bubbles,” with access to the pool and valet parking. The salon provides cuts, color, extensions, and mani-pedis.
The Seabird’s Grand Coastal ballroom, foyer, terrace, salon, and library are stunning venues for special events, including last February’s fête for the 25th anniversary of the Oceanside Museum of Art, which has a rotating exhibit, known as OMA West, in The Seabird. The museum also curated the art collection in both hotels. 855.420.8163, seabirdresort.com
Just a few blocks from the beach, the Oceanside Museum of Art’s main museum showcases exhibitions including contemporary art, photography, landscapes, neon sculpture, and furniture. Oceanside Unfiltered, which runs through May 29, highlights some of the town’s best photographers, offering a gritty look at a side of Oceanside that tourists don’t always see. Across the street, check out Artists Alley, where up-and-coming artists display their work. Or, pop into the California Surf Museum to see a collection of surf memorabilia including pro-surfer Bethany Hamilton’s shark-bitten surfboard.
Additional area attractions include guided nature walks at Buena Vista Lagoon, a 223-acre wetland and ecological reserve; Mission San Luis Rey, known as the “King of Missions,” founded in 1798; Heritage Park for a look back at the town’s original buildings including the general store, blacksmith shop, and livery stable; the Model Train Museum; and Farmer’s Market/Sunset Market on Thursday mornings, where one can mingle with farmers, artisans, and artists. The 100-acre Oceanside Harbor has the largest single municipally operated marina in San Diego County, offering boating, water sports, shops, and restaurants.
Whether you venture off-property or stay on site to savor all that The Seabird and Mission Pacific have to offer, it’s certainly worth the short drive north to explore an ever-growing playground that awaits in Oceanside. visitoceanside.org