Of all San Diego's beach communities, perhaps none exemplify the community and neighborhood ethos better than Ocean Beach, which is often referred to as OB. This funky beach town sits between the Pacific Ocean to the west and the more upscale enclave of Point Loma on the hill to the east. It is laidback and less rowdy than the San Diego beach neighborhoods of Mission Beach and Pacific Beach a few miles north.
Ocean Beach's History
Ocean Beach was given its name by developers Billy Carlson and Frank Higgins in 1887. Obviously, the beachfront was the main attraction, although in the early 20th century, getting to Ocean Beach was a bit of a trek. There was even an amusement park, Wonderland, at the northern end of the neighborhood but was washed away by tides in 1916. Cottages, bungalows, and apartments were built through the years and attracted (and continues to attract) students, young adults and the free-spirited. OB was somewhat isolated from the rest of the city until Interstate 8 was built in the mid-1960s.
What Makes it Special?
Besides the obvious fact that Ocean Beach sits on prime oceanfront real estate, the neighborhood still exudes a small town atmosphere, making it an ideal place to live and visit. Where other beach communities have embraced commercialism, Ocean Beach remains fiercely independent and skeptical of wholesale change.
In fact, residents of Ocean Beach often refer to themselves as OBceans, pronounced "oh-BEE-shun."
What Defines Ocean Beach?
Ocean Beach is fondly looked upon as the neighborhood that time forgot and it still has that hippie vibe -- a carryover from the 1960s and '70s that never really left. But that's what makes it OB.
Surfers, couples, students, Deadheads, families, and the politically independent make up a community that is protective of their neighborhood, where you're more likely to see a food co-op than a slew of retail chains. It's a big reason why living in Ocean Beach isn't for everyone -- but is also perfect and sought after by many.
Things to Do in Ocean Beach
The beach. That's why you head out to OB -- for the nice, wide, swath of sandy beach. There's also the Ocean Beach pier, the longest pier on the West Coast, where you can stroll or try your hand at pier fishing. If you have a dog, then head to Dog Beach, just north of the main beach, where you can unleash your dog to romp in the sand and surf. Or stroll along Newport Avenue, the main drag in OB's business district, and take in the small town feel.
Best Bets for Eats in Ocean Beach
There are many great places to eat in OB. BO-Beau is an excellent place to go for a romantic meal as it offers upscale French dining. But Ocean Beach is about casual, and Hodad's is where you go for burgers (as seen on Food Network). For a change of pace, there's the Kaiserhof for German food and beer. Newport Pizza and Alehouse is known for their motto, "no crap on tap." Pizza Port is also a good choice for pizza and San Diego craft beer.
Old Townhouse restaurant is where you go for diner breakfasts. For fish tacos, head to South Beach. And if you're into healthy eating, definitely make your way to the Ocean Beach People's Organic Food Cooperative and order food from the deli.
Best Bets for Drinks and Entertainment
Hey, it's a beach community, so what else can you expect but dive bars, right? Winstons Beach Club is your place for live music, usually some sort of cover band in the Dead/Reggae/Jam band vein. Comedy is also served up there. The Catalina Lounge is your popular, friendly dive bar, as is the Tilted Stick. The Arizona Cafe has cleaned up its act and is now a cool hangout.
Shopping in Ocean Beach
When it comes to shopping in OB, you don't want to miss out on a visit to The Black, a smoke shop that is also a neighborhood institution.
Kind of a head shop/novelty/music/hippie store, The Black is like going back in time -- just like OB itself. It's just fun to stroll around for the heck of it. Ocean Beach Antique Mall on Newport Avenue is where to go for antiques. Sunshine Daydreams is a little hippie clothing boutique. And the Black Bead is a mecca for bead and jewelry hobbyists.
How to Get to Ocean Beach
Take Interstate 8 to its western terminus at Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. Continue on Sunset Cliffs as you cross a couple of OB's main thoroughfares, West Point Loma Boulevard and Voltaire Street. Turn right at Newport Street to drive down OB's downtown district. At the foot of Newport are the beach and the pier.