What You Need to Know About Ventura's Awesome Beaches
Ventura County has some excellent beaches, and they're all close enough to Los Angeles to reach in an easy day trip. The county shoreline runs only about 50 miles from Point Mugu to Mussel Shoals but don't let that fool you. It's one of the best places to go to the beach in Southern California.
It's lined with beaches that have plenty of variety, giving you plenty of options for your day of sun and sand. You can go surfing in Ventura. In fact, surfing legend Tom Morey, also known as Mr. “Y” - the guy who invented the body board - staged the first professional surfing contest in Ventura.
You can also swim, sunbathe, camp out overnight, play with the kids or just enjoy the natural beauty. Ventura is also a good place for kitesurfing and kiteboarding because of the wind direction and wave quality.
All of these beaches are likely to be foggy and misty during the annual "June Gloom," when the ocean's natural marine layer gets pulled inland and can blanket the coast all day long. Expect clearer skies in spring and fall. To find out more and what causes June Gloom, check out this guide.
Water quality is generally good in Ventura County, but in case you're concerned, you can check the latest water quality warnings at the Ventura County website or download their VC Safe Beaches App.
Camping at the Beach in Ventura County
If you want to pitch your tent or park your RV next to the ocean, Ventura County is one of the best places in California to do it. Check the guide to Camping at the Beach in Ventura County to find your perfect camping spot. It includes beach camping and campgrounds near Oxnard and Ventura with locations, descriptions, fees and how to make reservations.
Clothing Optional Beaches in Ventura County
Ventura County doesn't have any beaches where clothing optional recreation is allowed. However, you can find several of them just a few miles north. Check the Santa Barbara County nude beach guide to get all the details.
Ventura County Beach Hotels
In Oxnard, the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach is on the beach. In Ventura, try the Inn on the Beach.
Ventura State Beach and Pier
The official name is San Buenaventura State Beach.
Ventura State Beach is one of Southern California's largest, curving for two miles. It's a pretty beach, right in the middle of town. Even though it's big, it can get crowded during summer - especially near the entrance parking lot and the pier.
The sand is kept fairly clean. With no pets allowed, you're less likely to find unpleasant little "surprises" in it.
What is There to Do at Buenaventura State Beach?
With a paved bike path and long beach, Ventura is a great place to bike. If you don't have your own wheels, you can rent them from Wheel Fun Rentals.
In the summer, people play volleyball on the beach and swimming is popular. Lifeguards are on duty. In the winter, you might see whales swimming past.
You can also try your luck at surf fishing. What you might catch varies by season - and you will need a license. Get the details at the Department of Fish and Wildlife website.
The surf can be good in winter, but the water is generally calm in summer. If you want to go surfing or windsurfing, you can check the surf forecast.
Buenaventura State Beach Events
The Ventura Triathlon happens in June
What You Need to Know Before You Go to Buenaventura State Beach
Because the beach is so big, you may want to think about what part you're going to before you leave home. It may affect what (and how much) you take with you.
In 2014-15, storms eroded the sand at Ventura Beach and exposed rocks, especially south of the pier. The area with the most sand is next to the main day-use parking lot.
You'll pay a state park entrance fee to get in, which includes parking. You could also park in town and walk over the freeway bridge to get to the pier and beach, but it's a long trek if you're carrying a lot of gear.
You'll find restrooms and showers at the beach
You can find places to eat nearby on Seaward Avenue and on the pier
No pets are allowed on the beach
You can rent boogie boards, beach toys, umbrellas and beach chairs from Wheel Fun Rentals, which is at the beach.
At this beach - and all beaches along this part of the California coast - you may find balls of tar washing ashore. They're a natural phenomenon and it's been happening for centuries. If you happen to get some of it on your skin, try removing it with any oily substance (baby oil, mineral oil, even peanut butter if you're desperate).
How to Get to Buenaventura State Beach
The main entrance is on San Pedro Street off US Hwy 101. Exit US Hwy 101 at Seaward Avenue.
The main entrance leads to a large parking lot, but you can also park near the Ventura Pier or get there from Seaward Avenue, where you'll find beach rentals, restaurants and shops (but only a small parking lot)
Hollywood Beach in Oxnard is far from the place we typically think of as "Hollywood." Ths mile-long, neighborhood beach is picture perfect and a favorite of local residents. It's pretty and clean with lots of soft, white sand. Even better, it's seldom busy. And it's lined with beach houses to envy, ranging from chic to charming.
The beach has been in the movies since the 1920s. Its dunes stood in for the Arabian desert in Rudolph Valentino's 1921 blockbuster "The Sheik" and the same dunes appeared in Douglas Fairbanks' film "Bound in Morocco."
The area has a romantic Hollywood connection, too. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were rumored to have kept a beachfront love nest there. Legendary actor Clark Gable and his girlfriend actress Carole Lombard also spent time in on (or maybe two) houses on the nearby beach. In fact, Gable's former home is now available as a vacation rental.
You can see some really fun photos from the area's time as Hollywood-by-the-Sea on the KCET TV website.
What is There to Do at Hollywood Beach?
You can swim in the ocean at Hollywood Beach - or go bodyboarding. A few surfers hang out at Hollywood Beach, but the waves are seldom big enough to make it really exciting.
Lifeguards are on duty on summer weekends. You can also enjoy beach play, making sand castles, playing beach volleyball and walking along the oceanfront.
The Oxnard Harbor is nearby, where you can find places to eat and a playground for the kids.
Some visitors say they have seen dolphins in the surf, and you might catch a glimpse of a migrating whale offshore.
What You Need to Know Before You Go to Hollywood Beach
Hollywood Beach is a neighborhood beach, not a state, city or county park. It runs roughly from W. Channel Islands Blvd south to the entrance of the Oxnard Harbor, about a mile.
There is no entrance fee at Hollywood Beach
You can find free street parking in the neighborhood or in the lot at the end of Mandalay Beach Road
Public restrooms are available at the north end of the beach near La Brea Street, but you won't find any amenities on the beach itself.
Dogs are allowed on the beach (on a leash) but only before 9:00 a.m. and after 5:00 p.m.
There is no shade at the beach and no picnic tables or places to sit. Bring your sunscreen, beach towels, portable shade and anything else you might want or need.
Don't be a jerk. Pick up all your trash and take it away with you. And pick up after your dog, too.
If you want to go surfing at Hollywood Beach, check the surf report here
How to Get to Hollywood Beach
From CA Hwy 1 in Oxnard, take Channel Islands Blvd. west to where it curves as it ends at Harbor Blvd. At the curve, follow Harbor Blvd. left (south) onto the peninsula that protects the Channel Islands Harbor.
Hollywood Beach runs along the ocean-facing side of the peninsula, on the west side of the houses.
McGrath State Beach
McGrath State Beach is one of the best bird-watching areas in California, with plenty of birdy environment along Santa Clara River and among sand dunes along the shore. Over 245 recorded bird species spend at least part of the year here. A nature trail leads to the Santa Clara Estuary Natural Preserve.
Camping at McGrath State Beach
McGrath is primarily a camping park, but there's also a small parking area for day use. If you plan to camp, make reservations.
You might think that a park that has a campground and the word "beach" in its name would offer beach camping. Unfortunately, that isn't true at McGrath Most sites are so far away from the water you'd never know it was nearby. Sites 35 to 37, 41 to 44 and 102 to 107 are closest to the beach.
What is There to Do at McGrath State Beach?
People like to go swimming and surfing. However, the area hs strong currents and riptides which make it less than the best choice for those activities.
You can also go fishing from the beach (if you have a fishing license) or watch the abundant shorebirds.
You can build a beach bonfire in the fire rings on the beach.
What You Need to Know Before You Go to McGrath State Beach
There is an entrance fee which includes parking.
The beach has restrooms and showers.
Beach wheelchairs are available by calling 805-648-3321
Dogs are allowed only in the campground and they must be on a leash that's 6 feet long or less, to keep them from disturbing endangered Western Snowy Plovers who nest in the dunes.
How to Get to McGrath State Beach
McGrath State Beach is about 5 miles south of the town of Ventura, off Harbor Blvd.
Marina Park Beach
A section of Marina Park Beach is protected by a breakwater at the southern tip of the arm of land the forms the entrance to the Ventura harbor. With no big waves, it makes a great place for the kids. Further along, there's also a section that faces directly onto the ocean.
Besides the beaches, there's a grassy area with a playground that includes a fun, cement-and-wood ship to climb on. One online reviewer described Marina Park as "a hybrid between a playground, park, and beach" which is about as close as you can get.
What is There to Do at Marina Park Beach?
Marina Park has wide open spaces, beautiful beaches, great surf, a safe play area, a mermaid statue and a pirate boat called the San Salvador with a fun zip line attached that almost always has a line of kids waiting to use it. It's no wonder it's popular with local families.
There isn't much beach in front of the park, but you'll find a wide, sandy beach on the north end of the beach. You can go swimming there and a lifeguard is on duty part time. You can also take a sailing lesson nearby or launch a kayak.
Kids love the playground, which has rubberized play area surfacing (easier on little knees and elbows than sand). The play structures include age-appropriate equipment to accommodate children 2 to 5 and 5 to 12 years old.
If you have a license, you can go fishing from the dock. You can also explore the rock jetties around the harbor. Or you can just settle down and watch the sailboats going in and out of the harbor.
What You Need to Know Before You Go to Marina Park Beach
Marina Park is a city beach in Ventura, north of Los Angeles.
The park has no entrance fee and no parking fee
You'll find restrooms at the park and picnic tables
Dogs are allowed on leashes 6 feet long or less. Be sure to clean up after you dog when it's needed.
The wind can be harsh and punishing at this beach and you may get there to find that it's too uncomfortable to stay
Marina Park can be insanely crowded on any holiday weekend and most Sundays. Try to go during the week if you can.
Quite a few online reviewers have complained about the restrooms at Marina Park. You want to "go" before you go - if you get my meaning.
How to Get to Marina Park Beach
Exit Hwy 101 at Seaward Avenue, turn left onto Pierpoint and follow it to the end.
You can also get to the park by driving south on Pierpont Boulevard to the end where there is a large parking lot.