Beach gateway to North America’s Galápagos
VENTURA, WITH ITS BREATHTAKING
beach setting framed on one side by mountains and on the other by the Channel Islands, makes visitors feel as if they’ve stumbled upon a bit of magic in finding this scenic spot along California’s central coast. It makes perfect sense, because the original name of this California city, San Buenaventura, labels it as a city of good fortune.
Start your day with your feet in the surf, because Ventura’s miles of beaches that stretch from Surfer’s Point to Ventura Harbor happen to be among the city’s star attractions. Take a long walk, lounge in the sun, or grab a board and enjoy a full aqua immersion. The south-facing waterfront and breaks along the beaches are essential qualities that lure surfers from far and wide, so you owe it to yourself to either try it out or settle down on the sandy shore to watch a few choice surf sessions.
Another reminder of how much the Pacific Ocean figures into the daily life of Ventura can be found at Ventura Harbor Village. Score an outdoor table overlooking the ocean to enjoy a meal of fresh, local seafood and wine. The harbor’s arcade, carousel and ice cream shop will easily figure into a child’s dream list, and shoppers will love scouring the shops for the perfect souvenir.
What’s Cooking Downtown
Early California history has a special place in Ventura’s historic downtown cultural district, which began as Saint Junípero Serra’s final mission settlement. Walk through downtown to see Mission San Buenaventura and the historic homes, museums, antique shops and restaurants along the palm tree-lined streets. With an abundance of family-owned stores, cultural arts and thriving music and foodie scenes, the downtown area is an ideal base for visitors. Take advantage of the free trolley that runs between downtown and Ventura Harbor Village, stopping at major attractions and hotels.
Beer fans can easily check out what’s on tap at the many local breweries downtown. Brewery hopping is ideal here, because a handful—anacapa Brewing Company, Barrelhouse 101, Topa Topa Brewing Company and Ventura Coast Brewing Company—are all within walking distance. A short drive away is the Off Market Street Trail, where you can taste what’s new at Madewest Brewing Company, Poseidon Brewing Company and Surf Brewery. A good way to feel as if you deserve your brews is to start the day with a two-wheel adventure with Cycle California Coast, a grand loop of 150 scenic miles (you don’t have to do them all at once!).
Ventura’s music scene counts more than 35 venues offering live music, along with special events and festivals annually.
Channel Islands Adventures
Opportunities for adventure abound at Ventura Harbor Village—from kayak and stand-up paddle board rentals in the harbor, to whale watching trips, to boat trips to visit Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary. This string of five islands and its surrounding waters are known as North America’s Galápagos and are home to an abundance of wildlife, including whales, dolphins, foxes and even bald eagles. Hike along miles of trails to enjoy the spectacular views of the islands’ rugged beauty, or take advantage of the various water-based activities and snorkel, dive, surf or kayak in island sea caves.
Channel Islands National Park is also known as an important breeding and resting area for a variety of seabirds. Back on the mainland, with a varied elevation from sea level to 8,831 feet at the summit of Mount Pinos, the area is rich with bird life. Up to 457 bird species have been recorded in the county, which includes globally important bird areas such as Mugu Lagoon and Los Padres National Forest.
VENTURA AT DUSK, opposite top; regatta in Ventura, opposite bottom; Topa Topa Brewing Company, right; Ventura pier, center right; Saint Junípero Serra statue in front of Ventura City Hall, below.