Oceanside is more than picture-perfect sunsets. Palm tree-lined streets, beach vibes, and blue skies draw visitors looking for a relaxing break. So Oceanside should top your list if you’re dreaming about a perfect warm-weather getaway that happens to include jaw-dropping sunsets. And it happens to be a great place to bike, too.
Exploring Oceanside by any kind of bike (e-bike, hybrid, fat-tire, and beyond) is a fantastic way to experience SoCal’s laid-back vibe. The League of American Bicyclists distinguishes Oceanside as a bike-friendly community.
Located in northern San Diego County near the California border of Mexico, Oceanside’s average temperatures are 67 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter months and 74 in the summer months — ideal weather to “tan your hide in Oceanside,” according to Oceanside’s 1960 tourism slogan.
Driving to Oceanside is a 40-mile jaunt from San Diego and 85 miles from Los Angeles.
Pro Tip: Consider a stay at The Green Room Hotel. The hotel offers a delightful place to stay just minutes from Oceanside’s beaches. Located in Oceanside’s south side and convenient to SoCal Bike next door, guests enjoy a 25 percent bike rental discount at SoCal Bike as a perk.
1. Bike Routes Around Oceanside
Routes exist for all skill levels in bike-friendly Oceanside. Two primary bike trails run through Oceanside: the Coastal Rail Trail and the San Luis Rey River Trail. Pick up a bike map at the California Welcome Center, Oceanside.
Starting from the hotel, we suggest this leisurely circuit using mostly the Coastal Rail Trail to the heart of downtown, then to Pacific Street to enjoy Sea Lion Island before going down the beachside. The distance is short, so you can easily explore whichever portions of this route you like over a few days.
2. Oceanside Morning Farmers Market
Time your visit right, and you can pick up special treats for a beach picnic at the Oceanside Morning Farmers Market. The Thursday-morning market is a perfect place to stock up for a Sea Lion Island and Oceanside Harbor Beach excursion, with offerings from popcorn, chips and salsa, local produce, and artisan baked goods to organic honey and fresh flowers.
The farmers market is held year-round every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Look for the market next to the Oceanside Civic Center Plaza.
Pro Tip: For colorful murals and artistic specialty shops, peddle through Artist Alley, close to the Civic Center Fountain. The alley is located between North Coast Highway and North Freeman Street.
3. California Surf Museum
On your way to the beach, check out the California Surf Museum to see surfing history and what makes Oceanside’s surf culture distinctive. The museum holds a permanent collection chronicling surfboard history, wave-riding, and yearly revolving exhibits.
Pro Tip: From the surf museum, Sea Lion Island is 1.4 miles away, or about 6 minutes. Ride on N. Cleveland Street to the San Luis Rey River Trail start, which also runs beside Oceanside Harbor.
4. Sea Lion Island
Next to the Small Craft Harbor Fishing Pier, watch sea lions lounge on the docks in Oceanside Harbor. Cycle down North Harbor Drive, then watch at a safe distance from sidewalks and benches. At the right time of year, babies cuddle with their moms, but you can spot sea lions and hear their loud barking year-round.
5. Oceanside Harbor Beach
From Sea Lion Island, head just under a mile, or about 4 minutes, to Oceanside Harbor Beach for a picnic on the sandy beachfront or underneath shade at a round pavilion with three picnic tables. Watch boats entering and leaving the harbor, along with several surfing schools giving new surfers lessons.
6. Top Gun House (High Pie)
Visit the historic blue Victorian cottage made famous by the original blockbuster movie starring Tom Cruise. The Top Gun House was moved from its original location to 250 North Pacific Street in 2020 and is now home to High Pie, where you can grab an individual hand pie and coffee to fuel your ride around Oceanside.
7. Oceanside Sunset Market
If you’re in Oceanside on a Thursday evening, ride to Pier View Way in downtown Oceanside for the Oceanside Sunset Market. It’s San Diego County’s happening place known for live bands, great food vendors, and up to 200 merchants squeezing into four city blocks. Held every Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m, watch musicians perform on a live stage — and sometimes on top of a bus, too. At the same time, visitors eat food inspired by cuisines from around the world.
Favorites include options from barbecue suspended over hot coals in a wooden wagon, grilled cheese, and tamales to Spanish jamón, sea urchins, and chocolate-covered strawberries formed into a kabob on a stick.
Pro Tip: Orfila Vineyards Tasting Room & Kitchen at 221 North Cleveland Street is a local favorite that’s often visited before or after a trip to the Oceanside Sunset Market.
8. Oceanside Municipal Fishing Pier
You’ll never forget experiencing a gorgeous California sunset from Oceanside’s pier, but that’s not all that happens here. The 1,942 feet long historical wooden Oceanside Pier — initially built in 1888 — now serves as a central gathering point. From the beach, attend an event at the outdoor amphitheater. Watch surfers or take in the sunshine and the beauty of the Pacific Ocean. Or park your bike, walk along the pier for wildlife viewing, and watch people fishing.
Where To Eat In Oceanside
Seeing the sights by bike undoubtedly works up an appetite. Oceanside’s official tourism website lists plenty of excellent restaurants, but listening to locals has proven to be our favorite way to find extraordinary eateries. You can’t go wrong with these choices.
Local Tap House
3-Minute Ride From The Farmers And Sunset Markets
Closer to downtown Oceanside on South Coast Highway, a Skinny Girlfriend, or two, awaits those who enter through the Local Tap House doors. A cocktail, that is. Come for a slender drink, but leave feeling like you’ve been benevolently fed like knackered locomotive firemen after making the train puff and hiss from San Bernardino.
Of course, you’ll need to burn some calories after a massive portion of WTF Slow Cooked Short Rib Fries followed by a Dirty Bird chicken sandwich, but a lunch or dinner here is worth it. Also check out the extensive tap list.
Anita’s Mexican Restaurant & Cantina
3-Minute Ride From The Green Room Hotel
Located a quick 3-minute ride from The Green Room Hotel on South Coast Highway, Anita’s Mexican Restaurant & Cantina knows how to satisfy cravings for Mexican cuisine. This third-generation restaurant has been using the same family recipes since 1973. Locals rave about the food at Anita’s, but margaritas were always the first thing we were advised to order.
Residents regard Anita’s Carnitas, shrimp enchiladas, and any fajitas as favorites. We recommend dinner on the way back to the hotel after exploring downtown.
Beach Break Cafe
2-Minute Ride From The Green Room Hotel
Winner of the Food Network’s #1 Mom and Pop Restaurant in the Country, you’ll want to take a spin to this notable breakfast and lunch cafe. Four-egg omelets and cinnamon coffee cake are tempting, but Banana Crunch French Toast gets all the attention. It’s dipped in Honey Bunches of Oats cereal for a crunchy coating, then topped with bananas and a plethora of whipped cream that elicits joy from just about every kid.
The cafe is an easy breakfast stop whether riding to Oceanside Harbor along the beach route or downtown on the Coastal Rail Trail.
Pro Tip: The line can be hours long on weekends. Arrive early or aim to eat here on a weekday instead.
Bonus: Rent An E-Bike From SoCal Bike
We enjoyed renting from SoCal Bike because of their exceptional service and how they helped us find the right bike for our time in Oceanside. Owner Jim Norris has been in the biking industry for 50 years. Norris has been a racer, USA Cycling Race Official, and a Certified USA Race Mechanic. Likewise, the staff is friendly and knowledgeable about the best routes and bike paths in town and the area. Plus, Amo the Shop Dog, an adorable Shih Tzu, loves to greet people and share her toys.
We recommend an e-bike because its battery can easily handle routes alongside the beach, downtown shopping, attractions, and a trip to Mission San Luis Rey, 6 miles away, without recharging. If The Green Room Hotel doesn’t have vacancies, SoCal Bike delivers to hotels and resorts around Oceanside. Each bike rental includes a helmet, lock, basket, and a 25 percent discount for The Green Room Hotel guests and TravelAwaits readers.
Pro Tip: For the best live music, check out the Oceanside Moose Lodge. All proceeds go back into the O’side community. According to Jim, “it’s the best bar in town.”