Ventura County

First Timer's Guide to Ventura

surfer Ventura County is located north of Los Angeles and many people who work in the San Fernando Valley live in Ventura County at the "beach" as it is more affordable and offers a more relaxed life style than beach cities in LA. It is cooler than the more southern areas and that is especially welcome in the hot summer months. Much of what visitors want to see and do is centered in the beach, harbor or mission locations. Drive north from LA on the 101 about 40 miles which could take 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on the time of day. See our central coast website for a look at Ventura, Oxnard, Santa Barbara and other sights along the Pacific Coast Highway (101).

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OXNARD -is located just 60 miles north of Los Angeles and is the strawberry and lima bean capital of California. Visit their bi weekly farmer's market along the harbor for the freshest possible produce!
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Port Hueneme Naval Base -is where the west coast Naval Construction Battalion Center (CBC) is located. The base covers 1,600 acres on the California coast and is charged with furnishing training, administrative and logistic support for Seabees serving all over the world. We attended an open house on the base when JJ was about 3 or 4 and really enjoyed the day. We were taken from place to place in ancient school buses and got to board a naval vessel down at the dock. It does not appear that they have anything like that scheduled (maybe a security issue?) but if you have the opportunity - it is definitely worthwhile.

port hueneme lighthouse now Port Hueneme Lighthouse -was originally built in 1874 to guide ships through the Santa Barbara Channel which runs between the California coast and the Channel Islands. port hueneme lighthouse now The old 'Victorian' building was replaced with this 48-foot Art Moderne tower in the 1940s which is still active and maintained by the Coast Guard. port hueneme lighthouse working

The 1897 Fresnel lens is still used to aid in coastal navigation. The lighthouse is open to the public on the third Saturday of each month, except November thru January, from 10:00am to 3:00pm and admission is free. port hueneme lighthouse map port hueneme buoy repair
Start at Flag Plaza on Surfside Drive near the intersection of Surfside Drive and Ventura Road and take the newly opened Lighthouse Promenade to the lighthouse gate. The flat surfaced promenade is about a 1/2 mile walk. Click on these pictures to see a great website with complete information. You can also see Coast Guard personnel maintaining the buoys and other neat navigation equipment that keeps todays ships off the rocks!

Note: there's a whole world of lighthouses on the web. Port Hueneme belongs to the United States Lighthouse Society and I found a great site called Lighthouse Friends. First one to visit them all wins!!!

Herzog Wine Cellars (Kosher) -is fairly new to the area (20 years) but the family is not new to winemaking, tracing their roots to Slovakia over a century ago. Self guided tours are free whenever they are open and wine tasting is available for $3 for a flight of three or $6 for a flight of four. Wine tasting fees are waived if you make a purchase! Exit the 101 on Del Norte and turn right on Camino Del Sol.

Jim Hall Kart Racing School -is self reported to be America's number one kart racing school with the newest road course. It sure looks like fun and you can see why Motor Trend Magazine chose the school as one of the '49 cool car things to do before you die'. They offer 1, 2 and 3 day sessions and they begin at $395.00 per day. There are discounts if you mention the ad on the web site at They are located at 2600 Challenger Place in Oxnard. Exit Del Norte off the 101 and turn left. Turn right on Sturgis, left on Elevar and right on Challenger Place and be ready for the adrenaline rush of your life!

ventura city hall
VENTURA -is a beach city known for its art community. See Ventura The picturesque waterfront is a great place for a stroll and the galleries studios and theaters round out this lovely little town. Do plan your visit well ahead if you are attending Music Under the Stars or other of the art or music events as they are well attended and accomodations go fast!

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Ventura Harbor Village and Marina - is a wonderful community filled with shops, restaurants and boats. There is a carousel, harbor cruises and a fisherman's market on Saturday mornings. This is a great place to walk around and enjoy a gorgeous day! From the 101 take the Seaward Avenue exit and travel west towards the water.

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Channel Islands Visitor's Center - is a great place to learn about the Channel Islands located off the California coast. You can usually see these unique and interesting islands from the observation tower. They offer amazing opportunities to hike, camp, snorkel, SCUBA, whale watch, bird watch, swim and so much more. The official water transport for the Channel Islands is Island Packers and they will provide the schedules and expectations of tours to the islands at their web site at You need to wear layers, bring your own food and water, wear hiking boots and for goodness sake - LOTS OF FILM!!!

Ventura Pier -is the longest pier in California and is normally lined with fishermen trying their luck at 'catching' fish. The original pier was built at this location in 1872 and was designed to provide for steamships arriving at the harbor located between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The bountiful harvest of local crops was transported to a wide range of markets via steamship. Now, it is a great place to get some fresh sea air, have lunch and people watch.

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Mission San Buenaventura - is the ninth mission founded by Father Junipero Serra and reported to be his favorite of all 21. Originally built in 1782 it is beautifully restored and a joy to visit. Take the California off ramp from the 101 Freeway and go straight to Main Street. Mission Park is an interesting and historic area with much to offer. Park the car and walk around to get a feel for what life was like in California hundreds of years ago.

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Museums of History and Art - offers a lot in a little space. This tiny museum rotates exhibits of artifacts, paintings and farm implements so there is always something new to see. Admission is $4.00.

A.J. Comstock Museum -has taken an interesting approach to providing a museum of early firefighting equipment. All exhibits are visible through glass so the museum is literally open all the time. It is located right across from the mission.

Ortega Adobe -is listed on the historic register and shows what life was like over 150 years ago. Once a 4,000 acre ranch, the buildings depict how wealthy settlers lived. The Monterrey style ranch home was built in 1847 by Don Raymundo Olivas. The adobe is located at 4200 Olivas Park - exit the 101 on Telephone Road. Admission is free!

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