A before-you-go guide to food, activities and lodging.
VENTURA—Looking to hit the water for a day trip? Weekend getaway? Night out? If so you should consider a trek or navigation to Ventura Harbor, perfectly nestled between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.
Ventura Harbor has a total of 1,500 boat slips, 40 shops and dockside restaurants, two waterfront hotels, beaches, green spaces, water sports, and is a close boat ride away from the Channel Islands. It is a pet and bike-friendly harbor so don’t forget to bring your furry friend.
If you visit on a week day, you’ll be greeted by a quiet, picturesque waterfront. Foot traffic and activities pick up on the weekends.
Boaters can visit venturaharbor.com/boaters/transient-2/ for more information about docking. There are complimentary two-hour guest docks available at Ventura Harbor Village Marina and day and overnight slips available at Ventura Isle and Ventura West marinas.
Food, the best place to start. There are plenty of places to grab a bite in the village. With everything from tacos and grilled cheese to steak and seafood, there is something for every price point and taste.
If you’re looking for a more casual meal, the family-run Baja Bay Surf N’ Taco, which features homemade tortillas, Fratelli’s Pizza and Brew or 805 Grilled Cheese might fit the bill.
If you’re looking to kick it where the locals do, Ventura Harbor Marketing and Events Coordinator Ruby Emery recommends Boatyard Pub, which often has live music on weekends and TVs with NFL ticket for football fans.
“This is really the hangout for boaters,” Emery said.
Emery said Copa Cubana, which serves Ameri-Cubano cuisine and craft cocktails also has weekly live music. At The Greek, you will get live music in addition to belly dancing with your classic Mediterranean dish. Emery recommends the saganaki flaming cheese from The Greek.
Boatyard, Margarita Villa Mexican Restaurant and Le Petit Café are among the eateries with pet-friendly outdoor patios for those visiting with dogs.
If you’re in the mood for seafood, Andria’s Seafood Restaurant and Market is known for their fish and chips. You can also pick up some locally caught seafood to cook up on your own. Saturday mornings you can even watch boats cruise in from a morning catch while shopping locally caught fish from 8-11 a.m. at the Saturday Fisherman’s Market in front on Andria’s. Wild Local Seafood Co also offers a selection of locally caught fresh seafood if you’re looking to make a home cooked meal aboard your boat.
If you’re looking for a good view with your meal, Emery recommends Brophy Bros., Margarita Villa Mexican Restaurant or Fratelli’s but said nearly all the restaurant have great views of the water.
If you’re thinking of skipping desert, you might rethink that after seeing the “unicorn poop” Coastal Cone is serving up. The creamery has more than 40 flavors, as well as pup cups.
If you’re looking for something new, check out Top This Chocolate, which just opened in October. Chocolate lovers can create their own chocolate bar from premium milk, white or dark liquid chocolate and choose from a selection of more than 40 toppings.
If you ask any local here, a must-do if you are in the area is a trip to the Channel Islands. Crossing takes about an hour to an hour-and-a-half by boat. Take your boat to the islands or if you want more guidance, Island Packers offers a variety of tours, whale watching and camping on the islands.
East Anacapa Island features nearly two miles of nature trails with panoramic views and crystal clear water teeming with marine life, great for snorkeling, according to Island Packers. West Anacapa Island offers tidepool exploration and relaxation against a rugged coastline. Island Packers said Santa Cruz, the largest of all the Channel Islands, has some of the most varied hiking, secluded coves and beaches and great snorkeling and scuba diving. Mid Santa Cruz has tree shaded beaches, fresh water streams and pine, oak and ironwood forests dot the hillsides, offering miles of trails to explore and kelp forests to snorkel.
Santa Rosa and Santa Barbara islands will take you a little longer to get to, about two hours. Island Packers said on Santa Rosa you’ll find beaches, rolling grasslands, canyon groves of oak, ironwood and Torrey pines, seals, island foxes and over 195 species of birds. Island Packers calls Santa Barbara “truly an island of the sea,” with nature trails featuring spectacular views and a diversity of plant and animal habitats. Visit islandpackers.com/ to learn more about tours.
Before you go, make sure to stop by the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center, just a short walk from the Harbor Village, to learn more about the islands and catch a great view of the harbor.
There are about half a dozen dive boats options for scuba divers interested in exploring the Channel Islands. If you’re new to scuba diving, Ventura Dive and Sport, located right in the Harbor Village, bills itself as the only dive center in the state of California that is totally self-sufficient in terms of offering all levels of diver-training (from beginner to instructor), as well as an on-site heated pool and a dive boat docked within a stone’s throw. They offer a variety of certification classes for first-time divers.
Ventura Boat Rentals offers kayak and paddle board rentals. Visitors can also rent jet skis from Ventura Jet Ski Rentals or head out on a fishing charter with Ventura Sportsfishing.
Other harbor activities include the Ultimate Escape Rooms and Village Carousel and Arcade.
There are three beaches within about a 10-minute walk of the harbor: Surfers Knoll Beach, South Beach and Harbor Cove Beach. Due to its location, Harbor Cove Beach does not have any waves. Emery said it is a popular beach for families with young kids looking for calmer waters.
Ventura has two harbor-front hotels for those looking to spread out and sleep off board. The Holiday Inn Express and Suites just opened 40 new guest rooms with picturesque harbor views. The recent renovations also feature an expanded lobby and an adjacent breakfast area and a new front exterior entryway. The hotel offers free breakfast, gym access and is pet friendly. The hotel is about a 10-minute walk from restaurants and shops.
Less than half a mile away is Four Points by Sheraton. Stays at Four Points include access to a gym, outdoor heated pool, outdoor whirlpool, bicycle rentals and water sports.
The village is home to about a dozen boutiques and souvenir and gift stores. Peruse locally made art at one of the three art galleries, boost your closet with some beach-style clothing or just pick up some forgotten beach supplies.