OCEANSIDE — The annual Harbor Days high jinks next weekend are good reason for a sojourn to this coastal community celebrating its 100th birthday.
Oceanside's harbor, which has 900 pleasure craft moored, should display a colorful air then, when sailboat, jet ski, canoe and bathtub races are featured events.
Festivities get under way Saturday at 10 a.m. with a boat parade led by a Coast Guard cutter and honorary commodore Hobie Alter, creator of the Hobie Cat. Sand-sculpturing contests, a water ballet and musical entertainment also are scheduled.
Other attractions will be boat and RV shows, as well as booths with arts and crafts and food, including Chinese, Thai and Mexican.
While here you also should visit Oceanside's rebuilt pier, the longest on the West Coast, extending 1,942 feet into the Pacific Ocean. Stroll to the end for panoramic views of the three-mile beach and visit the new two-story Fisherman's Restaurant, which opened a month ago.
To get to Oceanside Harbor from Los Angeles, drive south on Interstate 5 to the Harbor Drive exit and follow the signs. During Harbor Days, free parking will be provided nearby at Camp Pendleton, with free shuttle bus service to the harbor. Red double-decker buses will offer transportation around the harbor.
Harbor Drive splits north and south for access to the extensive boat basin. Going right, Harbor Drive North curves past two restaurants, Monterey Bay Canners and the Jolly Roger, and to Villa Marina, a resort motel that overlooks the harbor entrance.
Rooms are $45, with one- and two-bedroom suites featuring fireplaces and kitchens from $65 to $85. Call (619) 722-1561 for reservations. Rental slips are available for guests who arrive by boat.
Variety of Foods
Going left on Harbor Drive South brings you to the Chart House and a replica of a Cape Cod village with eateries such as Mykonos, which has Greek and seafood specialties.
To catch your own dinner, reserve a place aboard one of the ocean-going boats operated by Helgren's Sportfishing. Half a day outings costing $17 depart from the village daily at 6 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.; call (619) 722-2133.
Harbor Drive South joins Pacific Street, which continues around the perimeter of the harbor to a public beach and picnic area. The street ends at $10-per-night municipal parking places for recreational vehicles; the parking area overlooks the ocean and boat basin.
To reach the restored pier from the harbor, follow Pacific Street south across the outlet of the San Luis Rey River to 6th Street and turn right. You'll pass new condo developments on your way to the Strand, a narrow street along the beachfront.
Turn left to reach public parking lots at the head of the pier. (A right turn takes you past old-time cabin accommodations to 9th Street, which goes back to Pacific Street.)
More Than 100 Years Old
Walk out on the battered narrow pier built before the turn of the century. Closed by wave damage in 1983, the pier recently was rebuilt to its original length at a cost of $5.8 million.
You'll see names carved in the five wooden railings that guard each side of the pier. They're people who paid $25 for "a piece of the pier" to support Oceanside's centennial projects.
At the Fisherman's Restaurant the specialty is a four-course, family-style feast of clams, crab, salmon, cod or halibut. Breakfast is served starting at 8 a.m., except Sundays, when brunch begins at 9 a.m. An oyster bar on the second level opens at 11 a.m.
If you'd rather not walk more than a quarter of a mile to the restaurant, board a city-operated tram, 25 cents each way, to the end of the pier. To fish, you can rent a pole and buy bait at the pier tackle shop (no license required).
South of the Oceanside pier you can spend the night a few steps from the sand at a vacation condo complex, Southern California Beach Club. The complex extends down the hillside from Pacific Street to the Strand; all 38 rental units include kitchens. Rates from $75 (studio) to $115 (two-bedroom); call (619) 722-6666.
Mission Filled a Gap
Although the city was incorporated in 1888, the area was settled 90 years earlier with the founding of Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. Named for Louis IX, king of France in the 13th Century, it became the largest of all California missions, with the regal nickname, "King of the Missions."
Mission San Luis Rey is the most popular destination for visitors. It's open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (from noon on Sundays). Admission adults $2, children $1. Cost includes a self-guided tour brochure.
To get to the mission from the pier, drive on 3rd Street to Hill Street, turn right one block to Mission Avenue and drive east about four miles to the mission entrance.
Mission San Luis Rey was built to fill the gap between missions that had been established earlier--in San Diego and San Juan Capistrano. At one time it covered six acres and was home to 3,000 Indians.
Much of the mission has been restored. A tour includes the rooms in which Indians made cloth, candles and soap, also a bedroom and the library of the Franciscan padres.
Thick Adobe Walls
The mission church, with adobe walls six-feet thick, was decorated by the Indians. It is still used for Sunday services. Today the mission also serves as a religious retreat.
For more information, contact Oceanside's new Visitor Information Center, which offers a hotel reservation service. It's at 928 N. Hill St. and is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Phone (619) 721-1101.
Rejoin Interstate 5 for the journey home. Round trip from Los Angeles to Oceanside is 185 miles.