Ventura Travel Guide

Known for its beachy vibe, fun surf breaks, and Spanish history, Ventura sits south of Santa Barbara and north of Malibu on Highway 101. Eccentric antique shops and Patagonia headquarters beckon shoppers who pass through town, while surfers head to local beaches to catch incoming south swells. The seaside city is also the departure point for trips to Channel Islands National Park, so those that want to explore Anacapa, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Miguel, and Santa Rosa Islands can step aboard a ferry from Ventura Harbor.

For thousands of the years the Chumash people thrived in the foothills and on the shores Ventura. In 1782, Father Junipero Serra founded the ninth of the California missions, San Buenaventura—named for the Italian Saint Bonaventure, Ventura means "city of good fortune." Visitors can tour the museum and gift shop located at the active parish. The Albinger Archaeological Museum and Museum of Ventura County offer alternative glimpses into the area's first inhabitants and the city's beginnings. With an array of art galleries in town, the biannual Ventura Artwalk showcases more than 200 local artists and performers. Year round, you can check out the area's creative happenings in the city's cultural district, located downtown on Main Street. A walk down Main also takes you through the town's concentration of antique shops, where treasure hunters can uncover troves of finds at favorite haunts like The Antiquarian, Antique Collective Mall, Portobello Antiques, Provence Antiques, and the list goes on...and on. While moseying around town you're sure to work up an appetite, and you'll find everything from quick eats to feed the need to finer dining establishments where you can while away the afternoon over a glass of wine. Fresh seafood is favored at Brophy Bros. Restaurant and Clam Bar, while I Love Sushi is a reasonably priced haunt for rolls and sashimi.  Brooks Restuarant is the place for refined comfort food (think Pumpkin Ginger Hushpuppies) and The Sidecar Restaurant specializes in dishes made with fresh, local produce—and wicked gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.

The real lure of Ventura is the active lifestyle it offers. Famous outdoor apparel company Patagonia chose to base its headquarters in town, and employees take full advantage of the surroundings with lunchtime surf sessions and weekend climbing trips. Shoppers can load up on gear for surfing, rock climbing, hiking, diving, kayaking and more for an adventurous stay on the Central Coast. Since the Channel Islands blocks south swells from reaching Santa Barbara shores, Ventura is the spot to catch the elusive waves during the summer months. Bicyclists and runners can enjoy a eight-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast bike trail, or explore hikes in the foothills of the Los Padres National Forest. If you want to take to the pedal for transportation, Wheel Fun Rentals has everything from electric cars and surreys to beach cruisers and road bikes. And if you like to explore in you're in town, a short boat ride from Ventura Harbor will take you to the Channel Islands, where kayaking through sea caves, whale watching, and hiking remote trails are all easily accomplished in one day.

Where to Go in Ventura

TOP PICKS BY OUR LOCAL EXPERTS

Clocktower Inn

user rating

181 E Santa Clara St

Southwestern-style décor.

Patagonia Great Pacific Iron Works

253 W Santa Clara

Patagonia's flagship retail store.

71 Palm Restaurant

71 N. Palm St
Between Main and Poli Sts

Ventura Theatre

26 South Chestnut Street

Too hot to trotà

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