O   X   ………….nard,
on California's Strawberry Coast
spells L  O  V E

This is a beach city where time stands still and embraces you with the passion for life that is intoxicating!

Summer in Oxnard.

When I was a kid, summer vacations were filled with five kids, mom and dad and grandma packed into a green 1959 Pontiac sedan.  Mom packed food and we hung our heads out the window trying to escape the heat of eight bodies in a cramped car.  We visited museums, beaches, and picnicked at roadside tables.  These vacations were affordable, easy and created memories that bonded our family for life.  I thought those times were gone for good, until I experienced Oxnard.

The second I stepped out of my car my heart was captivated. 

The temperature was a cool refreshing 68 degrees (year around).  

Boater's paradise at Channel Islands Harbor.

The harbor breeze kissed my cheeks and gave me that tingly vacation feeling. For three days my veins pulsed with that everlasting summer feeling . . .anxious to get up in the morning and thrilled to have experienced my day!

We stayed at the Oxnard Hampton Inn Channel Islands at the Harbor.  Our Mariner View room was spacious and serene.  I loved the white crisp duvet cover that graced the bed.  It was luxurious, inviting and I slept like a baby.  Our host had sent up a welcome package of Herzog Wine from the local winery.  I poured two glasses of deep red Cabernet, for my husband and me.  We opened the sliding glass door to our comfortable patio and soaked in the afternoon sun.

Watersports abound.

The familiar call of the sea gulls with the clanking of the boat masts in the wind evaporated my worries of the world, (Our room had complimentary high-speed wireless Internet access — if I wanted the world to intrude.)  I opted to replace the rush of the high tech world with that precious high touch “vacation” feeling.

Every morning we woke up to the hotel’s complimentary hot and scrumptious breakfast complete with fresh juices, fruits, yogurt, breads & bagels, waffles, sausage, cereals and the aroma of fresh brewed coffee.  It was just like being at my Mom’s, only we didn’t have to do the dishes.

We truly stepped back in time with our first dining experience at La Dolce Vita located in the historic Heritage Square.  The turn of the century Victorian buildings were lovingly restored and in this downtown plaza.  I felt like I had just landed in Pollyanna’s home town.  The red cobblestone square set against the white trim of Victorian buildings reminded me of a place in time when life was slower and much simpler.  The grounds were lushly landscaped with over 140 varieties of shrubs and flowers that bloomed in a home town welcome.

La Doce Vita in Oxnard's Heritage Square.

Our evening at La Dolce Vita was amazing in so many ways.  The white linens were crisp and the flowers on the table were fresh and elegant. The art work made me feel like I was dining at my rich aunt’s home.

Everything was prepared to perfection with a loving elegance that only a family member can extend to her guests.  Michelle Kenny, who is the proprietor, was our family for the evening.  The food was prepared with that amazing blend of Italian/ Mediterranean love. It was an evening filled with the charm of Tuscany cuisine paired with this California coast.  But the fusion of old world with the new wasn’t the only pairing that was a surprise.

Michelle Kenny at La Dolce Vita.

Michelle had invited the winemaker George Gilpatrick and his life partner Faye Hawes to pair their memorable wines with our dinner! As I listened to their story of how they founded Rancho Ventavo Cellars I was awestruck.  Never had I imagined that I would be breaking bread with the winemakers.  What an evening!

George’s eye’s sparkled with excitement as he watched me taste the first paring of Rancho Ventavo Tempranillo 2005 with the Mediterranean Tarlet and Olive Tapenade appetizer.  It was love at first sip.  The wine was spicy and complex and rich ruby red in color.  The sweet taste of the tomatoes and olives blended perfectly with the wine aromas and flavors of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla and leather.  This was only the beginning in dining “The sweet life.”

Victorian charm is found
in Oxnard's Heritage Square.

My palate was awakened by myriads of sensual pleasures that I had only read about in glossy travel magazines — such as experiencing the opulent flavors of ripe blueberry and black cherry in Rancho Centavo’s 2005 Syrah that was paired with my entrée, Penne con Salmon laced with spinach and tomato, tossed in a light cream sauce — which curled my toes. 

I didn’t think my dining experience could get any better until dessert.  The Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding was upstaged by a juicy Chocolate Covered Strawberry.  When the sweetness of a ripe strawberry is combined with rich chocolate and then paired with George’s 2005 Zinfandel, my olfactory senses grew wings. This supple, mouth-filling vintage blended with the juicy blueberry and ripe blackberry fruit was enchantment. George, Fay, Michelle and the culinary staff at La Dolce Vita, you are fabulous! (www.ladolcevitadimare.com)

Feeling right at “home” in our private seaside resort only got better as the week progressed.  Friday was dedicated to the adventure of exploring “California’s Galapagos.”

Island Packers Cruises
visit Anacapa Island.


Island Packers Cruises is a family-owned business started by Bill Connally and his four children after he bought an old fishing boat named the Venra F and rebuilt it to be the Island Packer.  We ventured on the 60 minute boat ride across the breakwaters to Anacapa Island in the Channel Islands as the Connally family did on their maiden voyage on Mother’s Day in 1968.

Our day cruise was magnificently smooth as we peered intensely at the horizon hoping to catch a glimpse of a Pacific Gray Whale, that migrate from the Bering Sea to the lagoons in Mexico to breed and bear their young.  We didn’t spy a whale but we were entertained by dolphins and sea lions as we crossed  the short 12 miles. 

Anacapa Island is just one gem in the
necklace of the Channel Islands National Park.

As we neared Anacapa a forty-foot Arch Rock appeared from the ocean in front of us.  There are three islets of Anacapa that look like an island of deception or a mirage.  These islets are almost five miles long and they are accessible only by boat.  (I later found out that Anacapa is the Chumash Indian word for mirage.)

Seagulls on Anacapa Island, in the

Channel Islands National Park.
(Park photo.)

On Anacapa we climb 153 steps to reach the island’s plateau.  It was worth every step of the way.  On top of island was the most resplendent site to behold.  The entire surface of the island was alive in color.  The tree sunflower or coreopsis was a bright yellow, the vibrant red morning glories immersed with the hot pink ice plant, as the pale beige buckwheat became the canvas for a thousand sea gull nests!

A thousand white feathered dots sprang up all over the island.  I’d never seen a sea gull in still motion.  The only time they moved was if you got too close to their shallow nests that were just off the trail.   You could tell they meant business with their shrill call to “move away.”  Seagulls mate for life and return every year to this spot to hatch their young.

The Anacapa lighthouse.
(Park photo.)

Our naturalist led us on a mile and a half walk, telling us stories about the shipwrecks, lighthouse legends, and 11,000 years of history with the Chumash Indians. 

There is a turning point in every vacation, a new discovery that captures your imagination and leaves a lasting imprint on your soul.  Inspiration Point on Anacapa was that moment for me.  I looked across the channel that connected the five islets and knew this must be the place where heaven meets earth.  As the afternoon sun burned through the ocean mist the magic of land, earth, volcanic rock, towering sea cliffs and mysterious sea caves unfolded before me.

I said a quiet prayer in thanks for this extraordinary scene surrounding me.  A hushed reverence for life caught in my throat as I a shared the trail hike back to the boat with a new friend I’d met on the trip.  “You know I got to go to the Galapagos” she boasted.  “Anacapa is every bit as magnificent.”

Oxnard is not only rich in beauty, passion, sightseeing, strawberries, wineries, and great restaurants, it’s passionate about their museums.

Vintage cars roll through Oxnard
during the Holiday Parade.
Visit the Murphy Auto Museum:

I’ve never visited a vintage car museum that is as extraordinary as the Murphy Auto Museum.  It was founded by Dr. Daniel Murphy, a local retired neurosurgeon.  His passion for vintage automobiles is only surpassed by the magnificent collection itself.  It’s the only museum of its kind where you can relive decades gone with over 50 autos displayed by many different collectors — from early classics, sports cars, muscle cars, street rods and a unique collection of Packards from 1927-1958. 

I was astounded by the brilliance and uniqueness of each paint color.  What I loved most was that none of the collection was roped off and I could almost climb inside these vehicles to admire and appreciate all of their history.  Dr. Murphy also has an amazing train collection in the middle of the museum, and a collection of vintage clothing that corresponds with the era of the cars.  A story of passion is told with every exotic hood ornament, shiny bumper, and rich leather upholstery.

Oxnard's Maritime Museum.

If museums are your forte, please take time to also visit the Maritime Museum which has the most extensive model ships and maritime paintings in the world.  A great place for kids and adults is also the Woolworth Building that has an extensive collection of memorabilia from the days of soda fountains and five and dime stores.  The building has been magnificently restored to its original stature. Call the museum at 805/984-6260.

We loved our place at the Hampton Inn.  But if you want to visit Oxnard and stay on the beach, the Embassy Suites Mandalay Hotel is penultimate in beach resorts.  The undulating hills of eight acres of ocean front pristine white sandy beach are breathtakingly beautiful.  You can walk out to the beach from most rooms in the hotel.  All 248 suites have patios or balconies with pool, ocean or garden views; wet bars, refrigerators, coffee makers and microwaves.  We had the pleasure of dining at the resort’s casually elegant Capistrano private dining room. Their California cuisine was excellent!

Stocking up at Oxnard's
"Downtown" Farmer's Market.

It doesn’t matter where you go in Oxnard . . . the farmer’s market, Heritage Square, or a neighborhood stroll down G Street, you’ll feel relaxed and nourished by a city that loves who they are and shares that family feeling with every visitor they meet.  

If you need a vacation this summer, give yourself a treat and book a trip to O X nard and feel the love.  You’ll make memories that last a lifetime.

Feature by Janice Wilson, Jetsetters Magazine Beach Resort, Golf, and Tennis Editor; most photos courtesy of Oxnard CVB — please visit them at www.visitoxnard.com

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