Oceanside rarely makes the list of best places for a Southern California beach getaway. This rough-around-the-edges town may not have the panache of La Jolla or the Rodeo Drive-ish allure of Newport Beach, but what it lacks in bells and whistles it makes up for in other ways: wide, sandy beaches; top-notch surfing and water sports; a Cape Cod-style village at the harbor; and a historic pier. And there’s even more reason to visit now: The compact beachside downtown has a new ocean-view hotel and a flurry of new eateries and breweries. Leave your car at home and take Amtrak to the downtown station (which links to the local train to San Diego). The tab: Room rates for a night at SpringHill Suites by Marriott start at $139 (before taxes and parking); meals and extras cost my husband and me about $100.
SpringHill Suites by Marriott (110 N. Myers St.;  722-1003, bit.ly/1kp3ms1) is a welcome addition. The LEED-certified 149-room hotel has great ocean views and is just one block from the beach. Guest rooms are large with a comfortable living area, which includes a sleeper sofa and desk; most bathrooms have only a shower. Opt for an upgrade to an ocean-view room — city-view rooms face the train tracks, and blaring train horns may keep you awake. Good news: There’s a complimentary buffet breakfast and a rooftop pool. Bad news: Parking is $24.
A Denver-based group gobbled up a prime location adjacent to the hotel to open the Hello Betty Fish House (211 Mission Ave.;  722-1008, hellobettyoceanside.com), a Baja-inspired eatery featuring fish tacos, seafood and a wide-open, nautical-themed interior. There’s patio seating and a large bar; an ocean-view, upper-level deck will open soon. The hubs and I enjoyed tacos and drinks for lunch. Dinner was at That Boy Good (207 N. Coast Highway;  433-4227, tbgbbq.com), a casual Southern barbecue joint. Fried chicken and waffles, ribs and pulled pork are the lure. For me, the true star was the BBQ Bloody Mary: Three meaty ribs garnish the drink. Whatever you eat, top it off with a sweet treat from Petite Madeline Bakery (223 N. Coast Highway;  231-7300, petitemadelinebakery.com).
We stumbled upon this secret garden. Hidden behind a gate, we entered the Succulent Café (322 N. Cleveland St.;  717-9612, apothequespa.com/cafe), a small, peaceful outdoor courtyard with a coffee cart in the back. Its walls are covered with playful displays of succulents. Sip a cappuccino and become one with this magical space; on your way out, take home a plant. The café is on the patio of Apotheque Spa (322 N. Cleveland St.;  967-7727, apothequespa.com), itself a find. Housed in a historic brick building, the spa sells custom-blended bath products (you choose the fragrance); massages and other spa services are offered upstairs.
The lesson learned
Budget your time. We didn’t have time to visit a new nearby brewery, Surfside Tap Room (507 N. Coast Highway; www.surfsidetaproom.com), ride bikes on the new link of the Coastal Rail Trail or eat at the hipster sushi joint Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub (1815 S. Coast Highway;  271-0531, www.seabasstropub.com). But we managed to dash in to see the now-closed exhibit “Jean Wells: Icons of Desire” at the Oceanside Museum of Art, and it was worth the effort.
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