Quick: what do the Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, and Great Wall of China have in common? They’re all bucket list landmarks, yes. But each one is also a great viewpoint, with jaw-dropping panoramas over the surrounding landscape.
When you’re in Oceanside, California, you don’t need to pack a passport or make a days-long schlep to see equally inspiring overlooks. The seafront town is home to myriad places with views that are just a quick walk or drive from the beachfront Mission Pacific boutique hotel, whether you want to stroll a century-old, man-made pier that juts straight out into the Pacific Ocean or climb to the top of craggy seafront cliffs with a misty breeze in your hair. We’ve rounded up our favorite spots in and around Oceanside with showstopping views you can use.
Do you remember those opening credits in the TV drama “Dawson’s Creek” when the whole teen-angst-addled crew frolicked dreamily below a North Carolina pier? If you transported them to Southern California, you could film an exact point-for-point reshoot…with arguably better weather and sunnier smiles…at the Oceanside Pier. Originally constructed in 1888, the stilted wonder extends a whopping 1,942 feet into the Pacific Ocean and provides some of the best views in town of the churning seas and charming shoreline. While you’re up there, keep an eye out for folks fishing for rockfish, halibut, kelp bass and more.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Park
If you’ve ever wondered what Southern California looked like before practically everyone realized it was paradise and flocked here, you’ll get a sense at this 1,750-acre reserve set along the Pacific Ocean. Aside from a handful of buildings and hiking trails, Torrey Pines’ land is veritably untouched—and dense with 3,000 rare pine trees (the pinus torreyana), salt marshes and a waterfowl refuge. If you’re bringing the kids, try the 0.7 mile Guy Fleming trail loop—and keep an eye out on the ocean for cresting gray whales, especially in the winter months.
Point Loma Lighthouse
Well worth the scenic 50-minute drive along the coast from Mission Pacific, this circa 1855 lighthouse atop the peninsula that’s now Cabrillo National Monument is essentially as perfectly preserved today as it was in the 19th century. You can climb to the top of its spiral staircase to peer out on what the original lightkeepers saw and take in a panorama that spans all the way to Mexico, but don’t forget to get up close and personal with the close-range views, too: the tidepools here are enthralling, and home to everything from sea stars to sea urchins.
Skyfari Aerial Tram, Balboa Park
Design and architecture lovers flock to 1,200-acre Balboa Park to ogle its Spanish Colonial Revival museums—many built circa 1915. But insiders know that one of the most exciting ways to see the park is overhead, via the Skyfari Aerial Tram. It zips over the world-famous San Diego Zoo from 10 a.m. until close; go at sunset to enjoy the ride in the gauzy light of dusk, and look for the zoo’s resident hippos, orangutans, lions, and so much more.
The Rooftop Bar, Mission Pacific
The only thing better than cocktail hour? Cocktail hour with a view. At The Rooftop Bar at Mission Pacific, you can take in the glimmering Pacific Ocean from the sixth floor roof deck while sipping craft cocktails inspired by famous surf breaks along the San Diego coastline like The Jetty and Sunset Cliffs… often to live DJ sets. Find out what’s happening at The Rooftop Bar this month.
Niguel Botanical Preserve
This sun swept corner of Southern California is beloved for its ocean views, but sometimes you’re craving a more lush, mountainous outlook. And if that’s what you’re after, Niguel Botanical Preserve delivers. Open dawn to dusk on 18 manicured acres just a 42-minute drive up the coast from Mission Pacific, these gardens are home to 2,000 plant species native to similarly Mediterranean regions across the globe. Wander their four miles of walking trails to spot Australian eucalyptus and local California verbena and white sage…all in the foothills of Santiago Peak in the Santa Ana mountain range.
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
The local secret spot known as Sunset Cliffs has garnered some 6,225 five-star Google reviews. What’s not to love about these bluffs and sea caves, each ornately carved by the Pacific Ocean itself? Beachcombers should visit at sunrise to have their pick of the seashells that washed up overnight.
The Flower Fields
Instagrammers, start your engines. Err, cameras. This 55-acre ranunculus garden, a 19-minute drive from Mission Pacific, is like a rainbow sprung to life—overlooking the turquoise sea. Open early March through May each year, The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch is also home to an American flag composed entirely of red, white and blue petunia flowers growing on a hillside and a greenhouse chockablock with pink cymbidium orchids. Swoon!