Tag: Culture

Matt Howard Picture of the Oceanside Pier

Explore the iconic Oceanside pier


The historic Oceanside Pier has survived storms, thefts, and hard times to become the town’s beating heart — and a magnet for locals and visitors alike. 


By Liz Sheldon

Wooden piers have become a classic symbol of California beach culture, but they were initially intended for practical purposes. Built to make it possible for large ships to unload heavy cargo, wharves, as they were originally known, could cement a small city’s future as a commercial hub. That’s exactly what the Oceanside Board of Trustees promised when it began raising funds for a 1,505-foot pier back in 1887. While things didn’t necessarily go according to plan, the pier you see here today has been a favorite fishing and leisure site for over a century, and stands out as one of Oceanside’s most iconic landmarks. Read on for the story of how the pier came to be, and the best ways to make the most of your visit to this picturesque symbol of Oceanside. 


A Short History of Our Long Pier


After scaling back from a design proposal that included a railroad track, the first piling for what would eventually become the Oceanside Pier was hammered into the sand in May of 1888. Relying on $28,000 pledged by local citizens, by June the city watched as shipments of lumber began arriving through the high seas (delivered, fittingly, by a captain named Starbuck). To them, it would be only a matter of months until Oceanside’s economic boom skyrocketed them to great wealth. 


By August 1888, the pier extended 1,304 feet, nearly its full length, and had already become a popular local fishing spot. Unfortunately, construction halted due to a nail shortage. Then, in December, disaster struck as a winter storm swept away much of the progress.


By 1889 citizens had begun to lose faith, referring to the battered pier as “a barnacle roost.” Bad weather and theft of construction materials slowed progress, and then, in December of 1890, a winter storm washed the remaining 300 feet of pier out to sea. (You can sometimes see the remains of this first pier at the end of Wisconsin Street at low tide; the Visit Oceanside site has more detailed history and photographs.)


It wasn’t until 1894 that Oceanside’s first pier was officially completed, in a new site at the end of Pier Way (then called Third Street). The Oceanside Pier still stands there today, having been replaced six times, most recently in 1987. Today it draws fishermen and visitors from far and wide, and its timeless image has come to represent leisurely days spent at the SoCal shore.



6 Great Ways to Spend a Day at the Pier


GO FISHING Follow in the footsteps of centuries of O’siders and drop a line off the pier. Anyone is welcome to fish, but you must obtain a license first (it’s fast and easy). A charming built-in bait and tackle shop partway down the pier supplies everything you need to cast off and collect your catch, which could be croakers near the shore, larger halibut and sea bass further out, and even mackerel and bonito. 


WATCH THE SUNSET The pier is a beloved place to watch the sun sink behind the waves, offering an epic array of colors to capture on camera. Many visitors take shots of the pier itself from shore, but walk out a bit to find unique vantage points of the horizon. 


VISIT CHARLIE THE PELICAN Cheeky, prehistoric-looking brown pelicans are a common sight on the pier, but one special pelican has earned a role as Oceanside’s unofficial mascot: Charlie is a fixture outside the Pier Bait Shop, where he and his pals — whom locals have dubbed Mike, Three Toes, Chompers, and Boo — hang out to clean up after the fishermen. Remember the birds are part of Oceanside’s precious ecosystem, so please treat them with respect. 


WATCH A SURF COMPETITION Many of Oceanside’s major surf events take place directly beside the pier, including August’s family-friendly Oceanside Longboard Surfing Club Contest and its accompanying beach festival. Later in the month, you can watch athletes do incredible tricks sans boards during the World Bodysurfing Championships. September brings the Super Girl Surf Pro, the only women’s Association of Professional Surfing (ASP) qualifying event in North America.


PAINT THE PIER While it’s not technically on the pier, you’ll get the best view in town from Mission Pacific’s rooftop, where Paint, Sip, and Gaze happens every Friday from 5:30–7:30pm. Our art expert provides all the supplies and instruction you need to create your own portrait of the pier — not to mention a glass of wine or cocktail for creative inspiration. 


EXPLORE THE SUNSET MARKET Just steps from the foot of the pier, the Oceanside Sunset Market takes place every Thursday from 5 to 9pm. International food vendors dish up everything from El Salvadoran pupusas to fresh sashimi and Belgian waffles. There’s also a marketplace for local crafts and live music, plus a kid-friendly play area with games. 

Beautiful front desk with artistic wall

Discovering Oceanside’s art scene


From a sculpture made from recycled t-shirts to Insta-worthy street murals, you’ll discover art at every turn.


By Liz Sheldon

Oceanside has an unmistakable sense of place, thanks to its strong local community and unique Southern California culture. That’s thanks not only to action sports like skating and surfing, but also a thriving arts scene powered by a diverse community of sculptors, weavers, painters, photographers, and muralists,. Their work includes something for everyone, and it’s easy to discover, from the walls of local shops to the Oceanside Museum of Art (OMA) and The Seabird Resort’s own one-of-a-kind collection. 

“The art scene here is really eclectic and full of experimentation,” says Maria Mingalone, the Executive Director of OMA, which curated the collection shared by The Seabird and Mission Pacific. “There’s not a particular style, which is why the museum’s programming is diverse.The city is full of unexpected art at every turn — which means kids who roll their eyes at traditional museum trips will have plenty of exposure to the different forms creativity can take. Here’s a guide to some of our favorite places to discover art around town. 




Featuring ceramics, fiber arts, metal sculptures, prints, and paintings, the dozens of pieces in The Seabird and Mission Pacific’s collection were intentionally chosen to represent a diverse group of artists — and reflect the true spirit of the Oceanside area. “Our goal was to personalize the hotels, so they’re about this specific community,” says Mingalone. “I think people can really feel that,” 

Mingalone collaborated with the hotels as well as with Rebecca Webb, the museum’s Special Projects Director and Curator, to select the works. Right now, in the Grand Coastal Foyer, you’ll spot Michelle Montjoy’s Chorus, a 75-foot sculpture woven from recycled t-shirts sourced from local thrift shops. The lobby displays Elegantly Destroyed, a massive cyanotype by Andrea Chung, and Ben Wei (shortboard), a black-and-white boardwalk print by photographer Zach Cordner. In addition, the resort features its own gallery called OMA West at The Seabird, which will rotate exhibits three times a year. 

Webb sees the partnership between the hotels and the museum as part of a larger trend towards accessibility in the art world: “There’s a paradigm shift towards inviting guests and visitors to be able to access the art more easily. It’s private and public coming together. A lot of the spaces, like the lobby and the pool deck, are public access, so these pieces are available to everyone.”




When we say art is everywhere you turn in Oceanside, we mean it literally. Throughout downtown, the walls have been transformed into a brilliant, eclectic, ever-changing collection of murals by local artists. They’re easy enough to stumble across, but this handy map will help you plan your own DIY tour. Some of the more celebrated works include prolific painter BB Bastida’s snake mural outside Coastal Market and his shark and ballerina piece outside Cadence Dance Project, plus the historic Cruisin’ mural by artist Larry Hill outside the classic 101 Cafe

To learn more about the murals and their history, sign up for the O’Side Murals Walking Tour, led by local arts activist Brigid Parsons (the $15 tour also includes entrance to OMA). To see the most pieces at once, head down to Artist Alley, located between Mission Avenue and Pier View Way, which features a high concentration of murals as well as artists’ studios. The alley is also the starting point for the monthly Art Walk event, when shops and small galleries open their doors and artists show their work outside. 




Once you’ve explored our in-house collection, plan a trip to OMA, which offers rotating exhibitions as well as programming like the First Friday Art Walk starting at the museum. OMA helps new artists get discovered; unlike traditional museums, says Mingalone, “we work closely with the living artist community, so we often take a lot of risk in terms of the artists who we show. It might be their first exhibit, but we believe their work deserves to be seen. That is rare, since so often museums want to share the art of people who are already famous.” 

In practice, that means getting to discover artists you can follow throughout their careers — or even meet as part of the museum’s programming. Current exhibitions include Twenty Women Artists: NOW, which shows both current and older works that reflect the struggles women face today. OMA also hosts the annual Plein Air Arts Festival (July 24–31), which encourages artists of all skill levels to create a canvas in the great outdoors, and features artist talks, an art sale, and a juried exhibition that will be on view through October. 

Sofa with pillows and butterflies in the wall