A Memorable Holiday in Port Hueneme

Photos by Greg ARAGON


Port Hueneme is a hidden gem on the California coast. Tucked between a naval base and a large port, the oceanfront town in Ventura County is easy to pass on the freeway but, as I recently learned, it is well worth an overnight visit. 

My getaway to Port Hueneme began when the family and I discovered the Holiday Inn Express Port Hueneme (www.ihg.com/holidayinnexpress/hotels), the perfect hotel for exploring the city. Located a block from the beach, the hotel is modern, clean and efficient. The staff is super friendly and the rooms are spacious and feature a refrigerator, microwaves, HD TVs, high-speed Internet access and comfortable beds. 

The Holiday Inn Express Hotel makes a perfect home base.

The hotel also offers free gourmet breakfast to guests, a heated pool and Jacuzzi, a fitness center and bike rentals. Besides being next to the beach, the property is across the street from lots of food options, a few blocks from the new U.S. Navy Seabee Museum, and three miles from the Ventura County Maritime Museum in Oxnard. 

Once acquainted with the room, we walked five minutes to Hueneme Beach Park, a 50-acre park on the water with soft white sand, picnic tables, barbecue pits, volleyball courts and a long, beautiful walking/biking path following the sand. The park also features a great seafood joint, Port Hueneme Lighthouse, and the city’s historic pier. 

Port Hueneme Pier was originally constructed in 1956 when it was 650-ft. long. Today, after a few renovations, the wooden plank pier is 1,250 feet long and is a great spot for fishing, strolling, viewing large container ships coming in and out of the port and watching the sunset behind the nearby Channel Islands. 

After visiting the pier we walked down the long, paved beach path towards the port and lighthouse. The path is partially protected by a large wall of rocks to keep high tides at bay. It is great for walking, jogging and running, and takes visitors past the pier, scores of wild cats and ends next to the lighthouse and port. 

Port Hueneme (www.portofhueneme.org/), where the city gets its name, is the only deep-water port between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The port is a leading importer/exporter for autos and fresh produce such as pineapples, bananas, onions, strawberries, flowers and more. The port brings in an estimated $2.8 billion in economic activity while creating nearly 25,000 trade-related jobs.

The Art Deco styled Port Hueneme Lighthouse was constructed in 1941.

Next to the port is Port Hueneme Lighthouse, which is owned by the U.S. Coast Guard and was constructed in 1941. The Art Deco styled lighthouse is currently closed but will soon be open for public tours. On the long rock jetty next to the lighthouse we encountered fishermen, more incredible views of the Channel Islands and a group of cute, wild cats that live among the rocks and abandoned port buildings. 

Near the lighthouse is the Alaska Air Flight 261 Memorial Sundial. The Memorial features a 36-foot diameter concrete plaza with a curving sand wall and seating area and a raised sundial in the center. It commemorates the 88 passengers and crew who lost their lives aboard Alaska Airlines Flight 261 near Anacapa Island on Jan. 31, 2000. 

Back at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel: We had the entire heated pool and Jacuzzi to ourselves. For dinner we walked across the street to Pizza Man Dan’s (www.pizzamandans.com) for tasty pizza and chicken wings. 

The next morning we enjoyed a great complimentary breakfast buffet at the hotel. Sitting next to a big window looking over the pool we devoured biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh pastry, coffee, a variety of cereals and fresh juices. 

After breakfast I met hotel manager Ruben Franco who suggested we rent a surrey bike to explore the beach area. He also gave us a loaf of bread to feed the local ducks. 

Feeding ducks is fun for the whole family.

The first highlight of our ride was rolling over the railroad tracks made famous in the movie “Back to the Future III.” The tracks, which aren’t used much anymore, were the sight of a charging locomotive crashing into Michael J. Fox’s time-traveling DeLorean car. From here we pedaled the four-seat surrey bike along the beach and onto the old wooden pier, where we saw a few fishermen and got an incredible view of the Channel Islands about 20 miles offshore. 

Surrey bikes are a great way to explore town.

Our next stop was Bubbling Springs Park, a 21-acre community park with lots of grass, walking paths and canals. The park surrounds a natural, unlined storm water channel draining to the ocean. There are a variety of animals living around Bubbling Springs, including beautiful bird species, fish, frogs, turtles, crayfish, squirrels, raccoons, lizards and Canada geese. There were also lots of hungry, quacking ducks that instantly surrounded us as soon as we showed them our bread. The animals came right up to us for a bite and the kids loved it. 

From the park, we pedaled back to the beach for lunch at Seaside Seafood (www.surfsideph.com/), a popular local spot set right on the sand! Our meal was highlighted by the best fish and chips I’ve had in a long time. They came with Alaska pollock, coleslaw and fries. We also enjoyed thick and tasty clam chowder, seared ahi tuna, oysters on the half shell with pico de gallo and ponzu sauce. 

Back at the Holiday Inn we returned to the pool and Jacuzzi where we watched the sunset behind the Channel Islands. 

Port Hueneme is also home to beach and banana festivals. The Hueneme Beach Festival, held each August, is a two-day event with live music, rides, games, attractions, food and exhibits. The Banana Festival is an annual event with tours of the port, food and entertainment.  Attendees spend the day celebrating the over 3.3 billion bananas that each year come through the Port of Hueneme. 

The Holiday Inn Express Port Hueneme is located at 350 E. Port Hueneme Road in Port Hueneme. For more information on staying at the hotel, call (805) 986-5353 or visit: www.ihg.com/holidayinnexpress/hotels/us/en/port-hueneme/ntdca/hoteldetail.

Port Hueneme is a leading importer – exporter for autos and fresh produce.