When I first heard of Port Hueneme many years ago I had just three questions, where the heck is it?, what is in Port Hueneme, and how do you pronounce Port Hueneme? The answers in short are: Near Oxnard, California, a Naval base, and Wy-nee’mee.
So now that we got that out of the way, let me give you a little more info and insight about this interesting coastal town.
Port Hueneme has a population of around 22,000 people and is home to a naval base as well as a bustling port for commerce ships coming in to supply the area. We inquired at the hotel desk if there were any touristy spots in the harbor area and they said no. There are no harbor side restaurants, no boat rental places, gift shops, etc. However, just a few miles up the road in the city of Oxnard, the Channel Island Harbor provides all of that. The port in Hueneme may not be a hub for visitors but it is a vital supply chain for Ventura County and some of Southern California.
We found an amazing hotel price at the Holiday Inn Express just one block from the beach and pier, so we jumped at the deal. It was a super nice hotel that looked fairly new and it was situated on one of the main streets. It offered rental bikes and surreys to tool around the beach area which would have been about a two or three minute peddle away.
We bypassed the bicycles and instead jumped in the car to investigate the area. The pier would be our first stop so we brought our fishing poles just to be prepared. We weren’t opposed to setting up our chairs, throwing out our lines, and relaxing pier side.
This simple wooden structure itself isn’t that long at 650 feet and has absolutely nothing on it. A lot of piers in California have a life guard tower, a restaurant, store, or at the very least, bathrooms. Here, there is nothing, it’s just a pier. That kind of made it unique in my opinion. However, near the parking lot there IS a lifeguard building, bathrooms, and a restaurant with a view of the coast.
It was a cold February day and probably why we got the hotel rate so cheap as this region had some rain storms earlier that week. There was not a soul fishing on the pier which we found kind of strange although we soon found out why. As we exited the car, the wind was blowing so hard that it was blasting sand pebbles into our face at an unusually high speed. With the sting of the tiny pellets, I actually felt like they were creating new pores in my skin. I covered my face with my jacket and quickly moved behind a building.
Now I know why no one was fishing. This frigid tempest squelched any ideas of us spending time on that beach, pier, or even at the park. There was no way I was going to sit in a chair and try to enjoy an afternoon of fishing with that cold biting wind at my face or back.
The warmth of the car seemed like a way better choice, so we set out to explore the area further in the comfort of a blasting heater.
Near the beach there was a nice sized palm tree lined park and from what I have read, there are plenty of very large well maintained parks in Port Hueneme.
Even though we only saw one surfer, there are plenty of surfing waves in this town. I am sure on calmer days, the waves are much better.
South of the pier is a massive beach with volley ball courts and sand as a far as you can see. Mini sand dunes made it a picturesque sight and the ripples on the mounds gave evidence of the windy conditions outside. I was glad I was in my car. Towards the north are what looked like older condos which looked right over the sand, and even further north is the naval base. The base creates a dead end where you can’t continue on the beach route to get to the next city which happens to be Oxnard.
It is a mellow area. With the lack of people out and about, it almost felt like I had gone back in time.
Directly out to sea you can see one of the five channels islands which are located just off of the coast. They are Part of the Channel Islands National Park and a few harbors in the area offer day trips or transport for overnight camping. The islands are staggered in various distances from the mainland so the boat trips range from one to three hours to get there. Bring your own everything because these islands do not have food or hotel accommodations.
You can access the Islands from the other harbors in the area which include Santa Barbara or fly over from Camarillo Airport.
Even though it is not Port Hueneme, the Channel Island Harbor is so close, it is hard to figure out where the two cities start and end.
Through the many channels of this harbor are homes, restaurants, shops, rental places, parks, and viewpoints just to hang out. Although we have been to Oxnard many times, I still enjoy driving along its scenic waterways and beaches. There weren’t a lot of people out and about which could have been because of this time of year, although we have visited in the summer months and it is un-crowded then too.
So if you are staying in Port Hueneme, just know that it is only a short drive to get to this more tourist/visitor filled area.
Our goal was to go up and down the coast to explore various beaches that we hadn’t seen before and to fulfill our hobby of sea glass hunting. Port Hueneme was not one of our beachcombing destinations but was a perfect home base for the three day weekend.
We drove north to Santa Barbara which wasn’t too far away and then on another day, we explored Highway 1 going south. What a beautiful shoreline this is as you weave along this coastal highway. To the east there are steep cliffs and to the west, the sprawling and beautiful Pacific Ocean. With a busy rainy season so far, the hills were a vibrant green and the ocean was churning furiously under another day of gusty winds.
On our way back to Port Hueneme, we found a place to eat in the city part and then to our hotel for happy hour. Yes free beer and wine was included in your stay. How could you not love this place!!
It was almost a full moon so we drove by the pier again to see if anyone was fishing as the wind had finally calmed down a little. It was only an hour after sunset but the pier was pitch black, no lights, and only a handful of people. It made me wonder if in summer they turned them on as there WERE light fixtures.
We chose not to stroll around as it was spooky and dark, and only the bright moon gave light to this semi secluded area.
After a full day of discovering other beaches, plus walking quite a long way on the sand, a comfy bed and TV sounded really good.
So if you want to explore the central coast, look to Port Hueneme as your home for a few days. Visit nearby Oxnard, Ventura, maybe one of the islands, nearby wine tasting, fishing, boating, the beaches, even Santa Barbara.
However, save some time and don’t forget to discover the interesting town of Port Wy-nee’mee.
Story and Photos: Debbie Colwell