Escape to Ventura Harbor Village

I love a compact getaway, where everything is within walking distance and I don’t have to worry about driving for dining, shopping, sightseeing or activities. This is what I liked about my recent visit to Ventura Harbor Village, where myriad restaurants, shops and beach-front adventures are located in one charming spot, within a casual stroll of a great hotel.

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My excursion to Ventura began at the Four Points by Sheraton Ventura Harbor Resort, where a friend and I checked into a comfortable, 2nd floor room, overlooking a large lawn with the hotel Jacuzzi sitting in the middle of it. The room was highlighted by two Sheraton Four Comfort queen beds, large flat screen TV, office desk area with free high-speed Internet, and a balcony with a table and chairs.

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Located on 17 coastal acres, the Sheraton also boasts an outdoor pool and whirlpool and a 24-hour fitness center. But its best amenity is its proximity to Ventura Harbor Village, where I spent most of my time.

Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, Ventura Harbor Village features a marina with more than 1,359 slips, 35 unique shops and dockside restaurants, two waterfront hotels, sandy beaches and green spaces, water sports activities, and boating and cruising options.

I began my harbor visit with lunch at Boatyard Cafe (www.theboatyardcafe.com), where I enjoyed a delicious Char-Grilled Fish sandwich, “fully dressed” with seasoned fresh lime juice and lemon pepper, served on a brioche bun. With this I enjoyed a cup of creamy clam chowder and a wonderful view of the colorful boats in the harbor.

After lunch I walked over to Ventura Boat Rentals (www.venturaboatrentals.com), where my friend and I rented a paddle boat and peddled our way around the harbor, cruising near million dollar yachts and old sea ships; waving at large curious sea birds; and looking for fish in the water below. Our hour-long voyage was not only exciting, but it was also a great workout on the legs!

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Besides paddle boats, Ventura Boat Rentals offers kayaks, surf bikes, stand up paddle boards and electric boats for up to 12 passengers. Public Harbor Boat Tours run on weekends all year long and daily in the summertime. Private charters are also available for up to 49 passengers and are available anytime.

From the boat we walked over to Channel Islands National Park Visitor’s Center, where we learned about the fascinating Channel Islands National Park. Known as “The American Galapagos,” the park encompasses five remarkable and remote islands off the Ventura coast: Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara. The Channel Islands and encircling waters are home to over 2,000 plants and animals, of which 145 are found nowhere else in the world including the Island Fox.

Established as a National Park in 1980, each of the islands is a fascinating world unto itself. World class diving, hiking, kayaking, sea cave exploration, photography, snorkeling, camping, wildlife and wildflower viewing, the Channel Islands offers uninterrupted time with family and friends while relaxing to the soothing sounds of the natural world. To get to the islands, most people use Island Packers (www.islandpackers.com), the official company taking visitors to the islands.

Our next stop at Ventura Harbor Village was dinner at Milano’s Italian Restaurant (www.milanositalianrestaurant.com). With waterfront dining with breathtaking views, Milano’s specializes in traditional Italian cuisine, East Coast style pizza and healthy sandwiches and salads.

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Our dinner at Milano’s began with roasted clams with apple wood smoked bacon, artichoke, chopped tomato and red pepper, and a couple glasses of merlot. We followed this with Southwest Salmon Ceviche, marinated in citrus, tossed with cilantro, tomato, red onions, jalapeños and spices and served with tortilla chips. We then split a memorable chicken parmesan with seasoned breaded chicken, topped with homemade marinara and mozzarella, baked and served with a side of spaghettini.

Back at the Sheraton, we ended the day with a soak in the Jacuzzi. In the morning we walked back to the harbor village for a cup of coffee at Coffee Dock & Post and then relaxed on a bench and watched the fishing boats come in and out of the harbor.

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For more information on visiting Ventura Harbor Village, visit: www.VenturaHarborVillage.com. For more information on staying at Four Points by Sheraton Ventura Harbor Resort, visit: www.fourpointsventuraharborresort.com/

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