McGrath State Beach is a lovely area, full of nature. Within view are the mountains, the ocean, sand dunes, the boats coming out of Ventura Harbor, and lots of estuary. This is where the Santa Clara River meets the sea, and lots of birds and wildlife are attracted here.
McGrath has two and a half miles of sandy beach and dunes. Though the campground is near the beach, an inland lagoon prevents easy access to the actual ocean, but it's a pleasant half mile walk to get there.
There's a nature trail to the Santa Clara Estuary Natural Preserve, where there is a decent opportunity for bird watching. The McGrath Trail goes along the beach, past McGrath Lake (behind some dunes) and all the way to Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. This is a 12 mile roundtrip hike.
It's pretty amazing that this state beach has 9 different ecosystems and a huge variety of wildlife. That includes over 245 species of birds.
Besides bird watching, other activities at McGrath include surfing, fishing, hiking and boating. The water has strong currents, so may not be the best for small children or any but the strongest swimmers. At low tide, you may be able to explore a tide pools on a reef.
There are also a group site and a Hike-and-Bike site.
McGrath campground is located 4 miles south of Ventura at 2211 Harbor Blvd., Oxnard. Take the Seaward Avenue exit and go south on Harbor Blvd., past Ventura Harbor. It's open all year, but sometimes closes due to flooding. Call 805-968-1033. You can also try 800-444-7275 or 805-648-3918 (for group reservations).
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