Access to Mission San Luis Rey
On Hwy-21/Off 1-5, 18 miles South of San Clemente/32 miles North of San Diego. Crew-cuts and military uniforms are common sights in Oceanside as the town is neighboured by the vast Camp Pendleton Marine Corp Base, which uses 125,000 acres of untamed coastal land for practising amphibious landings. Oceanside’s pier has acquired cult status among local anglers, but otherwise, the town is worth being in only long enough to make the detour to Mission San Luis Rey.
Five miles inland from Oceanside on Hwy-76, Mission San Luis Rey de Franca, founded in 1798 and saved from ruin by the Franciscan Order which has occupied it since 1893, was the largest link in the California mission chain. It housed nearly 3,000 neophytes and owned 50,000 cattle and sheep. The mission museum’s artefacts, and recreated living rooms and workshops, give a reasonable insight into mission life but can’t draw attention away from the sheer size of the building: originally part of a complex that covered 6 acres. To guard the unusually large mission, an unusually large barracks was built, the extensive ruins of which can be seen beside Hwy-76.
Most visitors don’t see any more of San Juan Capistrano than the mission – and frankly they’re not missing much. Those who arrive by train, however, have little excuse for not noticing that the station has been restored to something approaching its 1895 appearance – of Spanish-Moorish arches and tile-work – or for failing to make the short walk to the Los Rios Historic District, where several adobe houses almost as old as the mission can be seen.
Detour – Carlsbad
Off 1-5, 3 miles South of Oceanside. Growing up around a natural mineral spring discovered in 1886, which caused the town to be named after a Bohemian spa resort, Carlsbad is swift to make the most of its European connections – however tenuous they may be. Over the now dry well from which the mineral waters were drawn, the timber-framed Alt Karlsbad Hanse Gift Shop, 2802 Carlsbad Boulevard, doubles as a souvenir shop and a small museum. A building more typical of early California is the 1880s Sante Fe depot, the one-time train station, which now houses the local Convention and Visitors Bureau. Central Carlsbad’s has some strolling appeal, but the town’s major plus is Carlsbad State Beach, a handsome strand – despite the power plant which blights the view at one end – with plenty of spots to camp, have barbecues, rent surfboards, or simply laze in the sun.
Detour – Leucadia
On Hwy-21, 9 miles South of Oceanside. Like neighbouring Encinitas, Leucadia is a major flower-growing centre but in itself has little appeal. More intriguing, perhaps, is the fact that it was named by two English settlers in 1885 after the Ionian island from which 6thC poet Sappho leapt to her death. Flanking Leucadia are two beckoning beaches: Leucadia State Beach and Moonlight State Beach, both reached by stair-cases hewn into high bluffs.