Oceanside is the northern-most residential community in North County San Diego (Camp Pendleton is the most northern community but I would not consider it a residential community, being that it is a military base).
Oceanside is about 1.5 to 2 hours south of Los Angeles, depending on traffic, and about 45 minutes (around 40 miles) north of downtown San Diego. With somewhere around 170,000 residents, it is one of the largest San Diego County communities - the 3rd I think - covering an area of about 41 square miles.
There are 6 miles of beaches, which adds to Oceanside's appeal as a vacation spot and a vibrant, and growing, downtown commercial area as well as other good sized commercial, retail and industrial pockets mixed in with the diverse residential communities as far inland approximately 12 miles.
The major thoroughfares include the 5 freeway, that cuts through all the North County coastal communities, the historic Route 101 (known as the coast highway in Oceanside), Oceanside Boulevard and Mission Road (which run east and west) and the 76 and 78 freeways (76 is to the north, running east to Bonsall).
Take a video tour of the 101 in Carlsbad, just south of Oceanside
Learn more about all you can see and do along the 101 beginning in Oceanside - 101 Things to Do In and Around Carlsbad
Oceanside has the only marina with access to the ocean in North County San Diego; you have to go far south to the Mission Bay area to find similar marinas.
Oceanside has a long history, with early development with the founding of the Mission San Luis Rey, on of numerous Spanish missions founded in California up and down the coast. The downtown area was developed in the 1890s and growth continued, especially after the development of Camp Pendleton in 1928 which has resulted in a significant business and residential emphasis associated with military personnel.
Oceanside is undergoing a significant redevelopment, with new high rises, condos, a resort, work-live lofts, and more, and one has the sense of increasing vibrancy in the downtown area.
The train station in Oceanside, at Tremont and Michigan, is the end point of The Coaster, a commuter train running to San Diego, and Amtrak from Los Angeles has a number of trains that come through and stop. The new light rail train, The Sprinter, runs from Oceanside inland to Escondido from a location further south of the main train station.
The popular and well-known Oceanside Pier, the longest wooden pier on the West Coast, was built originally in 1888 around the time the downtown area was being developed, and the community has remained a popular vacation spot due to the beautiful beaches which stretch for miles.
In addition to private homes, condos and apartment, the coastal area west of the Coast Road is a popular investment property and rental area and densely developed. One such residential/rental community with ocean views and beach access is North Coast Village on Pacific.
Another popular tourist attraction in downtown Oceanside is the California Surf Museum, a wonderful collection of surfing memorabilia which provides an excellent overview of the history and influence of surfing on Southern California.
There are many opportunities for shopping, with strip and larger malls scattered along the major roadways and the presence of many of the major "package stores" like Best Buy, Wal-Mart and similar retailers. Shopping is also prevalent in neighboring Carlsbad, San Marcos and Vista.
Oceanside also has a number of outdoor festivals, like other communities - jazz, art, ethnic and holiday fairs are common in the downtown area.
Resident children in Oceanside attend one of 4 school districts, depending on address: Carlsbad Unified, Oceanside Unified (with two high schools), Bonsall Union, and Vista Unified. You can check for information on school ratings and much more on School Digger and Great Schools.
Housing in Oceanside is diverse, with apartments, mobile home and RV parks, condos and town homes, detached homes, and 55+ communities (Ocean Hills and Oceana are two of the better known communities for seniors). Many tract home neighborhoods were built in the 1970s and 1980s. Housing in Oceanside has traditionally been more affordable than its southern coastal neighbors, but prices escalated significantly from 2000 to late 2004 or so, as they did elsewhere. Like other communities, the Oceanside real estate market has undergone many changes in the last several years, with dramatic price drops and a substantial number of short sales, foreclosures, and REO properties.
That said, oceanfront and view properties exist west of the Coast Highway and can run into the $1 - $4 million range.
Read the San Diego Real Estate Summary for 2008 for more details on sales and pricing.