On the edges of the San Joaquin River, there’s a magnificent city brimming with nature and life: Oakley in Contra Costa County, California.
It’s a historic place named after the abundance of oak trees growing in the area, irrigated by the nearby body of water.
Today, the city is home to 43,357 people based on the 2020 census, and they are eager to welcome visitors who want to see the wonders of the area.
These include protected shorelines, shopping centers, vineyards, regional trails, and a surprising number of community parks.
So if you’re looking for a low-key yet magnificent attraction at the edge of the Valley, this is the place to be!
Here are the 15 best things to do in Oakley, CA:
Explore Big Break Regional Shoreline
First on the list is the most well-known attraction in Oakley, the grand Big Break Regional Shoreline.
This regional park occupies the entire northern border of the city, spanning 1,648 acres of pristine marshes and sandy banks—similar to the Everglades.
Under the management of the city and Contra Costa County, Big Break Regional Shoreline remains an important habitat sheltering an array of terrestrial and marine species.
The best activity here is exploring the trails to spot the wildlife.
You might see birds like great blue herons, snowy egrets, white-faced ibis, and Nothern harriers frolicking on the sand or hunting for their next meal.
There are also beavers, river otters, freshwater turtles, and many other mammals and reptiles.
If you want to learn more about the history and ecosystems of the location and the California Delta in general, visit the Delta Visitor Center, which serves as natural history museum and laboratory.
It’s located in a large park and serves as the central facility for various activities.
Test Your Angling Skills at the Antioch/Oakley Fishing Pier
As the name implies, the Antioch/Oakley Fishing Pier sits right on the border between the two cities.
This 550-feet attraction is located on the northwest edge of Oakley, jutting into the San Joaquin River.
It’s built on the pillars of the old bridge, now replaced by the majestic Antioch bridge.
Open 24 hours every day, the pier is a great place to hang out with the family and enjoy the magnificent waterside views.
If you have a fishing license, you’re welcome to cast a line and catch the freshwater species swimming underneath.
Kids can also enjoy kite flying, or you can have a simple picnic with the family.
There are picnic benches in the park, but they’re on a first-come-first-served basis and cannot be reserved.
Once you’re done fishing, head to the fish-cleaning station before bringing your catch home!
Let the Kids Play at Creekside Park
There are too many community parks in Oakley to include on the list, but Creekside Park deserves a spot.
While many neighborhood parks have basic amenities, this attraction has more for everyone!
The most visited among these is the waterplay feature, a splash pad located next to the large playground.
So if you visit during its open season, you can let the kids play and socialize with other children.
For those who want to work up a sweat, the park has a BMX track and skate area.
There are also other sports facilities like basketball courts, sports fields, and bocce ball courts.
If you just want an afternoon of bonding with your family, the large grassy areas and picnic benches can serve as the perfect hangout place.
Spend an Afternoon on Big Break Trail
The lengthy Big Break Trail is one of the major trails traversing Oakley, and this one takes you to some of the best spots of Big Break Regional Shoreline.
At 8.3 miles, this path takes about two and a half hours to complete, faster if you’re on a bicycle.
But if you take your time, you’ll see the wilder edges of the regional park and some of the community parks.
It’s a great trail to go birdwatching, and some sections also allow fishing.
Since the trail is open all year round, you can visit anytime if you want to enjoy the peacefulness on this side of Oakley.
Bring your pooch, too; some sections even allow them to go off-leash.
Bond with the Family at Nunn-Wilson Family Park
Nunn-Wilson Family Park is on the list for the same reason as Creekside Park: a magnificent splash pad that helps stave off the hot California heat during summer.
While only three acres big, this attraction is located in the heart of Oakley, making it a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.
There are not one but three playgrounds in the park—plenty of space for kids to run around and have fun.
On the eastern edge is a baseball diamond, while the greenery next to the playgrounds serves as a sports field.
If you brought your furry best friend, let them run around in the Koda Dog Agility Park.
It’s got obstacles like ramps and tunnels where dogs can train their agility and coordination skills.
Shop at Oakley Town Center
If you need a break from all the outdoor fun, then head over to Oakley Town Center.
This shopping establishment is located at the heart of the city, right where Main Street, Empire Avenue, and Oakley Road meet.
Within the attraction, you’ll find plenty of establishments offering services, products, and experiences.
If you want something to eat after an intense jog on the parks or the trails, head over for some filling meals, with many cuisines available.
From Vietnamese to Mexican, you have plenty of options for whatever cravings you have.
There’s also a fitness center open 24 hours if you want to squeeze in a workout while on vacation.
If you keep an eye out, you’ll see a large vineyard nearby—one of the many in Oakley!
Play with Animals at the Dingle Family Farm and Stables
For the kids and kids at heart, make sure to add the Dingle Family Farm and Stables to your Oakley itinerary.
This place is one of the top family destinations in the city, perfect for those who want to experience farm life and play with animals.
At their petting zoo, you can feed and interact with fluffy chickens, sheep, and goats.
Kids can also ride ponies and explore various areas of the farm while riding the animals.
Pony Play Dates is actually the most popular attraction here, and there are various themes for each season.
For example, the Fall-October season includes a pumpkin for each child, while the Spring-March-May season includes a Mad Hatter-themed tea party!
If you’re in Oakley for a longer period, you can let the kids join the farm’s summer camps.
They’ll learn about horseback riding, interact with other kids, and play many games over the course of five days.
Bring Your Furry Friend to Emerson Ranch Park
The last notable park on the list is scenic Emerson Ranch Park, located near the southeast edge of Big Break Regional Shoreline.
The park’s biggest feature is the pond, which occupies more than half of the attraction.
During the later afternoons, it’s the perfect place to stroll, walk, or jog.
The magnificent views and peaceful locale make for a great visit, and you can even fish!
If you’re bringing the kids, the park has well-equipped playgrounds and picnic benches where you can spend an afternoon bonding.
There’s also a baseball diamond in the southwest section for those who want something more active to do.
You can also bring your pooch, as the park has a doggie drinking fountain and plenty of trash bags and cans for waste disposal.
Join the Heart of Oakley Festival
If there’s one event you shouldn’t miss, it’s the vibrant Heart of Oakley Festival.
Every September, the whole town gathers for a day to celebrate the community and its culture.
People gather at the Civic Center Plaza for an open-air market, with vendors, farmers, and local craftspeople selling their products to participants.
From fresh veggies and seasonal fruit to baked goods and local wines, you’ll find plenty of stuff in the store as you roam around the stalls.
Let’s not forget the entertainment!
On stage will be local performers, individuals and bands alike, who’ll croon the participants as they shop.
So if you’re planning to visit Oakley, make sure you time it during the Heart of Oakley Festival!
Discover the Wonders of the San Joaquin River
Given how it sits next to Oakley, the winding San Joaquin River is accessible from the city.
It’s the perfect place for those looking for an exciting adventure into the waters, islands, and marshes of the California Delta region.
You’re welcome to charter a fishing trip with one of the businesses in Oakley.
These people will bring you to the best angling spots for species like striped bass, white sturgeon, and various types of trout.
Kayaking is also another favorite activity by both locals and visitors, but be sure that your arms are ready for a workout!
It’s the perfect way to explore the waters and witness the wildlife in its natural habitat.
Get Some Cardio at the Delta de Anza Regional Trail
Another famous trail traversing Oakley is the Delta de Anza Regional Trail, named after the Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza.
The paved path is 15 miles long and spans the various cities of Contra Costa County, from Oakley to Concord.
As a multi-use trail, the Delta de Anza Regional Trail is suitable for walking, running, and even equestrian riding.
There are plenty of rest stops along the way, even within Oakley—no need to worry about restrooms or drinking water.
You’ll also be treated to magnificent views of the region, including the Contra Costa Water District Canal, which runs parallel with some sections of the trail.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Haven’t had your fill of adventures and experiences in Oakley?
Here are some other places to visit that are just a few minutes away.
See Endangered Species at Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge
The magnificent Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge is the region’s answer to the famous dunes of the Great Lakes.
This attraction is just 10 minutes away from Oakley, so it’s a great place to check out if you want more destinations like Big Break Regional Shoreline.
Within the 55-acre refuge, you might spot the endangered species that helped turn the place into a wildlife sanctuary: two kinds of flowers and a butterfly.
The place is also known for its sensitive dunes, which you can visit on guided tours.
You’ll enjoy the majestic views, the peaceful atmosphere, and the soft sands shifting underneath your boots.
Find Fresh Produce at Smith Family Farm
Seven minutes away south of Oakley lies the quaint Smith Family Farm, one of Brentwood’s beloved attractions.
They’re known for their fruit stand, pumpkin farm, and Christmas tree lot, bringing joy and excitement to locals and visitors alike.
On the farm, they grow and harvest seasonal produce, like peaches for spring, tomatoes for summer, and apples for autumn—all of which end up in their fruit stand for selling.
During October, people flock to their pumpkin farm to harvest the best ones for Halloween.
And come Christmas time, the farm offers the best trees to make the holidays feel extra special.
Go Camping at Briones Regional Park
Farther out from Concord is the Briones Regional Park, a grand attraction 30 minutes away from Oakley.
This vast 6,117-acre outdoor destination is the perfect place to stay if you want to experience more of nature.
It’s got plenty of hiking trails that go deep into the verdant hills and forested mountains, ground camping areas, an archery range, and plenty of other smaller attractions.
While exploring, you might spot some of the wildlife scurrying about in the undergrowth or amongst the treetops—red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, squirrels, black-tailed deer, etc.
You’ll also be in awe of the gorgeous wildflower blooms, grassy clearings, and babbling rivers running through the valleys.
Feel the Thrill at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord
Less than 30 minutes away from Oakley, you’ll find one of the top sights of Contra Costa County: Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord.
This seasonal attraction is open during most of the year except in winter—the cold waters don’t really make for a great swim.
But during the hotter days, people flock to the attraction to enjoy the rides and experiences offered.
From adrenaline-pumping slides to relaxing rivers, from exciting restaurants to exhilarating special events, there’s plenty to see and enjoy while at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord.
So if you have a day to spare, then head over here and make some memories with your loved ones!
Oakley is a lot of things: a community park haven, a vineyard destination, a piece of the Everglades in California, and a welcoming community for visitors.
So if you have plans to visit the California Delta region, make sure this city is part of your destination.
Use this guide to help you create a comprehensive itinerary for your vacation!