View of the lagoon and oyster farm deck at the Carlsbad Aquafarm in Carlsbad.

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Carlsbad Oyster Farm Tour Guide + Learn To Shuck Your Own Oysters

The Carlsbad Aquafarm is the only sustainable oyster farm in Southern California and located on one of the prettiest stretches of coastline. I live minutes from here and yet I was super excited to go on the Carlsbad Oyster Farm tour that both locals and visitors to the area can enjoy.

Tucked in the Carlsbad Lagoon steps from the Pacific Ocean and sandy beaches of SoCal you can go on this informative oyster farm tour and learn how to shuck oysters yourself!

Plus, you get to eat the freshest and most delicious oysters around.

I took my dad for his birthday and we both loved the tour and shucking lesson. No question, these are some of the best oysters I have had in the longest time.

A man washing his hands at the sink on the outdoor deck with barrels as oyster shucking stations on the Carlsbad Oyster Farm tour in Carlsbad, CA.

Although the Carlsbad Aquafarm has been actively and sustainably farming oysters here since the 1950s, oyster farm tours didn’t begin until more recently in 2021.

In this guide I’ll share all the essential information on taking a tour at the Carlsbad Oyster Farm, what’s involved, and whether you need to be an oyster shucking expert! (you don’t by the way)

Note: At this time, the oyster farm tours are closed until further notice. I will update if and when they resume.

Visiting In Spring? See The Flowers Fields At Carlsbad Ranch

A closeup view of the Carlsbad Aquafarm logo painted on a wall that shows a man farming a field of oysters underwater.

Where Is The Carlsbad Aquafarm?

The Carlsbad Aquafarm is located in the seaside city of Carlsbad, California in North County area of San Diego.

Carlsbad is famous for its flower fields, Legoland, gorgeous beaches, and it’s shellfish farming!

The farm may not be hidden as it is right along the Pacific Coast Highway, but it is one of the most unique things to do in Carlsbad for sure.

Just south of Carlsbad Village and Tamarack Beach, there is an inlet where the Pacific Ocean flows into the Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

It is in this lagoon where you’ll see the rows of buoys of the aquafarm.

For those that are locals or have visited Carlsbad, it is directly north of where the old power plant stack used to be (see map below).

READ MORE: Things To Do In Carlsbad For Fun!

Looking out over the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad with floating buoys where oysters are immersed and growing at the oyster farm.

What Is An Oyster Farm Exactly?

When you think of farming you imagine a field with soil and some type of vegetables growing.

Instead of fields on land, oyster farming is growing oysters in the sea water from the Pacific Ocean.

Oyster farming is when people breed and raise oysters for consumption in water, the Carlsbad Agua Hedionda lagoon in this case.

The Carlsbad lagoon with rows of white buoys floating marking where oysters are growing at the Carlsbad oyster farm.
A large black buoy on top of a series of black trays on land to show visitors where oysters will grow in the lagoon.

In the water you’ll see rows of floating white buoys that used to all be black but with birds making frequent stops on them, they all eventually turn white…

Beneath each buoy are a series of stackable trays with a screen bottom. It is in these trays that salt water flows through the baskets and provides food for the baby oysters to grow.

How Are Oysters Made?

Before placing the tiny oysters into the floating trays 15 feet under water, oysters are made in a controlled setting on land helping the mating or spawning to happen.

Once the tiny oysters has formed then they transfer them to the lagoon to mature.

After about 1 year, the oysters have reached the right size to consume or sell to the public. This is at a much faster rate than most oyster farms where it takes 18 months.

The oysters here at the Carlsbad Aquafarm are getting the cleanest water and nutrients allowing them to growth faster and more efficiently.

A sign with an overhang show the ecosystem and how oysters play an important role in cleaning the sea.
A tumbler machine where the oysters are tumbled to soften sharp edges and give them their shapes.

This translates to very tasty and fresh oysters you will love!

When the oysters are harvested from the water, they will be tumbled in a machine to smooth out the sharp shells. It also helps give them that “oyster shape” we know.

Next, the oysters will go through a series of flushing with salt water and batch testing for bacteria and toxins to make sure they are good before selling to the public.

When Are Carlsbad Oyster Farm Tours Offered?

Tours at the Carlsbad Oyster Farm are offered currently Friday – Monday at:

  • 10:00 am
  • 12:00 pm
  • 2:00 pm
  • 4:00 pm

The tour lasts approximately 1 hour with up to 26 spots per tour.

Note: As mentioned at the top of the post, all tours are on hold until further notice.

A row of wooden picnic tables with blue umbrellas overlooking the lagoon where people can wait before their oyster farm tour in Carlsbad.

Do I Need To Book My Tour In Advance?

Yes, you need to book your tour online at the Carlsbad Aquafarm site at least 1 hour before the tour begins.

I highly suggest booking further in advance such as 1 week as tours get booked up.

Personally, I wouldn’t wait until the day of as there is a good chance they will be sold out.

A huge empty oyster shell in my hand on the oyster farm tour in Carlsbad.

Carlsbad Oyster Farms Tour Prices

Ticket prices for the Carlsbad Oyster Farm tour are:

$55 per person but sometimes they do have sales where you can get your ticket at $50 or less.

Children under 10 are free and DO NOT get oysters on the tour.

A station on land where the workers sort the fresh oysters or mussels pulled from the lagoon and have reached maturity.

What To Expect On The Carlsbad Oyster Farm Tour

The hour long tour of the aquafarm begins with an introduction overview of the Aquafarm and what to expect from the experience.

Guided Farm Discovery Walk (30 minutes)

The first 30 minutes of your oyster farm tour, you’ll be guided through the Aquafarm to discover each stage at which oysters are grown, cleaned, and all the equipment that goes with it.

You’ll learn all about how oysters are made and their life cycle while using sustainable practices.

It is fascinating to learn how long they are matured (grow) in the lagoon and the steps taken once they are pulled out to make sure they are healthy to consume.

After the oysters have reached maturity and prior to selling them, water is flushed through the oysters removing any impurities.

And lastly, oysters are pulled from each batch to test for any harmful bacteria and toxins before getting the green light that they are good!

A long open tank with large oysters, sea urchin, star fish, mussels, and more for people on oyster farm tour to see and touch.
A huge sign with a diagram showing how the oysters are put into tanks to clean and depurify them before selling on the oyster farm tour in Carlsbad.
White large tanks where oysters and mussels are placed to clean before being consumed for the public.

If you are nervous about eating oysters, these are some of the freshest and cleanest oysters.

Why is that? Well, oysters are filter feeders so if the water they are growing in is polluted then you won’t be eating the healthiest oysters.

Thanks to a very positive partnership with the desalination plant next door, the water in the lagoon is being cleaned continuously, several millions of gallons per day.

The cleaner and more nutrient rich habitat in turn fosters faster growth and better flavors in the oysters.

In other regions along the California coast, the water is “cleaned” when the tide comes in so only a few times per day and not as thorough as the desalination plant.

Oyster Shucking Lesson (10 minutes)

This is the part of the tour you really want to pay attention so you know how to open up (shuck) your oysters.

It is a quick but vital lesson so that you aren’t fighting the opening process and chipping away at the shell with frustration.

Follow the guides techniques and make sure that you put the glove on the hand that will be holding the oyster!

Next, with your oyster knife, stick to the tip of the knife into the base or hinge of the oyster.

Group standing and watching the tour guide on how to properly shuck an oyster on the oyster tour at the Carlsbad Aquafarm.
A white cutting board, gloves, and oyster knife on top of a wooden barrel on the deck at the Carlsbad Aquafarm in Carlsbad.

If you open it up from the wide shell end, it is too brittle and will break off in pieces.

When you stick the tip into the meaty hinge, slightly move it left to right as you push. As it loosens up, it will pop open perfectly.

And don’t forget to cut the muscle attaching the oyster otherwise it won’t slide easily into your mouth!

Enjoy An Oyster Tasting (20 minutes)

Now for the really fun part, getting to shuck your own oysters! The first one is always the hardest but have patience as it gets easier.

Each person is given 6 oysters and by the third oyster, I felt like a pro… I didn’t want to stop at just 6!

At least if I ever decide to work in a seafood restaurant, I’ll be prepared…

At each station, aka the top of your barrel there will be a cutting board, gloves, oysters, an oyster knife, and a bucket.

Don’t fear cutting yourself as the oyster knife is pretty dull. Unless you decide to stab yourself with it, then it could maybe do some damage.

My dad standing in front of his barrel station and shucking his first oyster on the oyster farm tour in Carlsbad.
My dad holding in his gloved hand the oyster he just shucked open with the meat ready to eat.
Holding a beautiful oyster open that I just shucked on the oyster farm tour.

As you watched your guide do in the oyster shucking lesson, replicate each step and you’ll be slurping your way to deliciously fresh oysters.

If you don’t like plain raw oysters, there are lemon slices and hot sauce available. I enjoy hot sauce but the one they make and sell is pretty hot so use in very small amounts.

It doesn’t take much to kick it up a notch or two!

After you have enjoyed your oyster tasting, don’t forget to take a few photos before taking off as the views of the lagoon are beautiful.

What Type Of Oysters Are Grown Here?

Although it might vary from time to time, two popular types of oysters available at the Carlsbad Aquarfarm on a tour or purchasing direct are:

Carlsbad Blonde

Carlsbad Luna

Outside of food and travel, my passion is wine. A specific type of grape varietal grown reflects the climate and location of where it is grown.

This translates to a different taste in the wine from the same grape grown in a different part of the world.

The same goes for oysters. The oysters found growing in the Carlsbad Lagoon will have a different taste profile compared to oysters grown elsewhere on the Pacific coast.

Oyster Farm Shop Goodies

Ready to have an oyster shucking party at home? Grab all the essentials like gloves, an oyster knife, hot sauce at the gift shop onsite.

Or browse their shellfish inspired t-shirts and gifts you can also take home.

Mugs, gloves, oyster knifes, hot sauce, and more at the small oyster farm gift shop.

Oyster Farming Helps The Environment

If done sustainably, farming oysters and mussels can have a beneficial impact on the environment.

As filter feeders, oysters naturally clean the seawater around them. They filter out algae, dirt, and any other impurities in the water making it a better place for all.

This makes it a better habitat for not only the oysters but all sea life that call the lagoon home from sea urchin, starfish, eel grass, fish, and more.

A small dock platform with a crane to pull the oysters and mussels out of the water from the lagoon at the aquafarm in Carlsbad.

Where To Stay In Carlsbad

Depending on the type of activities you are looking to do, I’ve listed hotel options that are literally steps from the beach and those that are resort-style but maybe a few minutes away from the beach.

Steps From The Beach

Resort Style Hotels

Map Of Carlsbad Oyster Farm

Several barrel stations with oyster shucking gloves and knife on a deck overlooking the lagoon with lights hanging above in Carlsbad.

FAQ About Carlsbad Oyster Farm Tour

How Long Is The Carlsbad Oyster Tour?

The Carlsbad Oyster Farm Tour is 1 hour long which includes a tour, oyster shucking lesson, and oyster tasting.

Are The Oysters Safe To Eat On The Tour?

There is inherently always risk to eating raw shellfish but if you are eating them fresh and from a clean source there shouldn’t be an issue.

As I mentioned above, these are some of the freshest and cleanest oysters along the West Coast as the water here is continuously being cleaned by the desalination plant next door. I eat oysters all the time and have never gotten sick from them as I only eat them fresh.

Can Anyone Go On A Carlsbad Aquafarm Tour?

Yes, anyone is welcome to go on the Carlsbad Oyster Farm tour as long as you purchase a ticket online at least 1 hour before the tour. Children under 10 are free but won’t get to take part in the oyster tasting.

Is The Carlsbad Aquafarm Dog-Friendly?

Yes, you can bring your dog as long as they are well mannered and on a leash. Don’t forget to bring poop bags just in case.

Can You Buy Oysters To Take Home?

Yes, at the end of your tour you can purchase oysters (& mussels) to take home. Or you can place an order at any time on their website and schedule to pick-up the oysters. At times they may run out but you can contact them to make sure they have some in stock.

Are Food & Drinks Available At Carlsbad Aquafarm?

No. Besides water, there is no food and drinks allowed or available for purchase other than the oysters.

Is Parking Available At The Carlsbad Aquafarm?

Yes, there is parking onsite right in front of the Carlsbad Aquafarm entrance bordering the Pacific Coast Highway.

A logo picture of a red octopus with its arms around the Carlsbad Aquafarm logo called King Tide Hot Sauce that can be purchased in the gift shop.

But Before You Go…

If you want to know what to do in Carlsbad besides eating delicious oysters, read my post, Things To Do In Carlsbad, California!

Plus, I’ve included all the info you need on where to stay, how to get there, and tips for visiting.

Got Travel Insurance?

Don’t leave home without travel insurance as you never know what might happen on a trip! It is always when you least expect it that something can go wrong like getting sick, in an accident or cancellation of some sort.

Get a no-obligation quote from two trusted travel insurance companies for peace of mind on your next trip! I have used both companies on numerous occasions and trust them for myself and my family.

SafetyWing Travel Insurance

World Nomads Travel Insurance

Looking For More Travel Inspiration?

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Vanessa Shields

Vanessa Shields is the founder of Traveling Ness helping people with trip ideas, itineraries, travel planning, and boosting confidence for female travelers to take a solo trip. She has been a travel writer and content creator since 2019.

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