A little less than two hours north from home, adventure in Ventura County’s Channel Islands awaits.
Us So. Cal residents are lucky to live close by this natural wonderland. It’s only a quick drive away. So why have so few of my friends and family been?
People travel from all over the world to see the Channel Islands. These rugged islands off the coast of central California are known for their wildlife, and how close, yet remote they are. Just at the horizon on a clear day, a whole other world is out there waiting to be discovered and explored.
You probably read about the Channel Islands as a kid. They have been memorialized in books like “Island of the Blue Dolphins”.
Thanks to Ventura County Coast for introducing me to this magical destination.
Nowadays the Channel Islands are all park lands and all of the land is fiercely protected. Most of the areas on the assorted islands have banned human presence all together. In the areas that are open to visitors, there are strict rules about visiting and limitations to how long you can stay and what you can bring with you.
You won’t find any hotels or shops on the islands. In fact you’ll have to hunt for running water on Santa Barbara Island, where I recently visited. There are no trash cans, because you must bring everything out with you. Not one candy wrapper, can you leave behind.
Without all the flash of other destinations, and all these restrictions, it’s easy to see why so many locals manage to look right past the Channel Islands when they are looking out to sea. But, what a shame!
It’s time to take a cue from the visiting naturalists and eco tourists, and book passage for a daytrip to the Channel Islands – one of the best kept secrets our area has to offer.
This is one destination you need to see for yourself, a truly unspoilt look at the southern central California coast. It’s a privilege to be so close.
Where to start:
Book your trip to the Channel Islands with Island Packers. You can depart from either Oxnard or Ventura Harbor. Depending on your choice of island destination you can choose from activities including hiking, sea kayaking (and cave kayaking), snorkeling, and camping.
What to Pack:
Regardless of your chosen activity you should plan on packing layers of clothing and possibly a full change of clothing if you will be getting wet. It will be considerably colder and windier on the boat ride to and from the island and you may be seated outdoors on the boat. Even if you are not seated outdoors, you may prefer being outdoors for the fresh air and the view!
There are no stores on the island so plan to bring anything and everything that you might need. Sunscreen, medications, cameras and battery chargers (your cell phone likely will not work on the island).
What you will see:
Dolphins and sea lions. Migrating whales (on the trip out and back). Seals and seabirds of assorted varieties. The islands play host to migrating birds from far and wide and you will see some unusual species on the island if you are lucky.
We were fortunate and encountered a pod of 2000 dolphins, along with whales and sea lions all feeding in a feeding frenzy. Dolphins in every direction as far as the eye could see. Two kinds of whales. Sea lions frolicking with the dolphins. It was the weirdest and most wonderful thing I’ve ever seen. So weird it was sort of like a fever dream. I was glad that others witnessed it with me!
Perhaps the cutest residents of the Channel Islands are these tiny island foxes. They do not really fear humans and will approach. Just do not be tempted to feed them as you will face huge fines and furthermore, you may be a murderer. These adorable cat sized creatures are not capable of digesting our cuisine.
What to Do:
Take a hike and enjoy the views, snorkel, and sea kayak. If you have arranged your trip through Aquasports, they can organize your activities. Kayakers can explore caves and on a clear day, gaze down through clear waters at massive kelp forests.
At Santa Barbara Island’s Scorpion Landing you will land on the island by skiff. Once there you can visit a ranch house and learn about the history of this island that was once a working sheep ranch. You’ll see some of the equipment that was left behind and learn how this island was recently reclaimed. You can also learn about the efforts to return the island to a more natural state.
Most of all you can take a moment to breathe deep and reset your own clock. It’s only a daytrip but it’s so different, you’ll feel like a new person by the time you return.
What are you waiting for? This is an easy daytrip that you will never forget.