Nestled far apart, but still close to the mainland is the Channel Islands National Park that is home to the five most outstanding islands namely, Anacapa, Santa Rosa, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and San Miguel. The main charm here is the ocean environment of all five, which protect as well as preserve a myriad of cultural and natural treasures. All thanks to the remoteness of the fabulous five that has resulted in unique archaeological resources, flora, and fauna not to be found anywhere else on the planet. Coming to this Channel Islands National Park will surely make you experience the original charm of the coastal southern California.
This secluded set of islands boasts immaculate natural majesty whose more than 50% landscape is underwater and that they are the home to thousands of plants and animals. The waters of the islands are just apt for best sea-kayaking and diving, while the inland features many trekking opportunities. And yes, views are just spectacular here. The Channel Islands National Park is not only for protecting these islands, but is also aimed at protecting the big kelp forests and all the marine species. This means that there are limitless options for diverse activities – diving, snorkeling, whale watching, bird watching, hiking, camping… the list will not end so easily!
Exploring the islands makes you discover a new land, especially if you do so with the help of the permanent ranger who on each island acts as the mobile store of information. For me, I actually discovered the Galapagos of California! Among all the islands, the Santa Rosa Island is the sole of its kind to be accessible by air only. This is the home of more than 500 plant species, 195 species of birds, as well as the widespread skunk. It is said that some 13,000 years ago, life might have been very flourishing here. It is situated at 45 miles from Ventura.
Nestled at the 14 miles from Ventura is the closest Anacapa island, which is actually a narrow, barren rock with no trees and yearly rainfall less than 10 inches. However, this is the home of largest gull-breeding colony on the planet along with the rare deer mouse, and songbirds. Because of its proximity, many prefer to visit this first. Excitingly, one has to climb a metal ladder from their boat to reach here due to no boat dock and presence of steep cliffs. On this island, it is only hiking that make you explore the attractions here including the exhibits. Dive in Middle Anacapa, spot the Arch Rock where sea lions recline, or be a part of the nature walks or a guided ranger tour.
Regarded as the largest island among the five and nestled at 21 miles from Ventura, Santa Cruz is under strict preservation whose large portion is managed by the Nature Conservancy. Visitors can only explore its eastern end to see the nine species such as island scrub jay and island fox. Sea cave kayaking is a must here via the Santa Barbara Adventure Company on the Scorpion Bay of Santa Cruz.
San Miguel is the most remote one at 55 miles, but it is the flattest island featuring an eerie caliche forest – the vertical sand set of the departed plant roots as well as trunks. When winter comes, it becomes the home of thousands of elephant seals who reproduce here. For a horde view, be at the Point Bennett.
Santa Barbara at 52 miles is must a visit if wildlife sighting is your choice. During the spring, the sheer cliffs transform themselves to be the home of the Xantus’s murrelets – the largest breeding ground. In addition, sea lions and sea pelicans are in plenty here.
There are five campgrounds offering a 14-day limit. These are tent sites only. If you want to stay in hotels, that is possible in Ventura. The Bella Maggiore Inn is good for a start of $75 per night. A unique accommodation is La Mer European Bed & Breakfast for $115 per night.
Do not visit the Channel Islands National Park without food, water, extra clothing, and medical aid. Islands have no food services.
Entrance fee is nil; however $15 per night charge is demanded if you want to camp on the islands.
Although the park is open throughout the year, the ideal time depends on as per what you desire. If you want to go for whale watching, plan to come here from late December through March or in July and August. Boat schedules are very frequent at spring and summer.
US 101 to reach Ventura. It is only via a boat trip that you can come to these five islands. There are only two boat operators currently: Island Packers: 805-642-1393 and Truth Aquatics: 805-963-3564.