The stretch of Pacific coastline along California’s western Santa Barbara and Ventura counties borders two of the world’s most spectacular nature reserves:
Channel Islands National Park: five islands and a mile of surrounding waters
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary: An additional six nautical miles surrounding the islands
The islands are so undeveloped that they reflect a time warp of the California that existed way before urban development changed the landscape along the coast. More than 2,000 species of flora and fauna live out there, and 145 of those are found nowhere else on the planet. The 175 miles of coastline includes long stretches of gorgeous beaches and one of the world’s largest sea caves — Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island. The channel waters are home to 27 species of dolphins and whales, six species of seals and sea lions and thousands of sea birds. Rare plant species, long extinct on the mainland, thrive on the protected fields and hillside meadows.
The Journey is part of the adventure
These incredible islands — Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara — might look hard to get to, but they really aren’t far away (14 to 26 miles from the mainland), and it’s relatively easy to get there via boat (from Ventura, Oxnard, and Santa Barbara).
Once there, you can kayak in the sea caves, hike the uncrowded trails and camp in peaceful surroundings. Each of the five islands offers varied and unique opportunities for outdoor adventure, so you could visit many times and still have a long bucket list of places to explore and things to do.
If you can’t get out to the park, at least spend time at the mainland visitor center in Ventura Harbor. — Cheryl Crabtree