Channel Islands National Park consists of a visitors center on the mainland in Ventura and 5 islands. Four of the islands: Anacapa; Santa Cruz; Santa Rosa; and San Miguel are situated close together and the fifth; Santa Barbara is off by itself. The visitors center is designed to blend in with the other buildings at Ventura Marina and has some displays identifying the animal and plant life of the islands as well as their history. There is also a nice viewing platform. Although the islands are close together, they each have a diverse ecosystem and a different appearance.
Unless you have your own boat, you will have to take a commercial boat to the islands. My good friend Brian (who lives in nearby Palmdale) and I planned to take this boat to see East Anacapa Island and do some hiking and exploring. Unfortunately the boat never left the pier due to the weather. Best laid plans. . . We will try again someday.
Fondest memory: Although we did not get to explore the islands, I enjoyed just hanging out with Brian and we had a great day. I also picked up a postcard for my VT Friend SLLiew.
Anacapa - The closest of the islands, takes approximately 1 hour to cross the channel. Half (non-landing) and full day trips daily. Anacapa is known for its lighthouse, sea caves & kayaking, scuba diving, & short nature walks.
Santa Cruz - The largest of the Channel Islands, trips are made daily. Known for it's varied terrain, excellent hiking, sea caves, secluded coves, beaches and has good swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. It takes a little over an hour to cross the channel to Santa Cruz. Island Packers uses the newer, quicker ferries to get to this island. They sometimes make 2 stops, the first the Scorpion Harbor then to Prisoners Harbor.
Santa Barbara - The island is 38 miles offshore and trips are infrequent. Although it is just 1 sq mile, there are 5 miles of hiking trails. Over 3 hours to cross on the slower boats, approximately 2 hours on the quicker boats. Since this island is one of the least visited it is a haven for wildlife. Elephant seals, sea lions and various bird life abound. In the summer visitors snorkel with the seal lions and seals.
Santa Rosa - The second largest island and west of Santa Cruz. The island is 15 miles long and 10 miles wide. It's known for it's rolling hills, canyons, coastal lagoons, & white sand beaches adorned with driftwood.
San Miguel - The westernmost island that receives the brunt of bad weather from the open ocean. The island is 8 miles long and 4 miles wide and is home to a diversity of sea life.
There are 775 species of plants and about 10% are indigenous to the islands. Many are found on the mainland and some that were once prevalent can only survive on the islands now. I'm sure development and pollution play a major role.
Pictured is a species of monkey-flower only found on the islands. I do not remember the exact name.
Recreational opportunities abound for private boaters. Sailing is popular in addition to scuba diving, kayaking, exploring the coastline (175 miles) and anchoring in secluded coves.
Private boaters may land on all 5 islands. There are specific landing procedures and permit requirements.
You're bound to see some wildlife on your trip over or along the shore. Common sitings include large schools of dolphins, sea lions, seals, and whales.
There is a wildlife sitings listing by month on the Island Packers website. Some species include:
common & bottlenose
gray, orcas, humpback, finback, blue
In the foreground is Anacapa (3 islets). Behind it lies the largest island which is Santa Cruz. Beyond Santa Cruz are Santa Rosa then San Miguel. Santa Barbara Island is a tiny spec not in line with the others but is due south of the group.
The Channel Islands (5 of 8 islands) became a national park in 1980. It consist of 249,354 acres, half of which are under the ocean. There are over 2000 species of plants and animals, 145 species found nowhere else in the world.
Fondest memory: Every trip to the Channel Islands is unique and enjoyable. Weather and wildlife sitings will vary.
On our way back to the mainland, we were fortunate enough to see a school of hundreds of dolphins....many jumping out of the water (and I thought they only did that at shows). It was quite an amazing sight! Our boat slowed down and went through the school which did not bother them. Per the narration, the presence of hundreds of dolphins is a good indicator that the Santa Barbara Channel is in a healthy state.
Dolphins/orcas in captivity only live an average of 5-6 years. In the wild they live up to 50 years. It's really ashame what we will do to our fellow creatures for human entertainment.
The boat gets there right about the time that they say they're gonna be there. They quickly load the boat and get the heck out of dodge. Its a good idea to be early for the boat.
Picture is of sis in law and nephew waiting for the boat like good boys and girls. : )
Favorite thing: This was a great place to really hang out with the people you came here with. it is more of a quiet, family type place. You know some campgrounds are known for wild crazy kids partyin'? well this AINT that place... its a place to hang out with the ones you love. Its a place where you can actually just be quiet and take it in.
Fondest memory: Anacapa Island is actually about three giant rocks in close proximity to each other. It consists of East, West and Central Anacapa. The only accessible island is the West Island. You must climb multiple steps of a shear cliff to get to the plateau of the island.
Favorite thing: The views are amazing. If you don't get up off your bum and go for a hike, you will miss out on some great stuff...check this view out.. this is of scorpion bay, the boat drops you off here.