Posted: Friday, Aug 26th, 2022

By Ken McAlpine

Where Are the Best Views in Ventura and the Channel Islands?

Ventura and the Channel Islands are filled with memorable views. See, smell, taste, and feel the joy

This world is filled with iconic views. From the Eiffel Tower. From the rim of the Grand Canyon. From atop Everest. From the street beneath Gal Gadot’s hotel balcony.

But let’s be honest. A lot of those views come with crowds, lines, a price tag, and possibly serious risk and/or a police record. With all due respect to the other views, the best views are absorbed in quiet, maybe with friends or a loved one. Think back on your favorite views. Are we right? 

Ventura and the Channel Islands are filled with memorable views. All of them offering quiet. Pretty much all of them for free. And one of them at the edge of the world. 

We all need a place to sit and think.

Or not think at all.

From the campground on San Miguel Island, Channel Islands National Park

Little known fact. The campground on San Miguel Island sits in the middle of one of the largest stands of coreopsis on the Channel Islands. Camp there when the coreopsis are blooming. Stand quietly as the sun sets. Let twilight deepen. Watch the sea of coreopsis flowers throw back the light of the departing sun. In the falling night, lollipop bushes heavy with lemon drops do exist. 

From Grant Park

Grant park ventura

From the heights of Grant Park, Ventura reveals itself; a tiny toy town tucked beside a vast sea. In spring you’ll be surrounded by quiet bright flowers. And, in every season, the added jackpot of a high-in-the-hills view of Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands. And the Santa Monica Mountains to the east.

From Ventura’s Botanical Gardens

Ventura botanical Gardens

Yes, the Ventura Botanical Gardens (adjacent to Grant Park) offer a stunning wander among the loveliness of five Mediterranean climate zones. Yes, there are about 30,000 plants; Chilean, South African, and Mediterranean among them. Yes, there are sweet smells and smooth benches for reflection. Yes, there’s a spectacular ocean panorama. But just as fun, when you close your eyes you can hear the tantalizing whisper of the sea, like the faint voice of a long-ago lover. Try it and smile.

From the Ventura Pier

Ventura Pier drone

One of the last wooden piers in California, the Ventura Pier was integral to Ventura’s history. It’s also is a lovely place to stand any time of day, with views of Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands and, if the surf is firing, surfers having the time of their life at C Street. But early birds take note – sunrise may be the pier’s best time to shine. As the sun lifts above the Santa Monica Mountains, the light throws itself across the misty land and the lightening sea. In the morning quiet, you can hear the sighs (or thunder) of the passing waves. Lovely added plus, the moon is often setting on the opposite side of the pier. Nature’s lullaby two ‘fer. And, any time of day, don’t neglect the smells. Inhale the hint of brine in a cool, deep breath. Ventura is, after all, the sea.

From the Mermaid Statue at the edge of Marina Park

marina park

They are a familiar sight, the mermaid statues standing on either side of Ventura Harbor mouth, playful sentinels bathed in every kind of weather and light. On the Marina Park side of the Harbor, there’s a bench near the mermaid. It looks out to the sea. Sit quietly as the sun sets and the lines of the statue blur and wonder. Maybe mermaids really did exist? The gentleman who kindly donated the statues believed they do.            

From the heights of Harmon Canyon

harmon canyon

Harmon Canyon is Ventura’s newest outdoor gem, a 2,123-acre expanse (and growing) of natural beauty made for play — and the things that matter too. There are a host of lovely trails, but if you’re game (and relatively fit) Trail #107 climbs up to a place (it’s about a 3.5-mile hike to the summit) where the world becomes wind and sky, with stunning miles-long views stretching off to the Channel Islands, and the Santa Monica and Topa Topa Mountains. Take a long moment to do the important things, like watch sheep clouds scud to the horizon. On any trail there is something soul-healing about watching shadows creep down the hillsides. Maybe a lesson in pace. And it’s only a ten-minute drive from downtown Ventura.

From on high in Arroyo Verde Park

arroyo verde park

Arroyo Verde may be Ventura’s favorite park, and with good reason. The main trail is only a 2.3-mile loop, but there are lots of trails forking off the main trail and that’s where you need to go. Head for the hills for glorious seascape panoramas. And when it rains, flowers waving everywhere in the wind.

From the railing of an Island Packers’ whale-watching boat

island packers

You never know what you’ll see in the waters off Ventura’s coast — Nature isn’t a Disney exhibit — and that mystery is part of the thrill and the joy. But here’s a rock-solid fact: the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel and the (protected) Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary are filled with life – much of it very, very large, and very, very life-changing. When some of the largest creatures on this planet roil to the surface – and sometimes leap free of it – you’ll feel something (rightfully) humbling. Island Packers Cruises will put you front and center. 

From the end of the trail at Lobo Canyon – and the journey there 

lobo canyon
Doug Mangum

Sometimes it’s both about the journey and the destination. Lobo Canyon on Santa Rosa Island is one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever see. Seeing it will take some effort. It’s roughly  

9 miles from the pier where the boat drops you to the Canyon Mouth (and so another 9 miles home); and you haven’t even hiked through Lobo Canyon yet. But you should. Because Lobo Canyon, a natural canyon framed by grooved and pocketed sandstone walls and shaped by wind and water, is hung with a peace that is beyond words. Plus, wind and birdsong sing down the Canyon. 

And at the end, one of the loveliest seascapes you’ll ever see. A raw place, like being at the very edge of the world. 

Isn’t that nice?

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