One of Ventura’s most wondrous attractions lies 14 miles out to sea. Channel Islands National Park, established by Congress in 1980, comprises five of the eight Channel Islands off the Southern California coast: Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and, so far away it is rarely visible from the mainland, Santa Barbara Island. In addition, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary encompasses the area within six nautical miles of the islands; managed jointly by the National Park Service and the National Marine Sanctuary.
The Channel Islands are accessible for day trips or a multi-day camping experience. The boat ride out to the islands can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience in itself, since travelers are often treated to sights of surfing dolphins and spouting
whales. Once visitors reach the islands, recreational options abound, including hiking, camping, sailing, boating, diving, snorkeling, surfing, and kayaking. Each island’s network of nature trails showcases its particular flora and fauna, and long stretches of white sand remain unspoiled.
Anacapa, just 14 miles from Ventura Harbor, is the most accessible and therefore most visited island. It’s a great choice for a first visit. Both Anacapa and Santa Cruz, the largest islands in the chain, offer excellent kayaking, snorkeling and diving near sea caves, hidden coves, and rocky reefs. Santa Rosa and San Miguel islands lie farther away and are excellent choices for more remote wilderness experiences, especially if you can spend several days camping and exploring.
Island Packers is the Ventura area’s official concessionaire for the national park. They provide daily boat transportation to Anacapa Island and frequent trips to East Santa Cruz Island year-round, as well as trips to Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands from April through November. For recorded information call 642-7688; for reservations call 642-1393. Visitors can also fly from Camarillo to Santa Rosa Island with Channel Islands Aviation, 987-1301. Much of Santa Cruz Island is privately owned by The Nature Conservancy. For information on limited access to the private portions of this island, call 962-9111.
Another way to experience the wondrous waters of the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary is by sailboat. Adventure Sailing Charters offers luxury sailing experiences on their 72’ schooner Morning Star. Choose from 1/2 day, full day, or multi-day adventures around Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands, and relax in style with a captain and crew to sail the ship and cater to your every wish. Pacific Sailing offers bare-boat charters for qualified sailors, and newbies can take lessons or request a licensed captain to accompany them on sailing trips of various lengths.
Guided kayaking and snorkeling adventures are a great way to experience the ocean half of the Channel Islands National Park. Explore Volcanic sea caves by kayak on the world famous “Caves and Coves Classic” adventure or snorkel in the Scorpion Marine Reserve where kelp forests create a “rainforest” style ocean canopy on the brand new “Caves and Coves Kelp Combo” adventure.Channel Islands Outfitters has been guiding adventures at Santa Cruz Island, Scorpion Ranch for over 20 years and is authorized by the National Park Service to guide kayak, snorkeling, and educational tours.