Channel Islands National Park is situated a short distance off the coast of heavily populated Southern California, yet this park is one of the least visited. Why? Mainly because you cannot drive there! Access to the five Islands that comprise this park is either by boat or small aircraft.
Limited access means small crowds, which will provide you with a relaxed feeling of solitude. Visiting any one of the 5 islands that make up this park will help you escape the hustle-bustle and bumper-to-bumper traffic of Southern California city life! Anacapa is the closest island to the mainland sitting 12 miles off the coast. San Miguel Island, the furthest, is located 70 miles west of Oxnard. Due to the discovery of unexploded military ordinance on San Miguel, those wishing to visit this island will need to sign a liability waiver.
Getting there: Island Packers is the official park concessionaire offering daily transportation to the Islands via boat from either Ventura or Oxnard. Private boaters have access to the islands and Channel Islands Aviation will fly you to the islands if desired.
When to visit: The park is open year-round and although Channel Islands has a “Mediterranean climate,” there are some things to consider when planning a visit. High winds are common in spring. Dense fog in the late spring and early summer can dampen the mood. Summer is ideal for sailing, snorkeling and diving. Fall is an ideal time to visit as warmer temperatures and mild winds prevail.
What to do: Once you’ve reached the Islands, there is plenty to do. Hiking opportunities are available on all five islands. Other popular activities include kayaking, camping, boating, snorkeling and diving, fishing, tide pooling, whale watching and picnicking. Our favorite hike was the 4 mile trek from Prisoners Harbor to Pelican Bay over Nature Conservancy property.
Where to stay: There are no lodges on any of the islands. All 5 islands have accommodations for camping. Reservations are required for all camping facilities.
Wildlife: Seals and Sea Lions are frequently spotted sunning themselves along the shoreline. During winter, the pacific gray whale migrates southbound through the Santa Barbara channel. Large pods of dolphins frequent the area. The island scrub jay is a prime pursuit for bird watchers when exploring Santa Cruz Island. For those who enjoy watching a platoon of brown pelicans flying in formation, you will be pleased to know that this once nearly extinct bird now flourishes and nests on Anacapa Island.
Trivia: In 1959, human remains dating back to 13,000 BC were found on Santa Rosa Island.