California · Islands · National Park · Road Trip · USA · Weekend Trip

All you need to know about Channel Island

Along the coast of Southern California lie five islands known as the Channel Islands. Comprised of five ecologically rich uninhabited islands—Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara—the park is only a hop, skip and a jump from the Southern California mainland, yet feels worlds away. Channel Island National Park has a wide range of flora and fauna some of which are found only on this island. These Islands are home to over 2,000 plants and animals, of which 145 are found nowhere else in the world including the Island Fox. 

How Big is Channel Island?

National Park includes 5 islands right off the Ventura coast: Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara is nearly 250,000 acres of land and sea. 

  • Anacapa Island: Anacapa may be tiny, but its proximity to shore a 12-mile boat trip and dazzling birdlife make it a great choice for a quick taste of the Channel Islands.
  • Santa Rosa Island: Santa Rosa lies 38 miles and a world away from the mainland, making it an island of choice if you want the feeling of great distance.
  • San Miguel Island: San Miguel boasts some of the Channel Islands’ most attractive features, but they take some time to reach — starting with a long boat trip (70 miles and 3.5 hours from Ventura), and then a long hike. For that reason, the best way to visit San Miguel is to camp.
  • Santa Barbara Island: Santa Barbara, the smallest and southernmost island in the national park, condenses much of the best of the Channel Islands into a 1-square-mile footprint ringed by dramatic cliffs — a sea lion rookery, a cove rife with elephant seals, wildflowers that include giant coreopsis, and an abundance of birds.
  • Santa Cruz Island: The largest of the islands, the 6-mile-wide Santa Cruz parallels the mainland for 24 miles, with a serrated interior spine rising over 2,000 feet. But its most dramatic feature is a north-facing coast pocked with the most extensive sea caves in the world.

How to reach Channel Island?

Most visitors go to the islands using a boat or air service who are concessionaires for the National Park Service. Many arrive by private boat. The trip by boat can be as exciting as the islands themselves, especially when you see dolphins or whales along the way. The most common way to reach Channel Island is to book a ferry from Ventura or Oxnard through

What to Do?

The park is open year-round and can be visited throughout the year. However, the best time to go depends on the type of activity you’re interested in doing on the islands. Summer and fall are considered peak seasons for snorkelling, diving, kayaking and swimming as ocean temperatures may reach 70 degrees, and you’ll find ocean visibility as deep as 100 feet. Most people visit the park starting from June through late September. Keep in mind this is a marine reserve, and there is no fishing in the protected waters. You can get a complete list of to-do things over here

Where to Grab a Bite?

There are no restaurants of café on the island so make sure to bring your lunch with you. There is a café very close to Channel Island Visitor Center which is a good option or carry your lunch before coming to the visitor centre. 

What is the best time to visit Channel Island?

While one can visit the park throughout the entire year, there are considerable differences in the seasons that visitors should take into consideration. Each season has its character and unique weather, natural history events, and outdoor activities. Visit this link to find more. 

Other Tips:

  1. Bring tissue, wipes and hand sanitizer because the only restrooms on the island are outhouses.
  2. Wear layers, the ride on the boat was chilly but the day warmed by the afternoon on the island.
  3. Bring food and water for the day. We brought snacks, a subway and bottles of water and it was perfect. 
  4. Bring a trash bag, you will carry out your trash with you. Keep this in mind when you pack your food choices.
  5. Look over the trail map and make a plan for the day when you first arrive. The ranger will give you an overview of smart suggestions when you first get off of the ferry.
  6. You must secure your belongings. There are a lot of wild animals and you must make sure to keep your stuff safe with you. 
  7. Take a ton of pictures the beauty will leave you in awe.

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