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Channel Islands National Park protects five rugged windswept islands off the central coast of California. Why should you want to visit these remote undeveloped islands? Well, if you have a sense of adventure, and want to get away from it all, then camping on the islands would be a great experience. All the islands also offer day-trips if all you want to do is enjoy a picnic near the boat landing, but the farthest out islands won’t allow you time to explore the island as the trips are long each way. The islands all have hiking opportunities and most have beaches to enjoy. Overnight camping trips are really the way to go.

Anacapa Island is the closest to the departing harbor. It is made up of three smaller islets. Most trips go to the East Isle, but the boat can also stop at Frenchy’s Cove. This island has trails, a lighthouse, and a stunning rock arch.

Santa Cruz Island is the next closest and the largest of them all. The National Park Service only controls the smaller eastern portion of the island, but there is still a lot to explore. Scorpion Anchorage is the main landing on the Island. Prisoners Harbor is the other.

Santa Rosa Island is a large island that is third farthest from where you depart. It is great for land travel, but the water out here can be quite rough so water-based activities like snorkeling and kayaking are best left to the experts.

San Miguel Island is the farthest from land and the most extreme of them all. Here you can go hiking on a designated trail system, but must hike with a ranger beyond these trails as the island was once a military bombing range.

Santa Barbara Island is a tiny island that is separated from the other four. Ironically, it is south of the others and no where near the city of Santa Barbara. This island is surrounded by cliffs so there are no beaches here. Trips to the island are spaced out to allow for camping for 2 to 3 nights.

chart with islands and activities - bryce3

Visitors to Channel Islands need to be prepared for their adventure if staying overnight or venturing beyond the landing site. Water is not available on some islands and food must be packed no matter where you go. It’s windy out here and often downright cold. Bring warm clothes and wind/rain protection. The farther you are from the mainland, the more extreme the weather will be.

Access to all of the islands is through Island Packers Cruises in Ventura and Oxnard on the mainland. Check their website for current schedules and logistics. They also have whale watching trips in the Santa Barbara Channel.

The boat trips to the island are often windy and on rough seas. Anacapa Island is the shortest trip and lowest risk for a rough ride.

Tyler Bight Anchorage on San Miguel Island NPS (Medium)

The Channel Island National Park visitor center is located on Ventura Harbor at 1901 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura, CA 93001. Their phone number is (805) 658-5730. There they have exhibits about the islands, books, maps, handouts, and all the practical information you’ll need to plan your trip.

Here is a map and a list of the islands.

Beaches on this map

  • Anacapa Island – East Isle

    Anacapa Island – East Isle

    Anacapa Island in Ventura County is part of Channel Islands National Park. It has three small islands (East, West and Middle) but access is mainly to East Anacapa Island. There […]

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  • Anacapa Island – Frenchys Cove

    Anacapa Island – Frenchys Cove

    Frenchy’s Cove is a small beach on western islet of Anacapa Island. All three of the small islands that make up Anacapa Island are part of Channel Islands National Park […]

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  • Santa Cruz Island Beaches

    Santa Cruz Island – Scorpion Anchrage

    Santa Cruz Island is the largest and tallest of the islands in Channel Islands National Park. Only about one quarter of this mountainous island is part of the national park […]

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  • Santa Cruz Island – Prisoners Harbor

    Santa Cruz Island – Prisoners Harbor

    Prisoners Harbor on Santa Cruz Island can be visited as a day trip or an overnight camping stop. There is a small campground, Del Norte Backcountry Camp, 3.5 miles inland […]

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  • Santa Rosa Island Beaches

    Santa Rosa Island Beaches

    Santa Rosa Island is a large island in the chain of islands that makeup Channel Islands National Park. The interior of the island can be hiked most of spring through […]

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  • Ranger Station San Miguel Island NPS (Medium)

    San Miguel Island Beaches

    San Miguel Island is the westernmost island (farthest out) in Channel Islands National Park. Because of the remote location it gets the most severe weather and the fewest annual visits […]

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  • Sea Lion Rookery Channel Islands NPS

    Santa Barbara Island

    Santa Barbara Island is a small island surrounded by cliffs and unfortunately it has no beaches. The only ocean access is in Landing Cove where visitors are dropped off. Here […]

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