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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 can be visited as day-trips too if all you want to do is enjoy a picnic near the boat landing, but the farthest out islands won’t allow you any time to explore the island as the boat rides 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 (known for tide pools). 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.

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. The visitor center has exhibits about the islands, books, maps, handouts, and all the practical information you’ll need to plan your trip.

Below is a list of the islands and beaches in the Channel Islands.