Just off Ventura’s coast lies Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary, one of North America’s magnificent treasures and a step back in time revealing coastal southern California the way it once was.
The five Channel Islands are home to over 2,000 plant and animal species, of which 150 are found nowhere else in the world earning these islands their nickname as North America’s Galapagos. Over 30 marine mammal species live in the marine sanctuary surrounding the islands. Marine life ranges from sea stars and anemones to blue whales, the largest animals in the world!
Summer is the most popular season to visit the islands with perfect weather and blue and humpback whale watching opportunities as the whales migrate north. Early fall is considered the best time for snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and swimming with ocean temperatures averaging 70 degrees and underwater visibility reaching up to 100 feet. The most stunning sunsets of the year occur in winter as elephant seals and harbor seals pup and gray whales pass by traveling south. And spring is especially magical on the islands when they flaunt fresh green grasses adorned with blooming wildflowers, nesting seabirds and western gulls, and brand new chicks and island fox pups discovering the islands for the first time themselves.
There are many trails to explore the islands, from maintained, relatively flat, signed trails to rugged cliffs with dramatic overlooks and magnificent coastal views. Smugglers Cove on Santa Cruz Island is considered one of the top 10 beach hikes in California with amazing viewpoints, scenic olive groves and a sky blue cove, amidst complete solitude and in marked contrast to the congestion and clamor of southern California most people experience.
Channel Islands National Park is captivating beyond what can be described with words. Step off the beaten path and come experience it for yourself.