Channel Islands National Park & Marine Sanctuary.
Before the Chumash Indians staked claim to the Channel Islands, just off the Ventura coast, Pygmy mammoths once roamed these windswept mountains. Today, five of the eight Channel Islands have been designated as a national park, and the sea for 6 nautical miles surrounding them, is deemed the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The islands are breeding habitat for seals and sea lions, brown pelicans and Scripp’s murrelets. Wildflowers transform the islands in the spring; sometimes the native tree sunflower grows in such abundance that its golden blossoms can be seen from the mainland.
Each island affords a slightly different experience, with its own resident ranger, campsites and hiking trails. Anacapa, the only island to retain a native Chumash name, features spectacular cliff-lined coast and a 40-foot-high natural bridge, Arch Rock, which has become a symbol of the park. The west side of Anacapa hosts the world's largest breeding colony of the endangered California brown pelican. As they explore the surrounding kelp forest and sea caves of Anacapa, divers should check out the submerged shipwreck of the Winfield Scott, which went down in 1853, prompting the establishment of a lighthouse on the island.
Santa Barbara is the smallest of the Channel Islands, and its 6.5 miles of trails prove a challenge to hikers. Its steep mesa boasts six canyons and a badlands area, and provides shelter for a number of sea birds. The Landing Cove is home to an abundance of colorful sea life, including California sea lions and harbor seals.
The Channel Islands' Mainland Visitor Center, located at Ventura Harbor, exhibits three-dimensional models of all five islands, as well as an interactive touch-screen monitor and a living marine life exhibit. Climb the tower for a telescopic view of the islands and venture outdoors to experience the native plant garden.
1901 Spinnaker Dr.
- Ventura, California 93001
- 34.00888400, -119.75859800
- Visitors Center: daily 8:30--5.
- Visit Website
- (805) 658-5730