Getting There Channel Islands can be reached by personal vessel or by booking a trip with authorized concessionaire to Channel Islands National Park, Island Packers. Cruising the California Channel Islands for education, recreation, and research since 1968. Island Packers has over 36 years of experience as a tour operator in the waters around California’s Channel Islands. Island Packers provides transportation services for island hiking, camping, kayaking, whale watching, school field trips, sightseeing and harbor cruises with a fleet of three excellent vessels. They travel to all five islands in the Channel Islands National Park. www.islandpackers.com
Ventura Harbor Departures:
1691 Spinnaker Drive, Suite 105B, Phone (805) 642-1393
Southbound 101: Take Seaward Avenue exit. Turn left on Harbor Blvd. Go approximately 1¾ miles, turn right onto Spinnaker Drive. Island Packers is ½ mile in on Spinnaker Drive on the right.
Northbound 101: Take Victoria Avenue exit. Turn left onto Victoria Avenue, go ½ mile, turn right onto Olivas Park Drive. This takes you to The Ventura Harbor and becomes Spinnaker Drive. Island Packers is ½ mile in on Spinnaker Drive on the right.
Oxnard Channel Islands Harbor Departures:
3600 S. Harbor Blvd., Phone (805) 642-1393
Southbound 101: Take Seaward Avenue exit. Turn left onto Harbor Blvd. Take Harbor Blvd. for approximately 7 miles. The road will fork and two lanes go to the left and one lane to the right. Take the right lane onto the continuation of Harbor Blvd. Take S. Harbor Blvd. ½ mile to the Marine Emporium Landing at 3600 South Harbor Blvd.
Northbound 101: Take Victoria Avenue exit. Turn left on Victoria Avenue. Drive for approximately 5 miles, to Channel Island Blvd. Turn right on Channel Island Blvd. Go over bridge turn left on South Harbor Blvd. Take South Harbor Blvd. ½ mile to the Marine Emporium Landing at 3600 South Harbor
Logistics Limited accessibility makes Channel Islands National Park one of the few remaining remote areas of Southern California. The Santa Barbara Channel has a reputation for being wild and unpredictable. High winds and currents can cause maritime nightmares so boaters are warned to make sure they are with an experienced captain.
Weather: Highs can range from eighty degrees in the summer to sixty-five degrees in the winter. However, at night, conditions can drop well into the forties. The climate is typically mild, but be prepared for rain, fog, and high winds. It is best to layer clothing, and don’t forget to bring rain gear or sunscreen. Clothing that protects against wind is advisable year-round. Overnight campers should be prepared for a variety of weather, especially on the outer-islands. Thirty-knot winds are not uncommon on Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands. Sturdy tents, stakes, and line for securing tents to ground, table, or wind shelters are recommended. Fog can occur on the islands during any season producing cool, damp conditions. All of the campgrounds are located away from trees and shade. Over exposure to the wind and to the sun can be a serious problem. Visitors are advised to bring supplies for an extra day in case boats are unable to pick up campers due to sea conditions.
Camping: Certain areas in Channel Islands National Park, including seventy-four percent of Santa Cruz Island, are part of the Nature Conservancy and do not allow camping. However, there is some available camping on all five islands in the park managed by the National Park Service. Reservations are required. Campsites cost about ten dollars per night with an additional reservation fee of two dollars and sixty-five cents per campsite per night. Beach camping is allowed in certain areas with a permit which can be obtained by calling 805-658-5711.
The Channel Islands National Park Website offers this camping information:“Camping conditions are primitive and users must camp within designated areas. All campgrounds are equipped with picnic tables and pit toilets. Except at the Santa Rosa Island campground, water is not available at campgrounds and must be brought with you. No fires are permitted except in designated areas on eastern Santa Cruz Island (wood provided). Enclosed camp stoves are permitted. Outer-island (San Miguel and Santa Rosa) campgrounds have windbreaks for each campsite. Campsites are generally located close to one another, if the campground is filled to capacity, conditions will be crowded. No trash containers are provided; campers must carry out their own trash. Camping gear must be carried from landing areas to the campgrounds.”
Campers must be prepared for the primitive campground facilities and weather conditions. Supplies and gear are not available on the islands. Gear must be transported up ladders at most landing areas, and carried some distance to the campgrounds. Packing your gear in backpacks, duffle bags and containers with handles makes transportation easier. The boat concessionaire requires that bags weigh no more than 40 pounds. Visitors may get wet during loading and off loading, so waterproof your gear. An extra pair of shoes packed in waterproof material is recommended. www.channel.islands.national-park.com
Kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, wildlife viewing, fishing, and hiking are among the activities to be enjoyed within the Park. Make sure you have all necessary permits by checking in with the Channel Island National Park headquarters in Ventura and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary in Oxnard.
Private boaters may land on all five islands without a permit if the National Park Service manages the land. A permit is required to land on and access some areas of Santa Cruz Island. Permits can be obtained from The Nature Conservancy. 805-642-0345, ext. 503. www.nature.org/california
Remember, the Park is one of the natural wonders of our region so don’t spoil it for the next person. If you pack it in, pack it out!
Wildlife Viewing: Migrating Gray Whales can be seen in the channel from December thru April. About twenty-eight species of whales and dolphins have been identified in the area. Visitors, also, may see the endangered Humpback or Blue Whale, especially during periods of upwelling, usually between the months of July, August, and September. Whale watching trips can be scheduled through Island Packers and start at about thirty dollars. In addition, seals, sea lions, dolphins, and birds are often viewed during a trip to the islands. During a visit to the islands, birdwatchers can expect to see some of the sixty species of sea birds found around the islands.
Hiking: Island Packers will take island visitors to the islands for a half or single day. Hiking is a good way to spend that day. Flowering plants endemic to the islands can be viewed in the summer months and green grasses with flowering plants seen in the winter and spring. Hiking boots are recommended for most island trails.
Fishing: Valid fishing licenses are required to take any kind of fish, mollusk, invertebrate, or crustacean from the waters surrounding the Channel Islands. These waters are part of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Note that some areas are designated Marine Reserves and fishing is not allowed in these areas.
Federal Fishing Regulations and Marine Mammal Regulations: www.swr.nmfs.noaa.gov
State Fishing Regulations: www.dfg.ca.gov
Watersports: Scuba diving, snorkeling in kelp forests, kayaking along the shore of the islands are popular water sports out at the islands. Generally, water temperatures range from fifty to sixty-five degrees throughout the year. Summer and fall have the warmest water temperatures. Be aware that ocean conditions are different at each island, so be sure to check in with kayak and scuba rental, guide and outfitters for a safe experience.
Aquasports: 800-733-2309: www.islandkayaking.com
Paddle Sports: 805-899-4925 or 888-254-2094 www.paddlesportsofsantabarbara.com
Channel Islands Kayak Center 800-644-9699 www.cikayak.com
CenCal Scuba 805-704-8468 www.cencalscuba.com
Peace Scuba and Dive Boat 805-650-DIVE www.peaceboat.com
Spectre Dive Boat 866-Cal-DIVE www.calboatdiving.com
Truth Aquatics 805-92-1127 www.truthaquatics.com