The pristine and essentially untouched Channel Islands National Park is located just off Central Coast shores, across the Santa Barbara channel. Anacapa, San Miguel, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Santa Rosa Islands and each of their surrounding one mile of ocean are a part of the national park, which is accessible by regular ferries from Ventura Harbor. Spanning 12,000 years of human history, the islands offer a wealth of insights into everything from the native Chumash inhabitants to European explorers, shipwrecked seaman, and pygmy mammoths which date back to the Pleistocene. Above all, the natural wonders of the islands are a glimpse of what an untouched California might look like, and wildlife (including species endemic to the terrain) flourish in the lush landscape.
If you plan to visit the islands, it's important to know that there are no shops to buy food or rent gear, so plan accordingly. The remote shores are also strictly accessible by private boat and park concessionaire boats and planes. Once you're on your chosen island (San Miguel, Santa Barbara, and Santa Rosa are only open seasonally), there are no accommodations available, so be ready to pitch a tent. Remember, back country camping is not for the faint of heart. With rugged terrain and potentially inclement weather, it's important that even the boldest island trekkers be aware of their experience and limitations. Once your supplies, gear, and stay are in order, be prepared to step back to a time when nature flourished on its own accord and it could be days (or more) before explorers saw another soul. Glassy waves, mysterious sea caves, and unparalleled snorkeling beckon, and hikes lead to panoramic views, epic bird watching, and sightings of island foxes and other wildlife. If the prospect of venturing to an uninhabited island to rough it is not your idea of fun, you can still experience the beauty and history of the islands on day trips through Santa Barbara and Ventura based tour companies including Island Packers and Santa Barbara Adventure Company. Experienced guides are trained to lead visitors on kayaking and hiking trips, whale watching, and more.