They say Channel Islands is a glimpse of what the California coast used to look like before we came along. Lush rolling hills with grasses waving in the wind lead right up to sheer coastal cliffs where the waves carve out sea caves in the rock. There are a few historic ranch houses from when sheep and cattle ranching was big. But now the NPS buildings and the Rangers are the only permanent fixtures. It’s less than 100 miles from 15 million people in LA, but the islands seem like a whole other world.
There are five islands that make up Channel Islands National Park: Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, San Miguel and Santa Rosa. The Island Packers concessionaire operates a very well-run ferry that can take you to any of the five islands (although San Miguel is currently closed to look for old, unexplored bombs from Navy testing). We chose to camp for 4 days and 3 nights on the largest and most diverse island – Santa Cruz.
In regards to access, the Island Packers ferry for campers was $79 per person (then $19 for our kayak), which we thought was very reasonable in contrast to our previous experience of exclusivity ferrying to Dry Tortugas National park. We also really appreciated their friendly, helpful attitude. They allow you the flexibility of a refund if they or you decided the weather was too questionable. Once there, the crew was very professional getting everyone quickly to shore in a raft because the pier is currently out of commission. The food on board is very reasonably priced. Plus the ride over doubled as a wildlife watching cruise and we saw birds, seals, sea lions, dolphins and gray whales! And it’s a good thing we liked them because they are the only ferry to access the islands. You can scope out their routes and fares for yourself at IslandPackers.com.
Anyway, the beauty of the islands smacked us in the face from the blooming wildflowers in bloom to rushing waterfalls pouring through the mountain creeks. And the peace of the undeveloped land and seascape made it a true sanctuary for both people and its many endemic plants and animals. But more on that in Elizabeth’s post tomorrow. For now, see why we fell in love with Channel Islands…
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