Set a mere 14 miles off California’s Coast, the Channel Islands feel like a world unto themselves. On this eight-island cluster, spectacular views of craggy coasts, not to mention frequent sightings of whale fins, abound. Escape your urban doldrums by snorkeling through kelp forests, exploring mysterious sea caves, and hiking through wilderness wonderlands. To name a few.
Here, our guide to a paradise weekend getaway to the Channel Islands.
Things to do:
1. Cruise the coast on a guided kayaking tour with Aquasports. You’ll explore hidden sea caves and pristine beaches… and likely glimpse whales, dolphins, or friendly sea lions. (111 Verona Avenue, Goleta, islandkayaking.com)
2. Take a dip. The Islands are known worldwide for their underwater beauty. Snorkeling or scuba diving will get your up close and personal with thriving marine life. Check out Cal Boat Diving for equipment and tours. (1591 Spinnaker Dr., Ventura, calboatdiving.com)
3. Hit the open road. The islands boast countless well-marked hiking trails where visitors can enjoy the quiet isolation of carefully preserved wilderness. Along the way you’ll spot picture-perfect outlooks, wildflowers, and a rich variety of birds. Island Packers is a great resource for hiking trails and guides.
Where to sleep:
1. Snooze under the stars. Campsites on Anacapa or Santa Cruz Island are best for short stays, since both offer a wide range of activities. Make reservations for campsites ($15 per night). and transportation well in advance. (877.444.6777, nps.gov/chis)
2. After a day of roughing it, spoil yourself at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Ventura Beach, where luxuries like direct beach access, an oceanfront pool, and rooms with views are surprisingly affordable (from $120 a night). It’s also very near Ventura’s Historic Pier. (450 E. Harbor Boulevard, Ventura, cpventura.com)
3. Unwind with a beachfront sunset from your balcony at the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel and Resort before cozying up in one of their lush rooms (from $180 a night). The hotel is a short drive from Channel Islands Harbor. (2101 Mandalay Beach Road, embassymandalay.com)
3. Satisfy your palate with fresh seafood at Fisherman’s Catch in Seabridge Marketplace, a short distance from the harbor where Channel Island ferries come and go. (3960 Tradewinds Drive, Oxnard, fishermenscatch.com)
Directions: Take Amtrak to Ventura.
A Note: Help Protect California State Parks
In May of 2011, the Department of Parks and Recreation released a proposal to close 70 state parks due to budget cuts. This is the first time in California’s state park history that closures will actually be implemented. To voice your support and take action, visit Save Our State Parks.