Channel Islands National Park: The Galápagos of North America

This is the perfect time of year to really get out there and explore all that California’s Central Coast has to offer. A perfect example? Channel Islands National Park.

Comprised of five islands known as “the Galápagos of North America,” Channel Islands National Park is a world apart. Despite the isolation that makes it one of the country’s least-visited national parks and that allows 2,000 plant and animal species to thrive (the cat-sized Island fox is one of 145 Channel Islands species found nowhere else in the world), some areas can be reached in an hour or less from Oxnard and Ventura with Island Packers. You can also travel to Santa Rosa Island on flights with Channel Islands Aviation.

For excellent introductions to the islands, stop at visitor centers in Ventura and Santa Barbara. The renovated Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center at Ventura Harbor features new interactive displays and a tidal pool exhibit with lobsters and sand sharks.

While there’s snorkelling and world-class diving, kayaking, camping, and hiking on all of the islands, each one has its own distinct mood and identity. Anacapa offers towering cliffs and large seabird populations. Santa Cruz, the largest island, has two mountain ranges, sea caves (the biggest in the U.S.), and was the site of a prominent 19th century winery. Santa Rosa offers beautiful beaches and is home to Torrey pines—one of the world’s rarest pines. Isolated and shrouded in fog, San Miguel is wilder and more difficult to reach. But it’s home to five pinniped species, including elephant seals—the world’s largest. Finally, Santa Barbara Island is the smallest island and is notable for high cliffs and a feeling of remoteness.

Enjoy endless discoveries among the Channel Islands in California’s Central Coast.

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