Written by Capt. Jeff Werner
September 2018

The Channel Islands are set apart from the mainland of southern California by the Santa Barbara Channel. Five islands make up the Channel Islands National Park: San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa and Santa Barbara. Each island offers a unique boating experience that includes hiking, diving, kayaking, bird and whale watching, and fishing.

When Should I Visit?

Channel Islands are a year-round destination, but come fall, the water warms to 70 degrees and has an underwater visibility of up to 100 feet. This makes ideal conditions for scuba diving in kelp forests and caves or just messing around snorkeling.

Winter brings on the nesting season for the California brown pelicans and ushers in the beginning of gray whale watching. Elephant seals start giving birth as the temperature cools.

Spring offers the opportunity to see wildflowers reach their peak bloom. Although April marks the end of gray whale watching season, California sea lions and northern fur seals begin to gather at the island rookery sites.

Summertime poppies, buckwheat and verbena still continue to bloom. Whale watching begins for the blue and humpback whales, while sea lions and fur seals start pupping.

How Do I Get There?

The easiest harbor to depart for the Channel Islands is Ventura Harbor. It is just 18 nautical miles from Santa Cruz Island, which is the largest and most visited island. Ventura Harbor has four marinas to choose from and is home to the Channel Islands National Park Visitors Center.

Although you’ll find no marinas on the Channel Islands themselves, anchorages are available. Always make sure your ground tackle is well set before you dinghy ashore. Channel Island weather can be unpredictable, so be prepared for high winds and significant waves at any anchorage. Also, the local kelp beds can make secure anchoring a challenge

Where to Dock

Ventura Harbor Marina & Yacht Yard

(805) 642-6755

Ventura West Marina

(805) 644-8266

Ventura Isle Marina

(805) 644-5858

Ventura Harbor Boatyard

(805) 654-1433

Where to Dine in Ventura Harbor

Harbor Cove Beach Cafe

1867 Spinnaker Dr., 805-658-1639

Open air waterfront dining right on the harbor. Enjoy the best breakfast and coffee for miles around.

Brophy Bros. Seafood Restaurant & Clam Bar

1559 Spinnaker Dr., 805-639-0865

A favorite spot for locals and tourists alike. Their New England Clam Chowder sets the standard along the California coast. For a perfect lunch, follow the chowder with a Dungeness Crab Platter and an Arnold Palmer.

The Greek Mediterranean Steak & Seafood

1583 Spinnaker Dr., 805-650-5350

Mixing traditional Greek cuisine and the finest quality steaks and fresh fish with belly dancing and Greek dancing performances is the ideal recipe for a fun evening.