Channel Islands National Park

Santa Barbara County

The Channel Islands is an eight-island chain lying off the coast from Newport Beach to Santa Barbara. The four northern islands – San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Anacapa – along with tiny southern Santa Barbara comprise Channel Islands National Park. There are extensive tide pools and kelp forests, and almost 150 plant and a few animal species that are unique to the islands. Access by boat from Ventura or Oxnard.

On Anacapa, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa you can access several snorkeling, diving, swimming and kayaking opportunities among the kelp beds and sandy beaches. San Miguel and Santa Barbara are host to colonies of northern elephant seals.

Beautiful any time of year, the islands receive most visitors between June and September. The best times to visit are during the spring wildflower season (April and May) and in September and October when the fog clears. Winters are often stormy but are ideal for whale-watching.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Santa Barbara County attractions

1. Santa Cruz Island

1.49 MILES

Santa Cruz, the Channel Islands' largest at 96 sq miles, claims two mountain ranges and the park's tallest peak, Mt Diablo (2450ft). The western three…

2. Anacapa Island

10.96 MILES

Actually three separate islets totaling just over 1 sq mile, Anacapa gives a memorable introduction to the Channel Islands’ ecology. It's also the best…

3. Museum of Ventura County

22.99 MILES

This tiny downtown museum has an excellently eclectic collection that includes exhibits on the local Chumash people and rotating exhibitions of local…

4. Mission San Buenaventura

23.07 MILES

Ventura’s Spanish-colonial roots go back to this last mission founded by Junípero Serra in California in 1782. A stroll around the mellow parish church…

5. San Buenaventura State Beach

23.08 MILES

Along the waterfront off Hwy 101, this long white-sand beach is ideal for swimming, surfing or just lazing on the sand. A recreational cycling path…

6. Carpinteria State Beach

25.42 MILES

An idyllic, mile-long strand where kids can splash around in calm waters and go tide-pooling along the shoreline. In winter, you may spot harbor seals and…

7. Shoreline Park

27.06 MILES

For great views across the city, mountains and ocean (with the chance to spot whales in season and dolphins year-round), come to Shoreline Park, southwest…

8. Thousand Steps Beach

27.15 MILES

Descend the cliffs on a historic staircase (don’t worry, there aren’t actually a thousand steps) for some windy beachcombing and tide-pooling (only at low…