Kind of like the Galapagos, but cheaperOkay, everyone knows about Yosemite National Park, Sequoia, Death Valley -- but at least one other national park is well worth your consideration on your next trip to California -- the Channel Islands National Park.
Located in the waters off Ventura and Santa Barbara, the park has five islands altogether. Anacapa and Santa Cruz are considered the "local" islands while San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Barbara islands are termed the "outer" islands. It's possible to take a boat trip to the islands most days of the year, weather permitting.
The Island Packers boat lands at East Anacapa Island throughout the year at Landing Cove and, at certain days of the year in winter and early spring, the boat will visit Frenchy's Cove for tide pool exploration. The boat also travels year-round to two locations on Santa Cruz Island, Scorpion Ranch and Prisoners Harbor. In the late spring through early fall, you can visit the outer islands, with some of the trips extending farther into the cold season.
A visit to the Channel Islands is a true adventure because there are no services on the islands. Guests pack in what they need for the day, then pack out all the trash. Guests are encouraged to dress in layers and to wear sturdy shoes -- the hiking can be strenuous and the weather can get chilly at certain times of the year.
In some ways, this is the poor man's Galapagos Islands -- there are many unique species of plants and animals. But unlike the Galapagos, you don't have to take out a second mortgage to afford to visit.
Island Packers will give you all the details on what to bring and what not to bring on your Channel Islands adventure. You can get more information at www.islandpackers.com. VenturaCountyWest.com can help you plan your Ventura area getaway: VenturaCountyWest.com
RECOMMENDED LODGING: Ventura County lodging
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