Channel Islands National Park | California

On our quest to visit all of the National Parks, we decided to take a boat tour around Channel Islands National Park.  While we didn’t technically get out and walk around in the park, realistically, this was the best that we could do given time and financial constraints.  It’s wayyy more expensive to do one of the tours that include time on the islands and we’re a family of seven, so practicality won out in this case.

We did an Island Wildlife Cruise through Island Packers that departed from the Oxnard Harbor (Ventura Harbor would have been closer for us, but the day that worked the best with our schedule left from Oxnard).

While our boat didn’t land on any of the islands, we did get to cruise along the coast of Anacapa Island.  On our way out there we even came across a shark(!) about fifteen feet away from the boat! The onboard photographer said he thought it was a mako shark– glad we were on a boat and not swimming!

It’s about an hour out to to the islands and it was CHOPPY!!  Jake and I got stuck on the lower level with Ellie for the ride out and we got a bit wet and bounced around for most of the ride.  Once it calmed down enough to climb up the ladder, we went upstairs to sit with the rest of the kids and Jake’s dad.

The park’s most recognizable landmark, Arch Rock, just off the coast of Anacapa Island.

On our way back to Oxnard we finally saw a couple of dolphins!

They seemed to have fun darting around next to the boat and put on quite the show!

After a couple of minutes, those couple of dolphins turned into a pod of about fifty dolphins!  The Santa Barbara Channel, the waterway between the mainland and the Channel Islands, has more marine mammals than any other place on earth!  While we saw sea lions and dolphins, Humpback, Gray, Blue, and Orca whales also call the Channel home during parts of the year.  Island Packers also offers whale watching cruises although those don’t always go to the Channel Islands as it’s dependent on where the whales are.

We had a great time on our trip out to the Channel Islands and would love to do it again when we have the time (and money!) to actually land and explore.

Things to Remember When You Visit Channel Islands National Park

  • The only way to get to Channel Islands National Park is by the park concessionaire boats (Island Packers) or planes (Channel Islands Aviation), or by private boat, so factor that cost into your visit.
  • Island Wildlife Cruises out of Ventura Harbor are available, just not as frequently as the ones out of Oxnard Harbor so make sure to check the schedule carefully depending on which harbor you’re interested in departing from.
  • Cruises out of Ventura Harbor are much more common for the Island trips where you can actually get off of the boat and explore for the day (or camp!).
  • There is no food or water available on the island, and limited selections available on the boat (though they do have beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages for purchase), so pack accordingly.


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  1. August 31, 2018 / 6:15 pm

    What a beautiful place! That’s awesome you got to see so many dolphins up close!

    • Jennifer
      September 1, 2018 / 6:37 pm

      It was really cool– I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many at one time before!

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