The (Californian) Channel Islands

Posted on October 7, 2018


When I tell people in California that I went to the Channel Islands they either ask “Where?” or say “oh, I keep meaning to go but have never been”. Well people, you are missing out, the Channel Islands are stunning.

The main reason they are stunning: no-one lives there. In fact, there is barely running water. Most people travel to the islands for a day trip, very do-able from Ventura. Wanting to stay on the island, but completely novice campers we opted for Santa Cruz where there are campsites with picnic tables, fox proof boxes (essential) and a tap.

As novice campers, we had absolutely no equipment so rented everything from Joymode – REALLY easily. They have packages that give you everything you need and drop it off to your house. For us ‘everything’ meant tent, inflatable mattresses, campfire stove & gas, and a smores making kit (which would have been useful if we had remembered to buy marshmallows).

The ferries are run by Island Packers and need to be booked in advance. The captain and crew are great. They look out for dolphins and whales, stopping when they were spotted and explaining more about the wildlife as we travelled.

The campsite is about a 10 minute walk from the harbor and well laid out between trees. We prepped ourselves for a tense hour of connecting poles and anchoring the tent however it took us less than five minutes with the tent from Joymode – saved us at least 20 minutes of faffing about and another 20 minutes arguing!

After just a few minutes we realized the need for the fox boxes. Island foxes are numerous. With a dedicated attempt to restore the islands back to their natural habitats and removing most human traces, native animals have been able to thrive again. Many that are unique to the island have ‘dwarfed’ naturally due to the limited food. These foxes are tiny, about the size of a cat, and hang out at the campsite hoping to get food scraps. If you don’t lock everything up pronto, they will find it: I left the tent unzipped for a few mins and a fox popped and had a rummage around (luckily there was nothing there of interest to him).

There are effectively three activities on the island:

  1. Wildlife watching – with no natural predators there is particularly abundant birdlife including bald eagles.
  2. Hiking – there are a number of different hikes. If you go for a day trip to Scorpion Point, I’d recommend the Potato Harbor hike which is half a day.
  3. Kayaking – there are guided tours on sea kayaks which are a lot of fun, and not for the faint hearted. Don’t forget sunscreen. And don’t bring anything that you don’t mind losing to the sea. RIP my favourite sunglasses.

But the best thing about staying the night….is the remoteness of being truly on your own With less than 20 people camping there we picked a spot and watched the sunset over the cliffs. It was truely magical.