We have lived in California for 15 years. We have always wanted to explore the central coast, but we never have. As part of my personal project to get to know California, I looked on the central coast. Most people I asked around here weren't exactly sure what the Channel Islands were or what you do there. So Charlie and I decided to see what is going on down there.
First, we had to find a hotel. I looked in Ojai, and it was sold out. Then I looked into Alisal Ranch.It is a guest ranch and resort and seemed to have some interesting activities. However, it was sold out. We wound up staying at Embassy Suites Oxnard. It was a very cool hotel. We were directly on a beautiful beach with soft sand. If luxury is your jam, this is probably not the hotel for you. However,we had a huge one bedroom suite, the service was friendly and we had breakfast on the beach. The location is convenient and the driving very easy.
A popular thing to do in this area is kayaking. I myself have only kayaked a few times and I was never the lead in the boat. I was a little apprehensive about going out with my 8-year-old. Channel Islands Kayak Center has a cool history and wildlife tour. It takes place in Oxnard (not on the islands). First, this tour is awesome because it is on a little protected channel. The kayaking is very easy. It was easy for me, a novice, to manage the kayak while my son nearly accomplished the difficult task of flipping a flat bottom kayak in still waters. Secondly, the tour gave a brief history of the channel islands. It is a great introduction to the area before you head out. The second part of the tour, we went looking for wildlife. We saw lots of sea lions diving into the water, huge sea birds and brightly covered starfish. We even saw a small sting ray. The guide was really fun and made a game looking for the wildlife and kept my 8 year old engaged. Channel Islands Kayak also runs kayaking trips on the islands.
Oxnard is about 15 minutes away from Ventura Harbor. Here is where you take the boats out to the Channel Islands. The Channel Islands are a chain of 5 islands off California's central coast. Island Packers will get you out to the islands. However, getting there is half the fun. From the boat, we saw dolphins and a whale. The boat trips to the islands are long. We went to Santa Cruz Island and it took over 2 hours. The island itself has stunning views and clear water. What stood out the most to me was how quiet it is. Once we started hiking, it felt like we had the island to ourselves. And when we ran into the Park Rangers, they were like our best friends. We took a day to stop and look at the rocks. My 8 year old wondered why some rocks were red when they were split opened and why other rocks were iridescent blue. We saw what looked to be a shellfish boneyard. We also got to meet an island fox cleaning himself. After a day of hiking and playing on a rocky beach, we took a boat ride back.
On the drive home, we saw so many things we didn't get to explore. A trip to the central coast takes research and planning. I had to make calls to make sure the trips were appropriate. I had to figure out how to get food for our trip to Santa Cruz Island. In return for the planning, you get a relaxing weekend reconnecting with nature.