Experience bucket list-worthy adventures at Channel Islands National Park with diversity of wildlife found nowhere else on earth!

Channel Islands National Park Guide


Are you ready to see stunning ocean views, jutting rock cliffs, and wildlife that you can't find anywhere else in the world? Oxnard visitors can take a quick trip to Channel Islands National Park, located just eleven miles off the coast from Oxnard.

One of the least visited National Parks due to its remote nature and accessibility, the Channel Islands are a must-do trip for camping enthusiasts!

About the Channel Islands

The park is made up of five picturesque islands: Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa, San Miguel. The archipelago is often referred to as the Galapagos of North America. The untouched landscape is surrounded by the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, which has preserved a breathtaking underwater world full of sea creatures. Due to its remote nature, Channel Islands National Park is the least visited in the nation. But there’s plenty to do once you arrive. You can spend the day diving, kayaking, or swimming. Outdoor Union even lists the islands amongst the best camping in California.


Pygmy Mammoths

In 1994, paleontologists made the remarkable discovery of a pygmy mammoth on Santa Rosa Island. Found only on the California Channel Islands, the pygmy mammoth was the most complete collection of its kind in the world. Pygmy mammoths varied from 4.5 to 7 feet high at the shoulders and may have weighed only about 2,000 pounds, compared to the classic 14-foot tall, 20,000 pound Columbian mammoth.

Arlington Springs Man

In 1959, Phil Orr discovered a fragment of a human femur on Santa Rosa Island, but it wasn’t until 1999 when modern technology was able to carbon date the age of the bone. Incredibly, the bone was dated to 13,000 years ago. There has only been one other find of this age ever discovered in North America.

Channel Islands Kayak Center
Channel Islands Kayak Center mascot, Chippy. Photo by Cali Godley
Oxnard Maritime Museum Exhibit
Oxnard Maritime Museum Exhibit

Chumash Voyages to Islands

The journey to the Channel Islands is beautiful in modern chartered boats, but imagine making the journey in a wooden canoe. The Chumash traveled in canoes called ‘tomols’ to hunt, fish and trade around the islands. The ingenious design featured cut redwood planks fastened together with animal sinews and sealed with ‘yop’, a tar like substance composed of pine pitch and asphaltum.

Anacapa Island

Explore the Closest Island Paradise from Oxnard's Shoreline

Anacapa Island is the only island accessible from Oxnard, and perhaps the most picturesque. This island is known for its plateau formation, with bluffs similar in majesty to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

Anacapa Island


Access to Anacapa Island is facilitated by boat, with Island Packers serving as the operator. Trips are available year-round, with a variable schedule spanning 3 to 7 days per week. The journey from Channel Islands and Ventura Harbors takes approximately 1 hour. Upon arrival, visitors experience a unique landing process, climbing steps from the boat to an adjustable platform on the dock. From there, an ascent via a steel-rung ladder to the top of the dock is required. Once ashore, adventurers face a climb of 157 stairs from the Landing Cove to reach the island's terrain.

The Anacapa Lighthouse

Built in 1932, this iconic lighthouse served as a navigational aid to ships along the southern California coast and is the last permanent lighthouse to be built on the West Coast. Perched atop the rugged cliffs of East Anacapa, it offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding islands. While the lighthouse is no longer in active use, its preservation serves as a testament to the maritime history of the region and is a point of interest for visitors exploring the natural beauty of Channel Islands National Park.

Anacapa Lighthouse
Arch Rock Oxnard

Arch Rock

Arch Rock showcases the awe-inspiring beauty sculpted by erosion and the Pacific's waves. This iconic formation is not only a photographer's dream but also an adventurer's delight. Channel Islands Excursions enhances the experience with ocean kayaking tours, offering guided expeditions through the arch itself. These tours provide a unique opportunity to explore Anacapa's marine life and rugged coastline up close, making for an unforgettable adventure in one of California's natural wonders.

Inspiration Point

Anacapa is part of an archipelago, comprising of multiple islands. Get your camera ready for “Inspiration Point”, where you can see the splendor of the archipelago chain. Plan to take a kayak tour of the sea caves: Anacapa is home to the most sea caves per square mile in the world!

Inspiration Point Oxnard
The Visit Oxnard Team at Inspiration Point
Anacapa Island Oxnard

Quick Facts

  • No water on the island, you must bring your own
  • Twelve miles from Oxnard
  • Located in Ventura County
  • Five miles long and 1/4 mile wide
  • Average rainfall is between 8 - 13 inches per year
  • Home to 30 sea caves
  • West Anacapa is home to the largest breeding colony of California brown pelicans


Anacapa Island Seabirds

West Anacapa boasts the largest California brown pelican breeding colony. This area serves as a vital sanctuary during the breeding season, providing a habitat with favorable conditions for nesting and rearing young pelicans. The rugged cliffs and abundant marine resources contribute to the colony's thriving population, making West Anacapa a crucial site for these coastal birds.

Seabirds Anacapa Islands
Kelp Forests Channel Islands

Anacapa Island Kelp Forests

Explore Anacapa Island's coastal treasures with sea cave kayaking and snorkeling amidst 30 captivating sea caves. Immerse yourself in the beauty of the island's kelp forests, renowned for their rich marine life. Anacapa offers a unique adventure, blending sea cave exploration and vibrant kelp ecosystem discovery.

Flower Species Native To Anacapa Island

Anacapa Island is a botanical marvel, boasting a remarkable diversity of flora encompassing an impressive 265 plant species. Among these, the island proudly hosts two plant species that are found nowhere else but on Anacapa, adding a touch of exclusivity to its ecological profile. The diverse flora thrives in the island's varied microclimates, presenting a unique botanical landscape that includes rare and endemic wildflowers.

Anacapa Island Flower Species
Anacapa Island Dolphins
Photo by Lottie Keenan

Anacapa Island Mammals

Anacapa Island shelters 20 exclusive wildlife species, found nowhere else on Earth. Notably, the Anacapa deer mouse is a unique resident solely identified on Anacapa Island. In addition, Anacapa Island serves as a vital habitat for harbor seals and California sea lions, providing a resting and breeding ground for these marine mammals. The diverse mammalian inhabitants contribute to the ecological significance of Anacapa Island within the Channel Islands archipelago.

The Other Four Channel Islands

Oxnard is the closest access point to Anacapa Island. But it also serves as an excellent overnight option for easy access to the remaining four islands of Channel Islands National Park.

Although you can only access Anacapa Island from the Channel Islands Harbor, there is still plenty of beauty to be seen and explored on the remaining four islands of the park. Below is some general information about those islands.

Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz Island, the largest in California's Channel Islands, offers two campgrounds: Scorpion Canyon campground and Del Norte backcountry, with diverse landscapes, rugged cliffs and rolling hills. The island is known for its rich wildlife, including endemic species like the Island Fox. The waters surrounding the island are ideal for kayaking, snorkeling, and observing marine life like dolphins and seals. Book a trip through Island Packers and get the chance to see The Painted Cave-- the largest sea cave in California. For access, boats depart from Ventura Harbor and Santa Barbara Harbor, with trips often providing a chance to see marine wildlife en route.

Santa Barbara Island

Santa Barbara Island, the smallest of the Channel Islands, is a small, remote nature haven with rugged cliffs and unique wildlife, including seabirds like the Scripps's Murrelet. Ideal for birdwatching, snorkeling, and diving, the island offers clear waters and minimal facilities for a rustic experience. Accessible by boat, Ventura Harbor is the nearest departure point on the mainland.

Santa Cruz Island
Photo by Caitlin Moore
Channel Islands
Photo by Caitlin Moore

Santa Rosa Island

Santa Rosa Island is a captivating blend of diverse landscapes, including rolling hills, deep canyons, and pristine beaches. Visitors are often drawn to the island's rich archaeological heritage, with evidence of early Native American habitation. The island's rugged terrain offers excellent opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and exploring historical ranches. The surrounding waters are a haven for kayaking and snorkeling enthusiasts. Accessible via boat, the main departure points are Ventura Harbor and Santa Barbara Harbor.

San Miguel Island

San Miguel Island, the westernmost of California's Channel Islands, offers rugged landscapes with dramatic cliffs, historic sites, and vast beaches. It's a prime location for viewing seals and sea lions, as it is home to one of the largest rookeries in the world. The island features coastal scrub and grasslands, with challenging hiking trails that reward visitors with stunning ocean views. Access is mainly through boat trips from Ventura Harbor and Santa Barbara Harbor.

San Miguel Island Oxnard

Whichever island you choose to explore, Oxnard serves as an ideal destination for comfortable overnight stays before embarking on your Channel Islands adventure. To learn more about camping at the Channel Islands National Park and their islands, visit the National Park Service website or the Channel Islands National Park visitor center on Ventura Harbor.

Channel Islands Camping

Coastal Beauty at Your Doorstep

Photo by Caitlin Moore

The Channel Islands National Park is the perfect destination for a half-day, one-day, or short overnight camping trip. Check out all the amazing adventures in store, for beginners, experts and everyone in between.

Channel Islands Campgrounds

Each island has a single, unique camping experience. Choose your campground based on your level of experience. Please note you must book a campground through the federal reservation website, and access to some islands may be unavailable due to temporary closures.

In need of camping gear? REI at The Collection is the place to be! Get everything from backpacks to hammocks to coolers all in one place.

How To Book

  • You must secure transportation on a concession boat before reserving a campground.
  • Advanced reservations are required for all campgrounds. There are no entrance fees, but there are reservation fees.
  • Reservation fees are $15.00 per night.
  • Reservations can be made no more than six months in advance. To make reservations, visit here.
  • You must provide camping dates, transportation information, and number of campers.
Hiking Anacapa Island
Channel Islands Bird Watching
Photo by Kathy Crutz

Essential Information

  • Prepare for a variety of weather conditions, including high winds and overexposure to wind and sun.
  • Boat concessionaires require that packed gear weigh no more than 45lbs.
  • All campgrounds are located away from the boat landing areas.
  • You must carry all your gear to the campgrounds.
  • All campgrounds contain picnic tables and pit toilets.
  • No trash containers are provided, so you must pack your own trash.
  • No fires are permitted. You must use only enclosed gas stoves.

Don't miss out on these epic Channel Islands experiences!

Island Packers

Island Packers has boat trips to and from the Channel Islands. Our boats are powered by bio-diesel fuel and are eco friendly. The islands offer lots of fun for the entire family. While visiting the islands you can hike, camp, kayak or take a guided...

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Channel Islands Expeditions

This Epic Ocean Adventure is Vessel SupportedUsing our custom built "adventure vessel" the Sunfish to get to the islands, we unload the kayaks in an upwind location on the Western end of the island chain. We then paddle with the prevailing wind at our...

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Channel Islands Whale Watching

Southern California Whale Watching at its finest. Welcome to Channel Islands Whale Watching, the gateway to the beautiful world famous Channel Islands, located in Oxnard, California. We offer whale watching excursions during the annual Gray Whale...

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Doug's Channel Islands Tours

Doug's Channel Islands Tours offers fun charter boat adventures in the waters around and on the Channel Islands National Park. Our charter boat service accommodates up to 6 passengers and their gear. We offer the ability to tailor your trip to fit your...

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Sail Channel Islands

Visit the Channel islands with Capt. Dan aboard the luxury yacht Sancerre .... or just cruise the coast for a couple of hours. You can take the helm and do as much of the sailing as you like. All cruises are tailored to your requirements.

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Guidelines and Entrance Information

  • The park is open 24 hours a day.
  • There is no park entrance fee.
  • To visit one of the five islands, you'll have to take a boat. Island Packers is the exclusive concessionaire to Channel Islands National Park.
  • There are no services on the islands. No hotels. No restaurants. The islands are virtually untouched by urbanization.
  • You can camp on the islands, but the sites are basic. No water is provided. There is a fee to camp.
  • For check-in information, preparation for your trip, cancellation policy and overall safety click here.


Stay overnight with a marina-front balcony overlooking the harbor and its lineup of stunning yachts. Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor is nestled between Fisherman’s Wharf and Marine Emporium Landing.

Coming soon is the new 4-story Hyatt House Hotel, located on Peninsula Road in Oxnard. The hotel will include a signature 2nd floor rooftop bar and outdoor lounge as well as a 5,400 SF separate specialty restaurant!

Hampton Inn Oxnard