By George Christopher Thomas, Travel Writer
VENTURA, CA – One of the most fun and celebrated island day trips in Southern California is a visit to Santa Cruz with Island Packers. “Having done it several times now, I can personally attest to the adventure and excitement of getting up early in the morning, driving to Ventura, and then spending the day boating, whale watching, snorkeling, hiking, and birding like you were a volunteer with the Audubon Society,” said Travel Writer George Christopher Thomas.
“As a surprise for Valentine’s Day a few years back, I told my wife were are going to have a “Secret Fun Day” and to be up and ready at sunrise. She was a good sport and went along with it, and ended up having a wonderful time. I made sandwiches before we left, and we picnicked, hiked, hung out and even tracked the desert island fox, one of the cutest things on planet earth,” said Thomas. “I suggest you go out and visit Santa Cruz Island, either camping for the weekend or just a day trip, you will quite happy with the experience.”
Santa Cruz Island is located about 20 miles from the mainland coast. At over 96 square miles in size the island is a miniature of the California mainland. Santa Cruz Island is the largest of the Channel Islands it is also the most diverse with plant communities from marshes and grasslands to chaparral and pine forests.
A vast expanse of wilderness area exists for the curious to explore by land or sea. Travel time from Ventura Harbor is one hour on Island Packer’s catamarans to East Santa Cruz Island, Scorpion Anchorage and an hour and a half to Prisoners Harbor- Mid Santa Cruz.
The eastern 24% of the island is National Park Service (NPS) property. The western 76% is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). On the eastern end Island Packer’s offers trips to Scorpion Anchorage. At mid Santa Cruz they offer trips to Prisoners Harbor where the border of the NPS property and TNC property is located.
Scorpion Anchorage on the eastern end is primarily grass lands while Mid Santa Cruz at Prisoners Harbor is a forested area with many forms of plant life. In summer through fall, the ocean conditions are usually ideal for kayaking and snorkeling. Endemic island wildflowers including island buckwheat and asters are in bloom. During summer there is also a chance to see Blue or Humpback Whales in the deep water, during travels to and from Santa Cruz Island. Cherryl Connally contributed to this article. (For more information, please visit www.islandpackers.com.)