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Best kept natural + romantic secrets of Ventura County

Ormond Beach Wetlands
Ormond Beach Wetlands
Photography by LaShelle Burch-Bay

Large crowds, movie theater lines, and set dinner menus may make it difficult to plan a truly romantic date for Valentine’s Day. Amidst the hype surrounding the “hallmark” holiday, one can find secret hide-outs for a nice picnic and/or breathtaking views that are perfect for uniting couples with the natural world. The following is a list of Ventura County spots which can serve as a quiet and beautiful backdrop to a heartfelt date.

  • Wheeler Gorge, Los Padres National Forest

With a pleasant weather forecast for the coming weekend, this peaceful campsite just outside of Ojai may be the perfect location for a day trip or overnight experience.

There are two rivers running through the grounds, gorgeous Jeffrey Pine trees surround the spacious sites, and hiking/climbing spots just a short trek away.

Warning, this destination my challenge your ability to act without modern technologies. Not but two miles before arriving at Wheeler Gorge, cellphones invariably lose signal. Unlike modern hotels, campsites do not have thermostats and may get quite cold during the middle of the night. For those that are content with the more “primitive” accommodations and can survive without checking their smart phone apps several times throughout the day, a trip to Wheeler Gorge is the perfect getaway full of natural beauty and free from distractions.

For more information on visiting Wheeler Gorge, click here.

  • Hobson County Park, Tide Pools

For a stimulating walk on the beach, stop by the Tide Pools at Hobson County Park. Although this spot is part of a stretch of beaches known for RV camping, the pristine beach has very light surf and a plethora of aquatic wildlife - starfish, sea anemones, crabs, fish and birds to name a few.

Make sure you have plans to eat before or after your trip, as the park does not have any picnic areas and all of the beach rocks are filed with little critters. This beach is free to attend and provides the setting for a rich, memorable experience.

To get to the Hobson County Park, Exit at the “State Beaches” turnoff from the 101 Northbound and continue parallel to the freeway for approximately five miles.

  • Anacapa Island

Located in the Channel Islands National Park, Anacapa is a twelve-mile boat ride from mainland Oxnard. The island is a critically important habitat for seabirds, pinnipeds, and endemic plants and animals. It is also the largest breeding ground for the California Brown Pelican

A day-trip to Anacapa Island includes two hours of round-trip boat travel and two to five hours of time on the island. The island has free “Tidepool Talk” workshops in the morning and afternoon as well as island hiking tours. Be sure to pack a romantic basket for your trip as commercial services are all but absent from the island.

Before finalizing your day-trip with the Island Packers boat service - the exclusive concession operator to the island from Ventura and Oxnard Harbors - keep in mind that the ride can be rocky at times and is not for those with extreme cases of motion sickness.

After an eventful day on the island, try dropping a blanket on the beach to watch the beautiful sunset from Channel Islands Harbor (see picture from slideshow).

For more information on Anacapa Island or to book a trip online, visit the Island Packers website.

  • Ormond Beach

Surrounded by military bases, agricultural lands, and a shoreline power plant, Ormond Beach may not give a romantic first impression. However, if you give it a chance, you will find it to be a calm, natural sanctuary in a busy world. In addition to having a vacant, peaceful beach, this site is home to what most experts consider the most important wetlands restoration project in California.

Various bird species fly in patterns just above the water with sound of waves breaking in the background providing a zen-like quality to the Ormond Beach Wetlands. The “eye-sores” surrounding Ormond Beach ensure that this special date will be free from the greatest distraction of all - other people.

Entrance to the Ormond Beach Wetlands is immediately past the Agromin green-waste recycling center on 6859 Arnold Road in Oxnard.

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