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Santa Cruz Island: Peace and quiet off the coast of California

Santa Cruz Island
Santa Cruz Island
Julia Inslee

Santa Cruz Island, one of the four islands that are protected under Channel Islands National Park, is located an hour by boat from Ventura, CA. The world on this island is far removed from the life left behind on the mainland. Quiet and remote, it is home to 145 species found nowhere else on the planet. The park service and The Nature Conservancy have worked over the last three decades to return the island to its natural state after more than a century of ranching abuse. The result is a refuge of beauty, an ocean apart from busy modern life.

The island offers hiking along cliff side paths, through cleaved canyons, up steep hills, and down to beachside coves; snorkeling and diving in clear waters teaming with marine life; and kayaking in and out of sea caves. Numerous day trippers make the journey out to enjoy these outdoor pursuits. Those who are a bit more adventuress can choose to camp on the island. Camping is primitive with only potable water and pit toilets available. The great reward of spending a night or two on Santa Cruz is the vibrancy of the stars without light pollution. Orion never looked brighter.

Entertainment is provided by the local inhabitants: the tiny island fox waiting for a chance to steal an abandoned tortilla, the vociferous raven pecking at a backpack for a tasty morsel, and the graceful harbor seal spying on the tourists from the sea. Santa Cruz also holds great historic value. Legends of the Chumash Indians hang in the air. Olive groves, vineyards, an oil well, and restored ranch houses tell the tales of the self-sufficient sheep and cattle ranchers that toiled on the island for generations.

Upon the return from the tranquility and simplicity of Santa Cruz, whales plunge, dolphins frolic, sea lions surf, and pelicans dive, a last reminder of the abundance of wildlife that thrives off the coast of California.