Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park consists of 5 of the 8 Channel Islands off the Santa Barbara coast. Although the islands are close to the shore, their isolation has left them relatively undeveloped.

The northern Channel Islands are Anacapa (1.1 sq mi), San Miguel (14.6 sq mi), Santa Cruz (96.5 sq mi) and Santa Rosa (83 sq mi) and the southern islands are San Clemente (57 sq mi), San Nicolas (23 sq mi), Santa Barbara (1 sq mi) and Santa Catalina (75 sq mi).

Channel Islands National Park includes the islands of San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa and Santa Barbara. Anacapa is located in Ventura County while the other four are in Santa Barbara County. San Clemente Island, the southernmost Channel Island, is owned and operated by the U.S. Navy. Catalina Island as we know with its population of 3,700 is a popular tourist destination. San Nicolas Island in Ventura County is also controlled by the U.S. Navy. On a clear day you can see two of the five islands, Anacapa and Santa Cruz.

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Visitors to the islands may swim, snorkel, hike, camp, watch wildlife, sail and explore tidepools, beaches and canyons. There is no food service on the islands, so bring what you need. Take a commercial service to the islands like Island Packers, which has been servicing the islands since 1968. Landings at Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands are year-round while the more remote outer islands, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa and San Miguel are scheduled late spring through early fall.

Visit the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov/chis to learn more about visiting Channel Islands National Park. The park is open year-round.

The Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center at Channel Islands National Park is located in the Ventura Harbor at 1901 Spinnaker Drive (805.658.5730) and the Outdoors Santa Barbara Visitor Center is located at the Santa Barbara Harbor at 113 Harbor Way, 4th Floor.

 On a clear day you can see two of the Channel Islands from Newbury Park and other Ventura County spots. Here's a view from the   Rancho Potrero Open Space   in Newbury Park.

On a clear day you can see two of the Channel Islands from Newbury Park and other Ventura County spots. Here's a view from the Rancho Potrero Open Space in Newbury Park.

 Anacapa Island seen from a whale watching boat.

Anacapa Island seen from a whale watching boat.

Malibu Sportfishing Pier

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The Malibu Sportfishing Pier is located at 23000 Pacific Coast Highway. Just north of the pier is Surfrider Beach and Malibu Lagoon State Beach. You can go sport fishing in a 48 foot boat or you can fish off the pier. 

The pier was originally built in 1905 and first became open to the public 1934. It is currently operated by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The pier is open daily from 6:30 to sunset, though the restaurants close later.

Malibu Farm Cafe opened at the ocean side of the pier in 2013, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. (This was previously Ruby’s Shake Shack that closed in 2011.)

Malibu Farm Restaurant & Bar operates at the PCH side of the pier both indoors and outdoors. Open for breakfast (weekends only), lunch and dinner as well as weekend brunch.

To fish off the pier, either bring your own fishing gear or rent it from The Ranch at the Malibu Pier. at the end of the pier. They rent fishing rods and sell bait. Call 310.456.8031 for more information. Open 8am to 8:45pm daily. Permits are not required to fish off of the pier.

Learn more about the Malibu Pier at www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=24409 and at www.malibupiersportfishing.com.

Ventura Harbor Village

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Ventura Harbor Village at 1583 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura is home to 33 acres of harborside activities, shopping and restaurants.  The weather is always so cool over there it makes for a nice retreat.

There is a 36 horse carousel and arcade for the kids and plenty of outdoor activities available like kayaking, sailing, pedal boats, sport-fishing and cruises. Ventura Harbor Village hosts events and activities year-round, including music performances, kids' activities, themed events, festivals and more.

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Eateries at Ventura Harbor Village include 805 Bar & Grilled Cheese, Alexander's, Andria's Seafood Restaurant, Surf N' Taco, Boatyard Pub, Brophy Bros. Restaurant and Clam Bar, Coastal Cone (ice cream shop), Coffee Dock & Post, Copa Cubana, Fratellis Pizza & Brew, Harbor Cove Cafe, Le Petit Cafe, Bakery & Restaurant, Margarita Villa Mexican, Rhumb Line, The Greek Mediterranean Steak & Seafood and The Parlor. You won't go hungry here.

The Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center is located adjacent to Ventura Harbor Village. Free admission and an awesome resource for learning more about the Channel Islands and its protected habitat.

Island Packers at the Harbor has numerous boat rides and is the only authorized concessionaire to transport folks to Channel Islands National Park. 

Ventura Boat Rentals rents out electric boats, paddle boats, kayaks, power boats and charters cruises in the Ventura Harbor.  So much fun to be had!

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Across the street from Ventura Harbor Village is beach access at Harbor Cove Beach (a safe beach protected by jetties) and Surfer's Knoll Beach. Local area beaches at THIS LINK.

More information at www.venturaharborvillage.com or call 805.642.8538 (or 877.89.HARBOR).

Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara

 Dolphins greet you at the entrance to Stearns Wharf.

Dolphins greet you at the entrance to Stearns Wharf.

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Stearns Wharf is located at the juncture of W. Cabrillo Road and State Street in Santa Barbara. Originally constructed in 1872 by lumberman John P. Stearns as the longest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco, it is now one of the most visible and visited tourist destinations in Santa Barbara. In 1980-81, the City of Santa Barbara restored the wharf, constructed new buildings on it and assumed operation of the facility.

Our family particularly enjoys visiting the Museum of Santa Barbara Sea Center located on the wharf, followed by a stop at the candy store or the ice cream shop. Of course, The Harbor Restaurant and Longboards Grill are crowd favorites. There's also wine tasting, Moby Dick Restaurant, fish and chips, souvenir shops and other places that are fun to stop by.

 View from the end of Stearns Wharf back toward the mainland.

View from the end of Stearns Wharf back toward the mainland.

 View from Stearns Wharf

View from Stearns Wharf

You can get onto the wharf in a number of ways. There is limited parking on the wharf. Cost (as of August 2018) is $2.50/hour, but the first 90 minutes are FREE. Or you can park along Cabrillo Road or in a local beach parking lot and walk onto the wharf. Or do what we enjoy...park at the Santa Barbara Harbor and ride bikes onto the wharf. The wood planks are a bit bumpy but you'll survive!

Learn more about Stearns Wharf at www.stearnswharf.org.

Beautiful views of the harbor area as you'll see below from the pier. If you walk onto the wharf, you may encounter some locals that "live off the land" with sand sculptures and other monuments on the sand for your viewing pleasure (and perhaps some spare change). They are part of the carnival atmosphere. And of course on Sundays you'll be treated to the Santa Barbara Arts & Crafts Show that has been running since 1965.

Malibu Lagoon Field Trips Hosted by Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society

The Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society (SMBAS) hosts Malibu Lagoon Field Trips the 4th Sunday of every month.

Adult Walk starts at 8:30 a.m. for 2-3 hrs. The group meets at the metal-shaded viewing area next to parking lot. SMBAS makes a special effort to make these monthly Malibu Lagoon walks attractive to first-time and beginner birdwatchers. Brings binoculars and cameras.

 Metal shaded viewing area next to parking lot.

Metal shaded viewing area next to parking lot.

Children & Parents Walk starts at 10:00 a.m. for a 1 hr session. Meet at metal-shaded viewing area next to parking lot. SMBAS leaders are experienced with kids so by all means bring them down to the beach to enjoy nature. Binoculars will be provided.

Upcoming dates as of 8/16/18: 8/26/18, 9/23/18, 10/28/18, 11/25/18, 12/23/18, 1/27/19, 2/24/19, 3/24/19, 4/28/19, 5/26/19, 6/23/19, 7/28/19, 8/25/19, 9/22/19, 10/27/19, 11/24/19, 12/22/19, 1/26/20.

If you have a Scout troop or other group 7 or larger, please call Lu at 310.395.6235 to make sure SMBAS has enough binoculars and docents on hand.

Visit smbasblog.com to learn more.

Directions: Malibu Lagoon is located at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Cross Creek Road in Malibu. Bring water and sun protection; look around for people wearing binoculars and hats.

Parking: Self-serve parking machine in lot, $3/hr, $12 day ($11 seniors); credit cards accepted. Annual passes accepted. You may also park (read all signs carefully) on PCH west of Cross Creek Road, on Cross Creek Road, or on Civic Center.Way north (inland) of the shopping center. Lagoon parking in shopping center lots is not permitted.

Sycamore Cove Beach in Point Mugu

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Sycamore Cove Beach is located at 9000 Pacific Coast Highway in Point Mugu. The beach is one of the closest and easiest to get to from the Conejo Valley and Camarillo via Las Posas and PCH.

 Sycamore Cove Beach in the background. Sycamore Canyon Campground entrance on left.

Sycamore Cove Beach in the background. Sycamore Canyon Campground entrance on left.

The beach is popular with families looking to barbecue and enjoy quick and easy access to the beach. There are also porta-johns and restrooms available. Very limited parking on PCH (read the signs carefully as you don't want to get ticketed) but plenty of paid parking available (generally $12 to $14 for the day).

 A view of Sycamore Cove Beach from the south.

A view of Sycamore Cove Beach from the south.

On the northwest end of the beach you can walk underneath PCH to the other side of PCH, where Sycamore Canyon Campground is located. From there, you can take Sycamore Canyon up to Newbury Park (about eight miles).

Due north of Sycamore Cove Beach is Thornhill Broome Beach/Campground, which along with Sycamore Cove and Sycamore Canyon is part of Point Mugu State Park. Across from Thornhill Broome is the large sand dune that makes for some fun climbing.

 The humongous sand dune walking distance from Sycamore Cove.

The humongous sand dune walking distance from Sycamore Cove.

Visit www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=630 for more information.

Beaches Spanning From Carpinteria Through Ventura County to Malibu

My kids and I love going to the beach but for many years we seemed to go to the same ones all the time. So I stopped by the Automobile Club and asked them if they had a brochure on all the local area beaches open to the public. They shrugged their shoulders and said no such guidebook existed. They handed me a fold out map, which was of no use to me as I wanted to know exactly how to get to these beaches, if they have restrooms, parking, etc.

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Then I started searching around for information and found bits and pieces in various locations that were marginally useful. So I decided to consolidate this information into one place where I could find out about where to go to the beach around Ventura County on up the coast to Carpinteria and Santa Barbara and down to Malibu. So I hope you find the following links helpful in finding local area beaches in Ventura County and surrounding areas!

Carpinteria to Ventura

Oxnard to Malibu

Santa Barbara Area Beaches

This took a lot of time to compile over 60 local area beach areas, so I truly hope you benefit from these lists! So enjoy and provide feedback if you have comments and/or additional information.

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 At Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu.

At Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu.

 Windsurfers at Surfers' Point in Ventura.

Windsurfers at Surfers' Point in Ventura.

Rincon Beach Park at the Ventura/Santa Barbara County Line

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Rincon Beach Park is near the Ventura/Santa Barbara County line just a few miles east of Carpinteria. Just take the Bates Avenue offramp off the 101 Freeway. Take Bates to the ocean and on the right you'll find plenty of free parking and easy beach access, with picnic tables and restrooms.

If you make a left turn off of Bates, there's a separate parking lot for Rincon Point, part of Carpinteria State Beach, one of the most popular surf destinations in the world. There are a couple of restrooms on this side also, albeit not particularly pleasant ones to use.

Campfires are not allowed on the beach.

To learn more about Rincon Beach Park or to reserve the picnic table, visit www.countyofsb.org/parks/parks02.aspx?id=8078 or call 805.568.2465.

 Views from the picnic area at Rincon Beach Park

Views from the picnic area at Rincon Beach Park

 This sign always makes for great conversation starters at Rincon Beach Park

This sign always makes for great conversation starters at Rincon Beach Park

Point Mugu State Park

Point Mugu State Park is located in the Santa Monica Mountains, stretching from Newbury Park on the north to five miles of ocean shoreline on the south. The park includes 14,000 acres of land with over 70 miles of trails popular with hikers, cyclists and runners.  It is truly an amazing place, with rocky peaks that include the prominent Boney Mountain State Wilderness that looks over the western Conejo Valley.

 The sign in Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa in Newbury Park indicating you are entering State-managed Point Mugu State Park.

The sign in Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa in Newbury Park indicating you are entering State-managed Point Mugu State Park.

You can actually hike, run or bike from Newbury Park, from the Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa area managed by the National Park Service down to the ocean via Sycamore Canyon "Sycamore to the Sea," which is about an 8 mile trip one way. But do be aware - the initial 800 foot drop from Rancho Sierra Vista into the canyon via Big Sycamore Canyon Road is a bit more challenging coming back up.

 The paved hill drops into the canyon via Sycamore Canyon Fire Road.

The paved hill drops into the canyon via Sycamore Canyon Fire Road.

There are four main canyons in Point Mugu State Park. Sycamore Canyon is perhaps the most well known, stretching practically the entire north/south length of the park, where at the bottom of the canyon you'll find the 58 space Sycamore Canyon Campground at 9000 W. Pacific Coast Highway (make reservations at ReserveCalifornia.com).

 The Sycamore Canyon Campground connects to the Sycamore Canyon Fire Road, which is your access point to a day of fun and adventure in Point Mugu State Park trails.

The Sycamore Canyon Campground connects to the Sycamore Canyon Fire Road, which is your access point to a day of fun and adventure in Point Mugu State Park trails.

The La Jolla Valley Natural Preserve is on the western side of the park, with a main access point near Thornhill Broome State Beach at the Ray Miller Trailhead to the La Jolla Canyon Trail which connects with the Loop Trail. Another access point to La Jolla Valley is the Chumash Trail trailhead, a rocky, steep trail across from Point Mugu Beach. La Jolla Valley was purchased by the State of California in 1966 and was established as a Natural Preserve in 1972.

Wood Canyon is in the northwest section of the park, where you will find the north/south running Wood Canyon Fire Road, which connects to the Guadalasca Trail, among others.

Serrano Valley is accessible from the south off the Big Sycamore Canyon Fire Road/Trail about a mile north of the beach. A beautiful, serene, area, with a connection to the Old Boney Trail that takes you to the Danielson Monument in the Boney Mountain Wilderness.

The main beach areas in Point Mugu State Park, running southeast to northwest, are Sycamore Cove, Thornhill Broome and Point Mugu. Sycamore Cove is a fun day-use park popular with families for gatherings with BBQ grills and picnic tables. Learn more about beaches in the Malibu area at this link.

 This is the PCH overpass where on low tide you can walk underneath here to get from Sycamore Cove Beach to Sycamore Canyon Campgrounds and hiking in Point Mugu State Park. In higher tides, this area can be dicey, so be careful.

This is the PCH overpass where on low tide you can walk underneath here to get from Sycamore Cove Beach to Sycamore Canyon Campgrounds and hiking in Point Mugu State Park. In higher tides, this area can be dicey, so be careful.

If you are looking for beachfront camping, try Thornhill Broome Beach, with just over 60 spots available for RVs and tents. No hookups here and only porta-johns available, but can't beat the views! And across the street you can't miss the Giant Sand Dune!

Day use parking at the various sites is available for $12. There is very minimal street parking at Sycamore Cove but plenty of street parking adjacent to Thornhill Broome Beach.

Dogs on a leash are allowed in the Park's day use areas, campgrounds and beaches. Dogs are not allowed on the back country trails or dirt roads.

Keep driving northwest on PCH and you'll past the famous Mugu Rock and see Pt. Mugu Beach, which also has day use parking, with some parking on PCH. Learn more at the California State Parks website at www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=630.

 Mugu Rock up ahead, driving north on PCH from Thornhill Broome.

Mugu Rock up ahead, driving north on PCH from Thornhill Broome.

Lastly, let's cover some of the highest peaks in Point Mugu State Park. The Boney Mountain Wilderness Area, ever so prominent from the Conejo Valley, is located in the Park. But Boney Peak itself, at 2828 feet, is actually in the Circle X Ranch area managed by the National Park Service, along with Sandstone Peak, the highest spot in the Santa Monica Mountains at 3111 feet.

 Boney Mountain range overlooks the western Conejo Valley.

Boney Mountain range overlooks the western Conejo Valley.

Other peaks include Tri Peaks at 3010 feet, Laguna Peak (the peak which has equipment from Naval Base Ventura County below), La Jolla Peak and Mugu Peak

 Map of Point Mugu State Park courtesy of National Park Service.

Map of Point Mugu State Park courtesy of National Park Service.

Public Beach Access Between Sycamore Cove and County Line Beach in Malibu

Between Sycamore Cove Beach at 9000 Pacific Coast Highway, which is part of Point Mugu State Park, and County Line Beach, across the street from Neptune's Net and Yerba Buena Road at 42505 Pacific Coast Highway, there are three or four access points to the beach.

Look for the brown "Coastal Access" signs.

The first access point is just over a mile southeast of Sycamore Canyon at about 10302 Pacific Coast Highway. There is parking on PCH and an old staircase adjacent to a Call Box.

 The not particularly well taken care of steps to the beach at (approximately) 10302 PCH.

The not particularly well taken care of steps to the beach at (approximately) 10302 PCH.

Another access point is another 1/2 mile east is at approximately 9999 Pacific Coast Highway, near the juncture of Deer Creek Road. You'll see another brown Coastal Access sign and blue Call Box. Park on PCH and look for the staircase.

 Staircase at 9999 Pacific Coast Highway

Staircase at 9999 Pacific Coast Highway

The final southeast stretch of PCH between the access point above and Neptune's Net has even less distinguishable areas, but you can pull over to the side and park over most of this stretch (except when there are No Parking signs). 

CLICK HERE FOR PUBLIC BEACHES STRETCHING FROM OXNARD TO MALIBU

El Pescador Beach in Malibu

El Pescador Beach ("The Fisherman") has the distinction of being the closest beach in terms of auto mileage from central Thousand Oaks, located at 32900 Pacific Coast Highway, just east of the intersection of Decker Canyon Road and PCH. Along with La Piedra Beach and El Matador Beach, El Pescador is part of the Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach. 

El Pescador Beach is located about 2 1/2 miles east of Leo Carrillo State Beach and 5 miles west of Zuma Beach. Along with the other 2 beaches, El Pescador has a parking area (for a fee) and a porta-john and not much else. Dogs are not allowed on state beaches. There is also limited parking on PCH available, but be sure to look at the signs to make sure you don't park in a "no parking" zone.

Steep, uneven stairs lead you to the beach. Not particularly stroller friendly as a result, but it's not that far to go. This beach never seems to be particularly busy, so...shhh...don't tell anyone else about it.

 Bottom half of the steps from the parking lot to El Pescador Beach.

Bottom half of the steps from the parking lot to El Pescador Beach.

Rincon Point in Carpinteria

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Rincon Point is home to one of the most popular surfing spots in the world. Accessible near the Ventura/Santa Barbara County line just a few miles east of Downtown Carpinteria. Take the Bates Avenue offramp off the 101 Freeway towards the ocean. On the right is access to the City of Carpinteria's Rincon Beach Park and on the left is access to the Rincon Point parking area. Open 6am to 9pm daily, with a not-particulary-nice porta-john available in the parking area.

There is a trail that takes you to the beach area from the parking lot. The area is also surrounded by beach homes.

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 A view toward the north from Rincon Point (in the direction of Rincon Beach Park).

A view toward the north from Rincon Point (in the direction of Rincon Beach Park).

THE BEACH BOYS INCLUDED A REFERENCE TO RINCON IN SURFIN' SAFARI:

At Huntington and Malibu

They're shooting the pier

At Rincon they're walking the nose

We're going on safari to the islands this year

So if you're coming get ready to go

Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu

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Leo Carrillo State Park has 1.5 miles of beach for swimming, surfing, windsurfing, surf fishing and beachcombing, as well as tide pools, coastal caves and reefs for exploring. Giant sycamores shade the main campgrounds. The park also features back-country hiking.

Among the many great features of Leo Carrillo, the most engaging activity for me and the kids is the tidepools. They are exposed twice daily at low tide and provide hours of engagement with sea stars, anemones, mussels, sea slugs and more amongst the thousands of rocks on shore.

Nature walks and campfire programs are offered and a small visitor center has interpretive displays. During the summer, children's programs are available.

Trails include Yellow Hill Fire Trail for panoramic views of the beach and the Channel Islands, and the steeper Nicholas Flat Trail, which brings you to a pond.

 A view from the Leo Carrillo bluffs as the clouds start rolling in.

A view from the Leo Carrillo bluffs as the clouds start rolling in.

There are 135 family campsites at Leo Carrillo with restrooms and token-operated showers (which accept ONLY one dollar bills...plan ahead). Call 800.444.7275 or visit www.parks.ca.gov to make reservations.

The park was named after Leo Carrillo (1880-1961), actor, preservationist and conservationist. Leo Carrillo served on the California Beach and Parks commission for 18 years and was instrumental in the state's acquisition of the Hearst property at San Simeon. Leo's greatest fame came from his portrayal of Pancho, the sidekick to Duncan Renaldo's Cisco Kid, an early 1950's TV series.

Leo Carrillo State Park is located at 35000 W. Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. The park office phone is 310.457.8143. Visit www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=616 for more information.

Parking is currently $12 in the parking lot for the day (or $3 per hour)...but free on PCH if you can find a nearby spot. There is plenty of parking spots available in the lot. After you park, you can walk in a tunnel underneath PCH to get to the beach.

 The muraled tunnel that takes you underneath PCH to Leo Carrillo Beach.

The muraled tunnel that takes you underneath PCH to Leo Carrillo Beach.

Dogs on a leash are allowed in the Park's day use areas, campground and north beach (north of lifeguard tower 3). Dogs are not allowed on backcountry trails or south beach (south of lifeguard tower 3).

DIRECTIONS

The most direct way of getting to Leo Carrillo from the Conejo Valley is via Westlake Boulevard (CA-23) (aka Decker Canyon) south, which for some is a fun 14 mile drive, but for others, not so much. It is a bit winding, hilly, steep at many junctures. I take this route during daytime hours but coming home I'm not too keen on it. After getting to PCH, turn right and drive 2 1/2 miles to get to Leo Carrillo.

Another more popular, though less direct route is via Kanan Road. Either take Kanan Road straight down to PCH, turn right (west) on PCH about 9 miles to Leo Carrillo, or take Kanan to Encinal Canyon, which is about a 3 mile drive on PCH to Leo Carrillo.

Lastly, if you are in Newbury Park, you can take Potrero Road west to Las Posas down to PCH. In about 11 miles you will reach Leo Carrillo.