Channel Islands on Frommers

Most travelers know of a little thing called The Lonely Planet Effect. In fact, I spoke with LP’s former global editor Don George about this very topic in a podcast way back when. The idea is simple: Guidebooks like Lonely Planet are here to tell you about great places that still have the charm and exoticness of being “undiscovered”. But there mere fact they are mentioned in Lonely Planet then discovers them and, potentially, ruins them by making them popular.

And so with this in mind, I hesitate to say much more about California’s Channel Islands. Sure, I’ve written about them before, so the point is kind of moot, but I still feel that bringing to much attention to them is a good way to ruin what is a lovely, near pristine place just off the coast of California. Sigh.

Well, Frommer’s has kind of beaten me to the punch here, anyway. Just a few days ago they listed the Channel Islands as their Park of the Week, providing a nicely detailed article on the park. It’s actually quite informative. I actually learned a few things such as the fact that the park is home to over 2,000 plants and animals, of which 145 are found nowhere else in the world. That makes them a bit like California’s Galapagos.

When I was there one of the things I most enjoyed doing was paddling the massive sea caves around Santa Cruz Island. There’s some info about doing that as well as myriad other activities to keep you busy should you decide to make the trip. I highly recommend you do, but be careful about telling all your friends. I’d hate to see the place become California’s off-shore Disneyland.

Cave Paddling at the Channel Islands

I loved the fact that someone so quickly identified the photo of Potato Harbor at Channel Islands National Park in our recent Where on Earth. It suggests that some folks regard the islands as highly as I do. As Neil mentioned, a group of us have done a series of trips out to the islands, and each time found the experience rewarding. The one thing that I really want to call attention to at the Islands are the sea caves. Santa Cruz Island has some of the largest explorable sea caves in the country. They make for a superb day out in boats and, should you bring along a fishing pole, you might even catch dinner. The best thing about the islands is how undeveloped they are. Unlike Catalina, which can be a weekend circus, the Channels Islands are largely privately-owned by the highly regarded conservation organization the Nature Conservancy. The section that is accessible to the general public is run by the National Park Service who generally does a fantastic job keeping the islands clean and in good condition.

I really just wanted to second Neil’s enthusiasm for the islands and to call your attention to this fine article over at Canoe/Kayak Magazine about paddling the sea caves. I fondly remember my own experience exploring these caves and look forward to being able to fully circumnavigate one or a few of them at some future time.

World’s Best Islands

Guess what? There actually are people who don’t like islands. I know, I know, it seems crazy to me, too, but these are probably the same people who dislike ice cream, tax refunds, and heaven. For the rest of us… we’ll always have islands.

T&L recently compiled a list of their favorite islands. As you’d expect, the list includes some real hum-dingers:

  • Santorini, Greece
  • Cocoa Island, Maldives
  • Mount Desert, Maine
  • Capri, Italy
  • Kauai, Hawaii
  • Vancouver Island
  • Anguilla
  • Bora Bora, French Polynesia
  • Virgin Gorda, BVI
  • Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil

Of course, for the “real people” out there, I thought I’d drop in 5 more islands that are beautiful, accessible, and not bank-breakers — at least for those people living in the US:

Sanibel and Captiva are a boomerang-shaped pair of islands off Florida’s southwest coast. Known for their plentiful shells, warm waters, excellent kayak opportunities, and laid-back atmosphere, the islands are an easy jaunt for most people in the southeastern US. Sanibel is nice — but in my opinion, Captiva has more spark, and more of a “feel.” With its tightly-clustered village center, Captiva is among the most romantic islands on the planet.

Tybee Island, Georgia, is big enough to have options, but small enough to not feel overdeveloped. With a rich history and plenty of options for sightseeing, Tybee also features kayak opportunities, dolphin excursions, and the chance to dangle your worm in the water. Don’t let the island’s “barrier island” status fool you: it’s wild but comfortable.

California’s Channel Islands — known as America’s Galapagos — are a haven for wildlife and a dream come true for campers and hikers alike. With numerous opportunities for diving, snorkeling, and whale watching in the waters among the islands — which Traveler refers to as a Paradise Found — there are alos plentiful routes for you to explore on sea kayaks.

The hundreds of islands that make up Washington’s San Juan Islands, feature beaches, mountains, cliffs, and forests. The area also boasts plenty of fog, which gives it a dreamy quality. Between the flightseeing, horseback riding, boating, shopping, hiking, and kayaking, I’m pretty sure you can keep busy.

Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Outdoor adventurers can hike, sail, paddle, fish, and swim around the island. History buffs can inspect the local castles (castles!), or tour the island’s numerous museums. A hodgepodge of cultures, explorers can sample both French and Celtic culture on the same trip.

Eagle Hatches on Santa Cruz

Man, it seems like Santa Cruz Island
is in the news all the time these days. It’s not like I have a Google alert sending me info about the island, I just
keep finding stories about it. Remember, Santa Cruz is one of several islands that make up the Channel Islands off the
coast of California, about 20 miles from Ventura, and I’ve posted about them several times before
because, well, they’re a great place to go and hang out on a lazy California weekend, and b) the paddling around Santa
Cruz itself is superb. The sea caves there offer one of the best paddling experiences around.

But there is
also some great wildlife there. First, there are feral pigs. Not as many as there used to be
because they just recently hunted many of them down to thin the population, but you know a few hearty souls are still
lurking in the bushes. There are seals and porpoises. And, as of recently, there are eaglets. Yes, according to this story, a pair of bald eagles
hatched a chick on Santa Cruz on Wednesday for the first time in more than 50 years. Biologists say that the last known
successful nesting of a bald eagle on the Channel Islands was in 1949 on Anacapa Island. As most people know  this
is a big deal because the widespread use of DDT almost wiped the birds off the California coast in the 60s. So this is
good news and very cool.  

Eagle Egg on Santa Cruz Island

Some folks here might remember the post I did last summer
about the Channel Islands. I was out there with a bunch of buddies doing some kayaking and camping, and we had a
glorious time. The islands really are one of the great hidden gems of California outdoors life, and I’d advise anyone
making plans to California to give a trip out there some thought.

The islands are rather dry and quiet, but
you can hike all over the place and some of the vistas from the high cliffs are amazing. The sea kayaking is also
supurb, especially on Santa Cruz island, where you paddle through a series of amazing sea caves.

speaking of Santa Cruz Island, I came across this
bit of interesting news
. I just have to call this one out because I’m such a big fan of the islands. Turns out that
for the first time in more than 50 years, an eagle laid an egg in a nest on the island. Is ths earth-shattering news?
No, but the naturalist in me thought it was pretty cool.