A fantastic amount of fun can be packed into a 24-hour period. On a recent overnight trip to Santa Cruz Island, the largest island in California, I was able to enjoy some time alone hiking, viewing wildlife, sea kayaking, and camping. I even took a rare (for me) mid-day nap and it was lovely. As a first time visitor to this National Park, deciding which Island to visit can be tricky, but this island proved to be perfect starting point.
Santa Cruz Island
I took an Island Packers boat ride from Ventura harbor at 8am on a chilly Friday morning in late July and one hour later landed at Scorpion Anchorage on the east side of the island. The most people you will see at one time is on the boat docks loading and departing. Likewise, Scorpion Bay and the beach area will be alive with snorkelers, boaters, and kayakers to boot, but the crowds are never humongous since this is an isolated island after all.
Exploration on the island is done by foot and that is fine by me. Once you disembark the boat you will be hiking to your campsite and everywhere else you want to go. On my next visit I wish to stay more than one day so I can see more of the wild landscape. Luckily, the weather was perfect on my visit, partly cloudy and cool, allowing me to trek for hours without breaking a sweat. I spent most of my time near the bay, exploring the ranch area, the Cavern Point Loop trail, and the Scorpion Loop trail. Next time I want to hike Scorpion Ranch to Smugglers Cove and see another piece of the island pie.
I camped overnight to give myself more time to explore and I am pleased I did. The Scorpion Bay campground is divided into two: upper and a lower. I was advised by friends to stay in the upper campground as it is a bit more secluded and less crowded and that is exactly how it worked out for me. I reserved site #25 in the back right of the campground. Two group sites were being used and only a few single sites. The two sites to my left were empty. Perfect.
There are pit toilets, potable water, and food and gear lockers to keep the persistent mice and foxes away. After setting up camp and quietly sitting halfway in my tent I took in the view. Wind rustling, birds chirping, and the tent swishing calmed me.
Make sure to pack binoculars for your trip to the island. On the boat ride over it’s possible you will see marine life such as whales and dolphins. Seabirds and shorebirds, including the island scrub jay, can be viewed. Of particular interest to me is the endangered Santa Cruz Island Fox, which is not fearful of humans at all and constantly travelling through camp. You can view my sightings here. The island is a breeding ground for different species as well including the Townsend’s big-eared bats (I never saw the bat though, just the area enclosure for them to breed).
This sport is popular at Scorpion Bay and that was one of the big draws for me picking this island (read about my little adventure). Travelers young and old come here to explore the sea caves surrounding the island. Many people use guided tours and there are a few tour companies to choose from. I partnered with Santa Barbara Adventure Company and would definitely use them again. I noticed many of the campers also were kayaking and brought their own kayaks, which can be stacked on the back of the Island Packers boats and left near the beach when not in use. If you choose to use a guided tour you must make reservations before your trip.
Explore the Island
Travelling to a new place is always exciting and exploration is so much fun. Smell the salty sea air, feel the cool fog, view the historic ranch buildings, wildlife, flora, walk barefoot on the black sand beach and take in the fantastic scenes. There is plenty to see and do in 24 hours so don’t let time constraints keep you from visiting. After a quiet night in camp and a restful sleep I hiked back to the bay to catch my boat at 10am. I had a blast.
Have you visited Santa Cruz Island? Did you hike, kayak, or camp?