I love camping! So I wanted to kick off summer with a camping trip in Southern California, but I didn’t want just any old campground. I wanted something rugged, remote and off the grid. As I started my search I was overwhelmed by the number of options near Los Angeles, but quickly realized a majority of them were already booked. And then a light bulb went off in my head – The Channel Islands! I had always wanted to explore this group of five islands off the coast of California, so I quickly narrowed my search finally settling on the smallest and closest, Anacapa Island.
If you don’t own a boat (or know someone who owns a boat) and have a permit to privately get to the Channel Islands, then options are limited – there’s only 1! Island Packers runs boats from Ventura and Oxnard ports with different rates for day-trippers and campers. The adult camper rate to East Anacapa Island from Oxnard is $79.00 per person.
If you’re camping, make sure there’s an available campsite BEFORE booking your boat! Anacapa Island camping has a total of 7 campsites and you can reserve them through Reserve America for $15.00 per night.
One thing to be cautious of – boats get canceled due to weather conditions, like high winds and big swells. On the Wednesday before my original trip I got an email warning me about this, but I dismissed it. At 5:30am on the day of my departure my boat was canceled and I was so bummed! Luckily Island Packers offers full refunds for canceled trips and I just rebooked for the following weekend.
We took the Island Packers boat to East Anacapa Island at 9:30am on a Saturday morning. Anacapa Island is divided into three parts – East, Middle & West – and it took us about 1 hour to get to the East side. When I first saw the island from a distance I was immediately happy that we had chosen to spend a little more money to forego a more traditional campground. We had truly escaped Los Angeles and our Anacapa Island camping adventure had begun!
Once on the island, the 9 campers were given the lowdown of camping rules – no fires, carry out your trash, be careful by cliffs (especially at night), etc. – and were set free into the wild. After we pitched our tent and relaxed, we decided to explore the 2 miles of trails that were well-marked and easy to navigate.
To the east we checked out the lighthouse and Visitor’s Center which had a lot of cool information about the island’s history, its lighthouse and its wildlife. From a lookout point we took in the incredible view: a lighthouse on top of stunning cliffs jutting into the water. It was like a “Cape Cod meets Lost” portrait.
Heading west, the trails made their way through open fields to the cliff’s edge with views of the Middle and West islands. As soon as I saw the cliffs in the distance my mouth dropped – it was gorgeous!
A bonus to Anacapa Island camping was watching the sunset! I would highly recommend making your way to the west side to Inspiration Point to watch the sun set behind the islands.
One thing you MUST understand about Anacapa Island camping is there are THOUSANDS of seabirds and you are THEIR guest. If watching Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” scares you, think twice about going! Although the birds won’t harm you, they’ll squawk at you and they’re EVERYWHERE. We visited the first week of May (nesting season!), so tons of Western Gulls were chilling on their nests protecting their eggs. We didn’t mind them and it felt authentic to experience the island along with its natural inhabitants.
There are a total of 7 campsites – first-come, first-served. You can secure a site at Reserve America for just $15.00 per night. Each site has a picnic table, a metal food locker and an open plot of land for your tent. We snagged site number 7 which was the most isolated and had the best Anacapa Island camping view.
When thinking about camping staycations in Southern California, definitely consider Anacapa Island camping! Getting to the island, hiking around awestruck by its gorgeous cliffs, living among the birds and camping in the middle of the Pacific Ocean were just a few of the highlights. What I loved most was Anacapa Island camping offered a rustic and remote 36-hour “digital detox.” I gladly turned off my phone and Anacapa provides an adventurous place to connect with nature, yourself and people you care about. And what’s even better is it was pretty cheap! We spent about $150 per person for two of us for the entire weekend – transportation, campsite and food – a cheap price tag for a memorable excursion practically in our own backyard!