Santa Barbara Island

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Santa Barbara Island is a little oasis of land in the middle of the sea. This is an important breeding ground for nesting birds and a stop-over for all types of marine wildlife.

This island is the smallest of the eight Channel Islands: only one square mile. It's the southernmost island in Channel Islands National Park (find it on the map). The island is 55 miles from Ventura County and the island trip takes 2.5 to 3 hours.

Santa Barbara Island is a volcanic cliff island, like Anacapa. There are no beaches here. Access to both the island and water is limited to the Landing Cove.

The island's cliffs offer perfect nesting habitat for one of the world's largest breeding colonies of Xantus's murrelets, a rare sea bird.

Thousands of western gulls nest here every year. Sometimes within inches of the trail. Fourteen different land birds nest here annually. Three of these birds, the horned lark, orange-crowned warbler, and house finch, are found nowhere else in the world.


To go ashore, visitors climb a ladder up from the boat onto a dock. And from the dock, up a steep trail 1/2 miles to the top of the island. So you must be in fairly good shape to go ashore.

Santa Barbara Island has just over 5 miles of trails that wander over gentle slopes. You don't need a permit to land or hike on this island. Hiking destinations include:

  • Arch Point with a beautiful wildflower display from spring through fall.
  • Elephant Seal Cove, Webster Point, and Sea Lion Rookery provide magnificent coastal views and overlook multitudes of barking seals and sea lions.
  • Signal Peak is a strenuous hike to the highest point on the island.

Here's a hiking guide and map of the island. There is no potable water and no shade on the island. Be sure to bring your lunch, plenty of water (enough for 4 hours), some sunscreen and a hat!

Water Sports

WARNING: A news report dated 6/30/2010 states great white sharks have been seen around Santa Barbara Island feeding on sea lions. While there have been no attacks on humans, enter the water at your own risk until further notice!

This being the most southern island, these waters are some of the warmest and clearest in Channel Islands National Park. Santa Barbara Island is a great destination for kayaking and snorkeling.

If you want to play in the water, it's best to hire an expert guide. Island Packers does not provide this service. Contact one of Santa Barbara's water sport tour guides and they'll be happy to help you.

Snorkeling in the Landing Cove, visitors can see bright star fish, spiny sea urchins, and brilliant orange garibaldi fish. Playful and curious California sea lions and harbor seals frequent the Landing Cove waters and the surrounding rocky ledges.

Wilderness Camping

AFTER making your transportation arrangements, you may reserve your campsite. It costs $15 per night to camp in the National Park. There are 10 campsites available on this island and the minimum camping stay is 3 days (Friday - Sunday).

The Santa Barbara campground is at the top of the steep half-mile trail above the Landing Dock. The campsites are on an exposed coastal bluff without shade.

Be prepared for adverse conditions. The weather can be hot and sunny or foggy and damp. Campers should bring supplies for an extra day, in case ocean conditions prevent boats from picking you up.

Trips to Santa Barbara are only available from April through November. There are very few scheduled day trips. Most visitors to this remote island plan to camp over the weekend.

Check the Island Packers schedule and boat fares to begin planning your trip. After arranging your transportation, if you want to camp, reserve your campsite. And, have fun!

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Anacapa Island | Santa Cruz Island | Santa Rosa Island | San Miguel Island | Santa Barbara Island

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