Marine Gardens at PrisonersExperience the marine environment, sea lions, whales, bald eagles!
Group Discounts6-11 ppl 5% | 12-19 ppl 10% | 20+ ppl 15%
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- What to Expect
- * Ferry
- Santa Cruz Island
Wildlife Sea Kayaking
After we land at the beach at Prisoners and gear up for a sea kayaking adventure, we’ll paddle towards the West and explore the intertidal zones of the “Marine Gardens” on our way to the Pinacle Archway, the gateway into an emerald green bay where seals and sea lions are sunbathing on rocks. We’ll paddle out to Pelican’s Harbor where the remains of the historic island bed and breakfast are still evident. On the way back we’ll stop by Tinkers cove, where they filmed the mid century Peter Pan film.
The Marine Gardens area is home to several nesting Bald Eagle pairs and you are very likely to get a view of one of the rarest native birds on the islands.
Exploring the WetlandsAfter the kayaking tour you will enjoy a nice lunch that we provide you with and you’ll have some time to walk around the estuary at the edge of the Canada Del Puerto and perhaps up to the Prisoner’s Harbor Lookout, where the old sheep ranchers stayed to watch for inbound trading ships.We have storage boxes for you to use while you are paddling.
Cameras and Pictures
Each CIO guide carries a waterproof point-and-shoot camera on each tour. They are guides first, keeping you comfortable and out of danger… and photographers if all else is going smooth. We encourage you to bring your own cameras. They must be waterproof, we do not supply dry bags for this purpose (mice eat our dry bags and make them semi-damp bags), and plastic ziplocks kill marine wildlife. If they are not waterproof, you can keep them in our lock boxes while you paddle. Back to our photos; we post them to Facebook. We are an Island Outfitter, moving equipment and people is priority one, memory cards a distant second. This can take up to 1 week after your tour to be posted, please exercise patience, we appreciate it very much.
Ferry tickets must be purchased in addition to this adventure.
Island Packer Tickets to Santa Cruz Island – Prisoners Harbor
Round Trip Day Tickets: $64/adult | $74/under 12
($5 discount for senior/military)
The Channel Islands are the least visited National Park due the Park Service’s management plan to reduce human impact. Since only a limited number of people can travel each day, we suggest you plan several months in advance. Santa Cruz Island is 20 miles from Ventura. With modern high-speed, hydrofoil assisted catamarans, the journey across takes 60-75 minutes…. depending on the marine wildlife sightings! Almost all of our island adventures depart from Ventura Harbor, but please look for the departure location in the Adventure Details or ask an Outfitting Specialist by phone.
Ferry’s are operated by Island Packers, which is not part of CIO. Each visit to the Channel Islands is unique, which is why we keep ferry tickets separate. This allows you to choose your own itinerary. Island Packers is the ferry company that takes us to East Santa Cruz Island. You can purchase tickets through CIO, or you can contact Island Packers and reserve with them. If you have already purchased your own ferry tickets to Scorpion Ranch, simply let us know in the comments box upon check out.
Check Availability (only book here if you are going to add an adventure) Check Ferry Availability
Your adventure starts in the Ventura Harbor at the Island Packers ferry. Parking is FREE. When you arrive in the parking lot, park closest to the road that you drove in on and make sure you’re within the yellow lines. Eat light and get a good night of rest. Here are some of our Ventura recommendations.
Camping in the area
We do not recommend camping the night prior to your departure. The camping areas are not very close and you will have to get up really early to take down camp. If you have an RV or motorhome, this might be a bit easier. Here are the camping areas from closest to furthest.
- McGrath State Beach
- Carpinteria State Beach
- El Capitan State Beach
- Refugio State Beach
- Holiday Inn Express Ventura Harbor
- Four Points Sheraton Ventura Harbor
- Ventura Beach Marriott
- Comfort Inn Ventura Beach
- Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach
- Brophy Bros Restaurant Ventura Harbor– Lunch and Dinner – Harbor-side Dining and Cocktails
- Boatyard Cafe – Serving Breakfast and Coffee
- Surf Brewery – Local craft beers
- Spencer Makenzies’ Fish Tacos – Lunch and Dinner beer and wine
- Water (reusable water bottles preferred)
- Bathing suit (you will wear this under the wetsuit). It is best to have on under clothing upon arrival.
- Warm clothing (for the ferry ride in the morning)
- Water shoes that cover the whole foot or that have a heel strap (these are included if you don’t have your own)
- Hat or Visor
- Synthetic layer for extra warmth such as rash-guard, polypro top or other synthetic top
- Sunscreen/Lip Balm
- Sunglasses w/ safety strap (example: Chums or Croakies)
- Waterproof camera or dry case for camera
- Personal medication
- Waterproof Headlamp/s (optional, just for fun!)
- Hiking Boots if you plan to walk around the island
Lodging in the Ventura Harbor Area
(Listed by closest to Island Packers in Ventura Harbor)
Food and Beverages
Santa Barbara Area
If you are traveling from the Santa Barbara area, please depart 1.5 hours prior to the departure time on your itinerary. We ask that you arrive 45 minutes prior so that we can check you in and board the ferry for a prompt departure. The driving time from Santa Barbara to Ventura harbor is 30-40 minutes. Traffic is unusual but check upon waking to make sure you don’t get stuck in a jam!
Suggested Packing List for Day Adventures
If you have other questions or need assistance in finding something in the area, you can call us anytime. Your guide will also be able to help you with local favorites as well.
Healthy, Delicious Lunch and Savory Snack– Provided on all adventures
We have partnered with Channel Islands Provisioners to offer you a healthy, locally sourced, and organic sandwich or salad and savory snack on all adventures. Food is prepared on the mainland prior to your departure so we do need an order at least 24 hours prior to departure.
*We use organic ingredients everywhere possible. All ingredients are locally sourced, meaning they are grown or created in the greater Santa Barbara area. We package all food in biodegradable wrapping or reusable containers.
Included Food Options (select one)Select FREE lunch options in “lunch” drop down at check-out.
Cueva Chicken Sandwich or Salad: herb marinated char broiled organic chicken breast, apple slaw with cilantro-yogurt dressing, sharp cheddar cheese, baguette or organic mixed greens tossed with extra virgin olive oil [salad is GF]
Orizaba Italian Sandwich or Salad:dry italian salami, mortadella, smoked ham, provisioner’s giardiniera, dijon aioli, provolone, mozzarella, baguette or organic mixed greens tossed with extra virgin olive oil [contains tree nuts, salad is GF}
Kale Salad: spiced white bean and dried tomato spread, char broiled eggplant, seasonal greens with lemon and EVO, heirloom carrots, Persian cucumbers, kale tossed in extra virgin olive oil [vegan, GF]
Pesto Roasted Sweet Potato Sandwich: goat cheese, basil pesto, pickle red onion, baguette [vegetarian]
Savory Snack: Organic plantain chips and corn nuts
Please bring your own reusable water bottle (fill up is FREE on the ferry and at the island)
Lunch Upgrade + $12/personIf you select an UPGRADE option an additional charge will be applied to the credit card on file. Do not select one of these options if you want a FREE lunch
Roasted Turkey on Flatbread: spice-rubbed turkey, tomato-onion chutney, arugula, muenster, flat bread
Seafood Salad Sandwich: conserved local catch, capers, cured olives, spinach, smoked paprika aioli, ciabatta [lactose free]
Ham ‘Sandy’: “nueske’s applewood smoked ham, hardboiled egg, house mustard, bread & butter pickle, manchego, baguette
Roasted Chix Wrap: chipotle roasted chicken, roasted corn, black beans, cherry tomato, romaine, cilantro-lime dressing, whole wheat wrap [lactose free]
Meatball Banh Mi: ham pate’, cucumber, jalepeno, daikon pickle, carrot, napa cabbage, chili aioli, baguette [lactose free, contains pork]
Chopped Salad: salami, roast turkey, provolone, chick peas, cherry tomatoes, olives, cucumber, red onoin, celery, radish, sweet peppers, romaine, lemon, olive oil [gluten free]
Grilled Chix Salad: jidori chicken breast, roasted heirloom carrots & beets, kale, quinoa, golden raisin, honey-sriracha vinaigrette [lactose free, gluten free]
Rice Noodle Salad: w/ marinated tofu, shitake mushroom, napa cabbage, daikon, carrot, cilantro, mint, peanuts, chili-lime dressing [veg, vegan, lactose free, gluten free, contains peanuts]
Included in Upgrade Provisioner’s trail mix w/ ginger [veg, vegan, lactose free, gluten free, contains nuts], fresh whole fruit, savory snack, water bottle with chilled filtered water supplied. Packaged in lunch bag in reusable containers and cloth napkins.
Dockside Breakfast OptionsEnjoy the convenience of breakfast being delivered to you at check-in. Each item is priced individually, coffee and tea is available on the ferry. Select this as an option during check-out.
Yogurt and Fruit – $11 Market berries and fresh seasonal fruit, nuts, seeds, greek yogurt, san marcos farms honey [veg]
Fruit and Granola – $11 Provisioner’s granola with organic seasonal fruit, nuts, seeds, dried fruit [veg, lactose free, gluten free]
Veggie B-fast Bun – $11 Warm breakfast bun with pastry, eggs, mushrooms, spinach, and mozzarella [veg]
Ham B-fast Bun – $11 Warm breakfast bun with pastry, eggs, ham, spinach, and mozzarella
B-fast Burrito – $13 free range eggs, yukon gold potatoes, applewood bacon, fire roasted poblanos, queso fresco, roasted tomato salsa
Salmon “Sandy” – $17.50 “pastrami” cured salmon, Drake family farms goat cheese spread, capers, shaved red onion, arugula, ciabatta bun
Sweet Treats – $8/each
Cookies Assortment: chocolate chip w/ walnuts, snickerdoodles, oatmeal molasses raisin [contains tree nuts]
Double Fudge Brownie: w/ walnuts [contains tree nuts]
Black Rice Coconut Puddling: w/ seasonal fruit [veg, vegan, lactose free, gluten free]
History of Santa Cruz Island | Channel Islands National Park
Santa Cruz Island is the largest of the eight Channel Islands off California with just over 68,000 acres of terrain and more than 70 miles of undeveloped coastline. In addition to its immense size, Santa Cruz Island is almost completely undeveloped despite sitting less than 100 miles from one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States. The island is a refuge for wilderness lovers that visit the island year-round to enjoy hiking, camping, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, or simply as a place of solitude. While the island can become busy on weekends or during the summer months, the remote nature of simply being an island allows visitors to bask in a wilderness experience that is hard to find, even at other national parks.
Additionally, Santa Cruz Island and the other Channel Islands are a refuge not only for nature lovers, but for plant and animal species as well. Santa Cruz Island hosts numerous endemic species that are either endemic to the Channel Islands National Park or to Santa Cruz Island itself including the Santa Cruz Island Fox, Island Scrub Jay, Channel Islands Spotted Skunk, Santa Cruz Island Silver Lotus, and Santa Cruz Island Live-Forever.
As well as boasting vast richness of natural resources, Santa Cruz Island hosts an intriguing array of cultural resources and historical timeline. The island is a central piece of Chumash history, with stories such as the “Rainbow Bridge” speaking of the island’s importance in the origin of the Chumash people. By the 1880’s, Santa Cruz Island had become a thriving agrarian location with vineyards, olive orchards and sheep ranching dotting island’s hillsides. At one point in its history, Santa Cruz Island boasted just over 300 acres of vineyard – one of the largest vineyards in the United States at that time.
Today, the island is shared by a pair of organizations dedicated to preserving the island’s rich resources. While The Nature Conservancy owns and manages 76% of the island, the remaining 24% of Santa Cruz Island is available to the public and managed by the National Park Service to provide enjoyment, education and inspiration for this and future generations of visitors to Channel Islands National Park.