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Just returned from a week of camping/hiking/kayaking at the Channel Islands. And let me say that any of you living within a reasonable distance of Southern California need to check out this truly unique ecosystem!
It's remarkable the amount of variety each of the Islands bring, and I'm already plotting another trip where I can see a couple of the others that I missed this time around.
I'll give you my quick assessment of the places:
(1) Santa Cruz -- Easily accessible from the Island (1 hr boat ride each way). It's *extremely* rare (so I'm told) that weather interferes with that route. Island Packers (http://www.islandpackers.com) run about 3 boats daily two and from. If you want to kayak the sea caves, this is the place to go -- day trips and multi-day trips available. Good potable water source around the campground, and pit toilets conveniently located near the main landing (Scorpion's).
Of course, the frequent boat trips to and fro mean potentially large numbers (the area around Scorpion's). Island Packers only limits the weight of cargo (45lbs), not the # of cargo pieces you can bring. I asked the boat driver what the weirdest thing he's seen brought in, and he said a karaoke machine! Given the fact that it's a flat 1/2 mile walk to the campground from the pier, Scorpion's is definitely the preferred destination for the car-camper type!!
To get away from those crowds, the easiest thing would be to hike the 12 or so miles to Del Norte campsite. The fact that there is no water supply at Del Norte means you'll have to pack your own in....but it's also is enough to keep the car camper far away! [See the Channel Islands website above and look under 'backcountry camping']. The Park Ranger told me Del Norte gets very little usage due to the fact that it's not easily accessible and because there's no fresh water supply.
The advantage of being near Scorpion's is that you have access to the kayaking outfitters. And if you like kayaking, I highly recommend this. It's one of top kayak destinations in the world.
(2) Anacapa -- closest to the shore (50 min. boat ride). Very small island. Limited hiking. No fresh water source. Great island for kayaking caves an wildlife.
(3) Santa Rosa -- one island past Santa Cruz (going westward). More remote (3 hour boat ride), and boat run much less frequently (sometimes only once or twice a week). The only other Channel Island that has potable water. The campground area is flat and desolate, so expect some wind.
(4) San Miguel -- the farthest Island east from Ventura Harbor. VERY remote. Some say no more than 200-250 people (mostly nature photographers) visit there a year, and very few camp. So if you want peace and solitude, this is your Island. Only with that comes: (a) no fresh water source; (b) 3hr boat ride (each way); (c) beach landing; and (d) the highest winds of any of the Islands. In fact, the campsites have windbreaks, which help....but if you've been in and around 40 knot winds, you know that even a windbreak won't keep it all out. So make sure you have plenty of rope to secure your tent. The rangers strongly suggest tents be tied to the windbreak!
(5) Santa Barbara -- longest boat ride of the bunch (4 hours); no fresh water source; southern-most of the Channel Islands national parks.
Weather -- Santa Barabara is famous for its fog, so don't be surprised if you can't see the mainland from any of the islands. So expect some humidity. We ran a simple clothes line one night to dry out our synthetics, and a couple of the thicker ones weren't even completely dry by morning. There's less fog in the winter months, but of course that brings additional challenges if you want to kayak.
The Islands have a variety of micro climates; for example, the Western side of Santa Cruz (that you can't visit because it's run by the Nature Conservatory) gets quite a bit of rain, while the Eastern half doesn't get much at all. The ocean keeps it from ever getting really cold, and I suspect you could probably get by just fine with a nice summer (40 degree) bag. I used a 50-degree fleece liner/bag, and I was just fine. The biggest thing you have to prepare for (on average) is wind, especially on San Miguel.
That's about it.
There are a host of outdoor adventures to be had on the Channel Islands, and I'm surprised how many people I know who have lived their whole lives within an hour of Ventura/Santa Barbara that have never even done as much as a day trip to the Islands.
Additional links with helpful info: