Located 30 minutes south of Santa Barbara and 60
minutes north of Los Angeles, Ventura is a seaside
community with much to offer in the way of outdoor
adventure and local sightseeing.
Offshore are the Channel Islands, which are now
a distinctive national park with an emphasis on marine
life and island ecosystems. In the city are a number of
historic buildings from the early Spanish and Mexican
periods. To the east of town is Los Padres National
Forest, which covers the Coast Mountain Range.
One advantage of using Ventura as a base for travel in
the area is its lower cost for visitors compared to Santa
Barbara and the L.A. area. Motels and hotels are more
basic and inexpensive although the beaches and other
shoreline attractions are just as good as those in Santa
Barbara. There is also a good selection of campgrounds
and RV parks.
What to See & Do
Channel Islands National Park
Lying west of Ventura, five of the eight islands in
the Channel archipelago are included in the national park
and the surrounding National Marine Sanctuary. The
islands were not always as protected as they have been
since 1980 when the park was created by an act of
Before the arrival of Europeans, the Chumash Indians
lived in settlements on the northern islands. Then,
Spanish and English explorers visited the islands and
Russian fur traders hunted the valuable sea
otter&emdash;almost to extinction. By the mid-1800s,
ranches had been established and in the 1900s, the U.S.
Navy used the islands for coastal defense.
Now the five islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa,
San Miguel and Santa Barbara) offer nature lovers a
unique outdoor experience -- hiking across the islands
and exploring the tidepools at low tide. Six nautical
miles of sea surrounding each island have been designated
as the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. While
settlers introduced foreign plant and animal species to
the islands which has caused concern to
environmentalists, there remain many plants which are
unique to the archipelago and offer a unique experience.
Sea life to be seen includes giant squid, blue
rockfish, Gorgonian (soft) coral, bat star and ocre star.
Plants include kelp, sea palms and sea lettuce among many
other tidal varieties of plant and animal life. Larger
animals to be seen on or around the islands include
harbor seal, the gray whale, Pacific (white-sided)
dolphin, California brown pelican, cormorants, northern
elephant seal, northern fur seal and the Steller sea
lion. Plant life covering the rocky islands is similarly
An essential stop before traveling to the islands is
the national park visitor center which is located at the
end of the Ventura Harbor breakwater. Drive south along
Harbor Blvd. and follow the signs past the harbor
facilities to the tip of the spit. The center includes an
information desk, bookstore and island displays including
a fascinating demonstration tidal pool filled with fish,
starfish and other island denizens.
There are several ways to get to the islands of the
national park. The most popular transportation is via
Island Packers ships which depart from docks next to the
park visitor center. Travel packages include cruises to
different islands in the park lasting from a half day to
two days. Overnight cruises include stateroom
accommodations with all meals provided. Winter cruises
(December through March) include whale-watching as a
bonus. For reservations and information, call (805)
642-1393. For recorded information, phone (805) 642-7688.
For those in a hurry, flights to the islands are
Not only is there a working harbor, but the harbor
area has several attractions including Ventura Harbor
Village. This complex of stores, marinas and restaurants
is located on Spinnaker Drive, off Harbor Blvd. You'll
pass it on the drive to the park information center.
Included are 15 restaurants serving everything from fresh
seafood to burgers, Mexican, Greek and French cuisine.
Harbor cruises are available, as are scuba diving
services, fishing charters, a grocery store, clothing
boutiques, souvenir shops, live theater and a comedy
The most notable historic building (among several) is
the Olivas Adobe, the restored 1847 hacienda of Raymundo
Olivas who was a farmer and community leader in the
rancho period. Located at 4200 Olivas Park Drive, this
large two-story structure is now an historical park, with
100-year old fuscias and an even older grape vine. The
house is furnished with original Olivas pieces and other
furniture and oddities of the period including a barrel
piano. Other fine old buildings include the Buenaventura
City Hall. The downtown streets are lined with antique
stores, restaurant, crafts shops and art galleries.
The Ventura Trolley Company operates a daily
trolley-bus service, running to major hotels, the
shopping area and most of the downtown cultural
attractions. The fare is reasonable: ($1.00) and the
trolley runs on an hourly schedule to such places as the
Mission, Ventura County Museum and the Olivas Adobe, in
addition to Ventura Harbor Village where the stopping
place is in front of Andria's Seafood Restaurant.
Mission San Buenaventura
This well-preserved building was the ninth in the
chain of 21 California missions established by the
Spanish Franciscan order and was the last mission to be
founded by Father Junipero Serra. Built in 1782, the
large stone and adobe church with gardens, museum and
gift shop is open daily for tours and is a functioning
Ventura County Museum
of History and Art
At 100 East Main St., the museum features artifacts
from local native history, the Mexican pioneer period and
displays on the growth of agriculture in the region.
There is a research library and the nearby Albinger
Archeological Museum offers added insights into local
Where to Stay -- Hotel
hotel rooms in Ventura
To search hotels, cruises,
and vacation packages around the world,
go to the Hotel
Aside from the hotela, there is a small, comfortable
bed and breakfast inn, La Mer, located at 411/413
Poli Street (805-643-3600) with five rooms and, unlike
many B and Bs, credit cards are accepted.
An excellent place to camp is Lake Casitas
Recreation Area, located northeast of Ventura off
Highway 33. This park not only has camping but offers
boating and swimming. For information, call (805)
McGrath State Beach at Oxnard -- a few miles
south of Ventura -- has a campground (800-444-7275).
Ventura Beach RV Resort is a private RV park in Ventura
at 800 West Main Street, offering full hookups, showers,
supplies and recreational facilities (805-643-9137).