A Taster's Journey is a newsletter on food, wine and travel. After 15 years of studying, tasting, teaching, and selling wine, I created this newsletter to not only share my passion about wine, but of food and travel as well. Each month I hope to share wines that I am drinking, food that is in season, restaurants that I have enjoyed, and places I have traveled. Enjoy!"

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Anacapa Island

November 3rd, 2009

If you stand on the beach in Santa Barbara and look out over the Pacific Ocean, you will notice a series of mountains 10 miles off shore. These are the Channel Islands, an archipelago of 5 volcanic islands that are a National Park. Although only Park Rangers and scientists inhabit the islands, they are a fun place to go for a day trip.

I visited Anacapa Island last Spring. It’s the second largest of the Channel Islands, and the easiest to get to. Anacapa is actually composed of three islets: east, middle and west with east being the largest islet. The most common departure point for Anacapa is Oxnard, a town that is 40 minutes south of Santa Barbara. The boat ride to Anacapa is 12 miles, and takes just under an hour. Although some boat rides are boring, if you like dolphins then this will be the ride of your life. Once the boat leaves the marina dolphins will start appearing by the dozens, and they will escort the boat the entire trip to Anacapa. My favorite part was walking up to the bow of the boat and watching the four dolphins right under the keel.  It looked like the boat would run them over. It was fascinating, almost like a synchronized swimming event, two would swim off and immediately two others would take their place. I could have watched the dolphins for hours, it was hypnotic. We must have seen a hundred of them; it was heaven.

As you approach Anacapa Island you see the lighthouse and Arch Rock, which is a 40 foot high natural bridge. The arch is one of those unique sculptures created by nature; it’s so cool. The lighthouse, which is perched on the highest point of the island, was built in 1932 in a Mission Revival style. It’s famous for being the last free standing lighthouse built on the west coast. 

Arch Rock & Lighthouse

Arch Rock & Lighthouse

The boat docks at Landing Cove, a small inlet on the eastern end of the island. The water was too rough to tie onto the dock so the captain expertly maneuvered the boat back and forth enabling the passengers to jump off. From the dock you climb up a steep metal staircase to the island plateau, which is about 200 feet above sea level, and you are greeted with spectacular coastal views.

Anacapa is long and skinny, only one square mile. Two miles of hiking trails crisscross the island and run along it’s periphery; there are markers along the path identifying all the scenic spots. Due to the lack of rain, the island is brown for most of the year. But the rain during the winter season transforms the island into a burst of color in the Spring. Rows of tree sunflowers line the hiking paths, and their bright yellow flowers are spectacular. Red paintbrush and morning glories are two other native plants that add to the palette of color. If Monet was alive, he would have gone to Anacapa rather than Giverny. So try to plan your trip during the Spring.

If you miss the Spring flowers, don’t fret because the island is filled with other natural beauty. As you head to the western tip of the islet you reach Inspiration Point which has sumptuous views of the Middle and Western Anacapa.

Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point

West Anacapa can only be reached by boat, and is rarely visited. It contains the largest breeding colony of the endangered California Brown Pelican.

Although most people on the boat trip just hike and picnic, you can arrange to kayak or snorkel. The island has many caves to explore, and this is where sea lions and harbor seals congregate. For the hikers there are two great overlooks to see these mammals: Cathedral Cove and Pinniped Point. They are not as cute as the dolphins, but are fun to watch nonetheless.

There is a campground and picnic area located in the center of the island. We met three girls that camped here for 4 days while doing a research project; but I wouldn’t recommend staying over night unless you’re in dire need of extended solitude. The picnic area is perfect however for lunch before returning to the boat.

Anacapa is a great day trip for boaters, hikers, and anyone that enjoys natural beauty. Can you smell the invigorating sea air?

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