Filled with some 2,000 gleaming boats of every shape and size, Channel Islands Harbor, Ventura County’s largest, is also filled with opportunity. There’s year-round sport fishing and, from December through April, almost-daily gray whale-watching excursions. Rent a kayak at Channel Islands Kayak Center and explore the calm harbor; alternatively, grab an oar and a stand-up paddleboard, or putt around in an electric boat from Hopper Boat Rentals, or rent a jet ski from Southern California Jet Skis and Electric Boats. The harbor can serve as a gateway, too—just climb aboard an Island Packers regularly scheduled cruise to Channel Islands National Park. This chain of unspoiled islands, some less than an hour’s boat ride away, is home to plants and animals so unique that their protected habitat has earned the nickname “Galapagos of North America.”
Land-based activities abound. On Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., a farmers' market pops up adjacent to the harbor’s Marine Emporium Landing—a great place to mingle with locals and check out fresh seafood and produce. Head to the harbor mouth and watch the boats come and go, or spread a towel out in the sun at Silver Strand Beach or Hollywood Beach. Don’t miss the Ventura County Maritime Museum: the collection of ship models and maritime art (some from 1622) is exceptional.
Hungry? If it’s morning, have breakfast at Mrs. Olson’s Coffee Hut, a local institution. Enjoy waterfront views at Sea Fresh Channel Islands and The Waterside Restaurant and Wine Bar, or for a twist, enjoy clay-pot cooking, Brazilian style, at Moqueca.