Local Travel : Ventura, California

I took a short road trip from Los Angeles to Ventura, California in February 2022 to visit the Channel Islands National Park. I visited a few museums and other attractions on the way.

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September 22, 2022

I had never been to Channel Islands National Park, and I decided to take the multi-port day trip Island Packers offered in early February 2022.  Unless you own your own boat, a trip to the Channel Islands can be expensive because you need to book transport via boat or, in some cases, air to the islands.  Island Packers provides exclusive and the least expensive transportation to and from the islands.

I began researching a trip to the Channel Islands National Park in December of 2021, and I saw there was a multi-port day trip offered to take you to Santa Cruz Island and Anacapa Island in a single day.  There was also a notice from the National Park Service that Anacapa Island would be closing at the end of February for dock construction, and the closure was expected to last a minimum of ten months. As of this writing, Anacapa Island is still closed.  The multi-port trip was only slightly more costly than a single Island trip, and it’s offered less frequently than single island trips, so I decided to see these two islands in early February. 

I booked my transportation via Island Packers’ Ventura Harbor location, and I decided to turn the drive to Ventura into a miniature road trip.  I needed to check-in for the boat at 8am so it was best for me to drive to Ventura the previous day, a Friday, and stay in a local hotel Friday night.

Point Mugu Missile Park

I left home in Los Angeles around 9am on Friday, Febrary 4, 2022, and I had four stops planned with an additional stop at Mission Basilica San Buenaventura if traffic allowed. My first stop was Point Mugu Missile Park in Port Hueneme.  This is a small public park adjacent to Naval Air Station Point Mugu, and it has a few picnic tables available for use.  Point Mugu Missile Park contains displays of missiles and aircraft tested and used at NAS Point Mugu over the years.  Unfortunately, most of the signage is very faded and cracked rendering them almost impossible to read.  It was very windy this day, but I really enjoyed my quick, fifteen-minute visit.  Unless you take time to eat at one of the tables, there isn’t a reason to stay more than twenty minutes at Point Mugu Missile Park as it is very small, interesting, but small.

Seabee Museum

My next stop was the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum also located in Port Hueneme.  Despite being born and raised in a “Navy town,” I had no clue what Seabees were or what they did.  The museum is free to visit and is located just outside the entrance to Naval Base Ventura County and has its own parking area. There is no admission fee, but donations are appreciated.  I wasn’t prepared for the size of the Seabee Museum, and I could have spent at least another hour there. 

The exhibits are incredibly informative and visually engaging.  The roles of the Seabees are wide-ranging while the core purpose is to prepare locations and construct base camps for the US Navy and US Marines.  The building the Seabee Museum is currently located in was recently built and there is a small exhibit describing the fundraising and they need for a new museum building to be built “outside the fence,” meaning outside of the naval base that resulted in the current building and its location.  It also described their plans for the future of the museum and its building.  There was an area that was under refurbishment at the time of my visit on February 4, 2022.  My only want while I was there was for a gift shop or a place to buy some souvenirs.  I spent an hour at the Seabee Museum, and I really want to return when I can dedicate at least two hours to explore all of the exhibits.

Channel Islands Maritime Museum

I visited the Channel Islands Maritime Museum located in Oxnard.  I paid my admission at the gift shop and was given information to navigate the museum.  The exhibits on the first floor of the museum consists mostly of model ships and paintings of ships.  After looking at ten or so model ships I started to only browse through them only stopping if I saw one that piqued my interest.  There were just too many of the models, and I was becoming bored quite quickly.  I really appreciate the skill and attention to detail it takes to build these large model ships, but I was looking for exhibits on maritime history.  I spent almost thirty minutes on the first floor, but it felt like it had been more than an hour.

I finally made my way up the stairs to the second floor, and this is where I found the exhibits I expected to see in a maritime museum.  Here I saw boating equipment and whale bones, in addition to a few displays on the indigenous people of the area, the Chumash.  There was also a fun bridge set up in a corner of the room.

After exploring the second floor’s exhibits, returned to the first floor to look for something to buy in the gift shop.  The gift shop consisted of the same items you could find at any, and almost every, seaside gift or souvenir store.  There wasn’t anything specific to the Maritime Museum or the locale. I spent over fifty minutes at the Channel Islands Maritime Museum, and I feel that was much too long.  If you are interested in model ships rather than maritime history, then the Channel Islands Maritime Museum is a good place to visit.

Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center

My next stop was the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center, officially named The Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center at Channel Islands National Park, located at the Ventura Harbor only a short quarter mile away from Island Packers.  It’s the last building on the islet making it easy to find.  In an exterior covered patio area in front of the side entrance are models and information for each of the islands that make up Channel Islands National Park.  There’s also an interactive display, Dive Deep, in a stairway which leads to a wrap-around terrace with amazing views.  There is also an elevator to take you to the terrace if you can make it up the stairs. 

Inside the visitor center are some really fund displays and an aquarium.  I bought some souvenirs, and I picked up a couple of trail maps for Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands in preparation for Saturday’s trip.  I also added the Channel Islands stamp to my National Parks Passport book.  I spent around forty-five minutes at the visitor center.  I left around 2:30pm which gave me time to make one more stop at the Mission Basilica San Buenaventura before I head to my hotel for the night.

Mission Basilica San Buenaventura

I wasn’t sure where I could park at Mission Basilica San Buenaventura, so I parked at a public parking lot a few blocks away and walked back to the Mission.  I walked into the Mission’s gift shop to purchase my self-guided tour admission.  There is a small museum room adjacent, and up a small flight of stairs, to the gift shop, and I spent ten minutes looking at the displays there before going through the door to the courtyard to explore more.

The courtyard is a beautiful and peaceful place with some informational plaques and an original olive press.  I also explored the church of the Mission as well before heading to the back and exploring the water cistern and the gravesite located at the rear of the Mission.

The California Missions represent a controversial and complicated part of colonialism, but they are also an important part of my native state’s history.  Many cities have their names because of the missions in those locations and Ventura is one of those cities.  I do plan on visiting each of the California Missions, though I don’t have a timeframe in which to complete them all.

Hotel

I left the Mission to check into my hotel, the Comfort Inn & Suites Ventura Beach for the night.  I was also very hungry by this point as I had only eaten a snack from Starbucks before I began my trip that morning.  The hotel is located very close to the 101 Highway, and my room was a corner room close to the highway and an off-ramp.  I booked a Queen suite, and the room had a hot tub and fireplace in the sitting room area of the room. Despite the proximity to the highway the room was very quiet.  The hotel offered free breakfast included with your stay, but they have no food facilities on-site.  They give you a voucher for a breakfast at the Denny’s a short three-minute walk down the street.

I got dinner at Denny’s before I knew about the breakfast, and I had considered getting dinner at the In N Out or the Subway which are also near the hotel.  I prepped my bags for my island trip the next day, then enjoyed an after-dinner soak in the hot tub with the fireplace on. I watched television for a few hours before heading to bed as I had a full day of hiking ahead of me in the morning. 

Costs:

Point Mugu Missile Park: Free

US Navy Seabee Museum: Free

Channel Islands Maritime Museum: $10

Mission San Buenaventura: $5

Hotel: $148.29

Dinner: $23.00

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