Beach gate­way to North Amer­ica’s Galá­pa­gos

Travel Guide to California - - VENTURA - BY JILL K. ROBIN­SON


beach set­ting framed on one side by moun­tains and on the other by the Chan­nel Is­lands, makes vis­i­tors feel as if they’ve stum­bled upon a bit of magic in find­ing this scenic spot along Cal­i­for­nia’s cen­tral coast. It makes per­fect sense, be­cause the orig­i­nal name of this Cal­i­for­nia city, San Bue­naven­tura, la­bels it as a city of good for­tune.

Start your day with your feet in the surf, be­cause Ven­tura’s miles of beaches that stretch from Surfer’s Point to Ven­tura Har­bor hap­pen to be among the city’s star at­trac­tions. Take a long walk, lounge in the sun, or grab a board and en­joy a full aqua im­mer­sion. The south-fac­ing wa­ter­front and breaks along the beaches are es­sen­tial qual­i­ties that lure surfers from far and wide, so you owe it to your­self to ei­ther try it out or set­tle down on the sandy shore to watch a few choice surf ses­sions.

An­other re­minder of how much the Pa­cific Ocean fig­ures into the daily life of Ven­tura can be found at Ven­tura Har­bor Vil­lage. Score an out­door ta­ble over­look­ing the ocean to en­joy a meal of fresh, lo­cal seafood and wine. The har­bor’s ar­cade, carousel and ice cream shop will eas­ily fig­ure into a child’s dream list, and shop­pers will love scour­ing the shops for the per­fect sou­venir.

What’s Cook­ing Down­town

Early Cal­i­for­nia his­tory has a spe­cial place in Ven­tura’s his­toric down­town cul­tural district, which be­gan as Saint Junípero Serra’s fi­nal mis­sion set­tle­ment. Walk through down­town to see Mis­sion San Bue­naven­tura and the his­toric homes, mu­se­ums, an­tique shops and restau­rants along the palm tree-lined streets. With an abun­dance of fam­ily-owned stores, cul­tural arts and thriv­ing music and foodie scenes, the down­town area is an ideal base for vis­i­tors. Take ad­van­tage of the free trol­ley that runs be­tween down­town and Ven­tura Har­bor Vil­lage, stop­ping at ma­jor at­trac­tions and ho­tels.

Beer fans can eas­ily check out what’s on tap at the many lo­cal brew­eries down­town. Brew­ery hop­ping is ideal here, be­cause a handful—anacapa Brew­ing Com­pany, Bar­rel­house 101, Topa Topa Brew­ing Com­pany and Ven­tura Coast Brew­ing Com­pany—are all within walk­ing dis­tance. A short drive away is the Off Mar­ket Street Trail, where you can taste what’s new at Madewest Brew­ing Com­pany, Po­sei­don Brew­ing Com­pany and Surf Brew­ery. A good way to feel as if you de­serve your brews is to start the day with a two-wheel adventure with Cy­cle Cal­i­for­nia Coast, a grand loop of 150 scenic miles (you don’t have to do them all at once!).

Ven­tura’s music scene counts more than 35 venues of­fer­ing live music, along with spe­cial events and fes­ti­vals an­nu­ally.

Chan­nel Is­lands Ad­ven­tures

Op­por­tu­ni­ties for adventure abound at Ven­tura Har­bor Vil­lage—from kayak and stand-up pad­dle board rentals in the har­bor, to whale watch­ing trips, to boat trips to visit Chan­nel Is­lands Na­tional Park and Marine Sanc­tu­ary. This string of five is­lands and its sur­round­ing wa­ters are known as North Amer­ica’s Galá­pa­gos and are home to an abun­dance of wildlife, in­clud­ing whales, dol­phins, foxes and even bald ea­gles. Hike along miles of trails to en­joy the spec­tac­u­lar views of the is­lands’ rugged beauty, or take ad­van­tage of the var­i­ous wa­ter-based ac­tiv­i­ties and snorkel, dive, surf or kayak in is­land sea caves.

Chan­nel Is­lands Na­tional Park is also known as an im­por­tant breed­ing and rest­ing area for a va­ri­ety of seabirds. Back on the main­land, with a var­ied el­e­va­tion from sea level to 8,831 feet at the sum­mit of Mount Pi­nos, the area is rich with bird life. Up to 457 bird species have been recorded in the county, which in­cludes glob­ally im­por­tant bird ar­eas such as Mugu La­goon and Los Padres Na­tional For­est.

VEN­TURA AT DUSK, op­po­site top; re­gatta in Ven­tura, op­po­site bot­tom; Topa Topa Brew­ing Com­pany, right; Ven­tura pier, cen­ter right; Saint Junípero Serra statue in front of Ven­tura City Hall, be­low.

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