Called the North American Galápagos, the five of the eight islands of the Channel Islands archipelago that comprise the Channel Islands National Park (Anacapa, San Miguel, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa) lie between 14 and 38 miles off the coast. But they are a different world. Windswept grasslands.Thousand-foot peaks. Steep canyons. Sheer cliffs. Crashing surf. Empty beaches. Dumb-looking marine mammals wallowing on stanky rocks. Peculiar plants. No Starbucks. Life without us. What it was like millennia before we co-opted the first Native Americans. What it will all look like again some day. All a short boat ride from Ventura and Oxnard. And, seriously, bring water. Anything you might need — bring it. It’s just the islands, and you, and the salt-sea tang, and the bored-looking pinnipeds. Island Packers can get you there by boat; locations in Ventura and Oxnard. (805) 642-1393. —Jedd Birkner

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