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Adventures on the California Coast (Part 2)

Off-radar to many Canadians, California’s Central Coast is rife with opportunities for adventure. White-sand beaches with overhead waves. Lush forests crisscrossed with serene trails. A dusty island chain with more sea caves than anywhere else on Earth. It’s all here, and more.

Running north to south, here is part two of your guide to an adventurous road trip along California’s Central Coast: 

Balloons & Gliders in Buellton

Fully appreciating the Santa Ynez Valley’s unique east-west running topography—as well as its expansive vineyards and dramatic coastline—is best done from a bird’s eye view. Enter Buellton-based tour operators Santa Barbara Soaring (sbsoaring.com) and Sky’s the Limit Ballooning Adventures (santabarbaraballoonrides.com). The former pairs FAA-certified glider pilots with adventurous types who wish to silently soar above the valley in a motor-less airplane. The latter is a more social affair; FAA-certified pilots take romantic folks on a slow-speed airship tour above vineyards and maybe even Neverland Ranch. 

California’s Lost Islands (Pictured)

It seems unlikely that one of America’s least-visited national parks could also be located within 100 kilometres of 18 million people. But Channel Islands National Park, accessed via ferry from Ventura Harbor, is exactly that. Most travellers visit the park to kayak into the world’s largest collection of sea caves, although the hiking and camping on this chain of eight volcanic landmasses is just as good. For an exciting day-trip, book the Caves and Coves Tour with Channel Islands Outfitters and paddle through sea caves, over kelp beds and below ragged cliffs. Bonus—watch for dolphins, sunfish and even blue whales on the ferry ride to-and-from the park. channelislandso.com

Oxnard’s Urban Paddling

Rent a stand-up paddleboard at Marine Emporium Landing in Oxnard and paddle past mega-yachts, scenic waterfront and the occasional sunbathing sea lion on a SUP-tour of Channel Islands Harbor’s working waterways. The labyrinth of canals provides a half-day-worth of paddling opportunities. And for insider info on other paddle- or surf-spots, just chat with Channel Islands Kayak Center owner Mike Lamm; a talkative fellow, he’ll happily let you in on nearby locales off-radar to most tourists. cikayak.com