Every year, Toad employees (aka 'The Toads') get together to celebrate hard work and get away from our desks at an annual campout. This August, we headed to Channel Islands National Park's Santa Cruz Island, 22 miles off the coast of Santa Barbara – home to Toad HQ.
In just under 35 hours, we packed a ton in – from kayaking to trail restoration to snorkeling – and think we've come up with an itinerary worth sharing. So if you ever find yourself headed to Santa Cruz Island, we've got your back.
35 Hours on Santa Cruz Island
8:30 AM: Head to Island Packers Ventura Harbor with all the gear you'll need in a backpacking backpack (don't forget a headlamp and your reusable cup!). Grab a breakfast burrito on the way – you're going to want a full stomach for the ferry.
9:30 AM: Ferry departs for Santa Cruz Island. Hot tip: Head to the top for the best views – you may even see some wildlife along the way (we got extra lucky with a rare blue whale sighting).
10:30 AM: You've made it to the island! Grab your gear off the ferry and walk it up to your campsite. Pick your perfect tent spot and stake your claim. Set your tent up, and then help a friend (in a group like ours, plenty of hands to go around). Newbies to the islands beware: The island fox (found nowhere else on Earth) may be adorable, but it'll go for your snacks in an instant. Make sure to use the island provided fox boxes to lock up your goods!
11:30 AM: With camp all set up, time to kick back. Grab a beer (we brought over plenty from our friends at Topa Topa Brewing), turn on some tunes and have some lunch. Our tip: Pack a cooler with sandwiches from the mainland for an easy option.
12:30 PM: Time for guided sea cave kayaking – a can't miss activity out at the islands. Not only will you get to explore beautiful sea caves, but you'll also learn a ton of interesting facts about the island. A 10/10 activity. Toad tip: Make sure you bring your drink cooler down to the beach before you paddle out. We guarantee you're going to want it when you get back to the beach. See next step...
3:00 PM: Your arms are probably pretty tired from all that kayaking. Luckily, you thought ahead and your cooler is waiting for you as soon as you get back to shore. Give yourself a few hours to hang on the beach, snorkel if you brought your gear (not for the faint of heart – the kelp forests are beautiful but thick), and catch the last of the day before dinnertime.
6:00 PM: Back to camp for dinner and some quality time. Our advice? You can never go wrong with a burrito bar. Best paired with some homemade margs (our CEO's secret recipe always hits the spot).
7:30 PM: Grab your cocktail cup, a headlamp and your hiking shoes – it's time for a night hike. There are plenty of paths that will get you up to some epic sunset views, so we don't recommend skipping this step.
8:30 PM: Snacks, tunes, and some time to hang before turning in for the night. If you've been hitting those margs, don't forget to hydrate too (yes, that means water). Make sure to take some time to admire the stars before you hit the hay.
8:00 AM: First, coffee and some breakfast. You've got another jam-packed day ahead, so make sure to fuel up. Then, time to pack up camp.
10:30 AM: Take a guided hike with a National Parks Service naturalist. We learned a ton about the history of the islands and the nature that makes it so unique.
12:00 PM: Eat your sack lunch on the trail and soak in the amazing views during the daylight.
12:30 PM: If you're like us, you try to leave each place we visit a little better than you found it. We opted for a team volunteer activity next – there are plenty of them on the islands, and for us, it included moving mulch and pulling invasive plants. This part of the trip is super rewarding and a feel-good cherry on top of an already awesome experience.
2:00 PM: With just a couple hours left before lining up for the ferry home, you'll probably be ready to hit the beach one last time. At this point, we were exhausted but fulfilled...and already talking about next year's trip.
4:00 PM: Ferry departs for home. One last chance for marine life spotting (we boated alongside a pod of playful dolphins) and reflecting on an amazing adventure.