Central Coast Archives - Eva Varga

June 3, 2015

The past couple of years, we have enjoyed a week long holiday road trip in the spring. This year, we chose California’s Central Coast via Highway 1.

We departed Anaheim mid-day on Wednesday and headed to Ventura where we began our road trip northward along California Hwy 1. Upon checking into our hotel, the Ventura Beach Marriott, we ventured out to explore the area.

image of young boy playing in the sand on Ventura Beach, CA California State Beaches

Ventura is home to beautiful beaches, a vibrant downtown, and a fun-filled harbor. Here, Island Packers’ crews transport guests via boat to the extraordinary Channel Islands National Park – one of three key destinations on our trip.

Our first stop was San Buenaventura State Beach which consists of a 1,700 feet pier featuring a snack bar, restaurant, and bait shop. People often come to this beach to surf, swim, and picnic. Biking is also done here and there are bike trails that lead to other nearby beaches.

While there, we observed a group of young people playing volleyball, another passing the time idly, as well as several runners and walkers. We eagerly began to explore the beach according to our interests – Patrick sat along the pier and watched for whales, Jeffrey rolled in the sand building an imaginary airstrip, while Geneva and I looked for small invertebrates.

image of two marine invertebrates: By the Wind Sailor (jellyfish) and Pacific Mole Crab Animal Adaptations on the Sandy Shore

We were were rewarded handsomely finding hundreds of Pacific Mole Crabs (Emerita analoga). Belonging to the superfamily, Hippoidea, these decapod crustaceans are adapted to burrowing into sandy beaches. These delightful little sand crabs cannot walk; instead, they use their legs to dig into the sand and beat their uropods to swim.

Geneva and I spent time watching them surf the waves and burrow down into the sand for protection. I shared stories of the investigation I undertook in graduate school one summer looking at whether particle size influenced what beach the larvae settled upon.

We also observed many By-the-wind Sailors (Velella velella).  Velella is a cosmopolitan genus of free-floating hydrozoans (very small, predatory animals) that live on the surface of the open ocean. There is only one known species. The deep blue, by-the-wind sailors that are recognized by many beach-goers are the polyp phase of the life cycle. Each “individual” with its sail is really a hydroid colony, with many polyps that feed on ocean plankton.

Snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus) nesting sites are monitored here and temporary informational/warning signs and fences (or ropes) are erected near nest sites during the breeding season. To help in the recovery of the bird, non-native vegetation that threatens the beach habitat has been removed and beach goers are educated to the sensitive nature of the area.

images of restaurant menu and two menu itemsLocal Dining

After a couple hours on the beach, we began to get hungry.  Craving fish & chips, we sought out a local eatery and chose Spencer Makenzie’s Fish Company. Their signature item is most definitely the Giant Fish Taco and it was delicious! Geneva ordered the Ceviche – also very good but heavy on the vegetables.  The boys each chose traditional fish & chips which were average.

They have communal benches along one side of the building outside as well as shady tables out front. We chose to dine inside, however, and came to regret that decision as the sun was beginning to set and there were no shades or blinds on the window.

Have you been to Ventura Beach? What activities do you enjoy here? Do you have a favorite restaurant?