Group of eight islands in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southwestern California. They lie 16–130 km/10–80 mi offshore and extend over 250 km/155 mi, roughly from Los Angeles to San Diego.
Running northwest to southeast, the main Santa Barbara islands are San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Barbara, Santa Catalina, San Nicolas, and San Clemente. A number of small islands are also included in the group. The islands are separated from the mainland on the north by the Santa Barbara Channel and on the east by the San Pedro Channel and the Gulf of Santa Catalina. Santa Cruz is the largest island; its economy is based on wine-growing, as well as sheep and cattle farming. Santa Catalina, with its thriving tourist industry, is the most developed. Sport fishing is a popular leisure activity here.
Geologically, the islands rise from the continental shelf, and are related to the Coast Range of mountains. Their highest point, on Santa Catalina, is over 600 km/2,000 ft, while troughs between the islands reach depths of 1,830 m/6,000 ft. The five northernmost islands make up the Channel Islands National Park, which covers a total area of 1,000 sq km/386 sq mi and is renowned for its distinctive animal and plant life, such as the island fox, giant yellow coreopsis, and Santa Cruz Island pine. There is also an abundance of sea mammals, including the California grey whale. A major oil spillage in 1969, caused by a leaking undersea well in the Santa Barbara Channel, did extensive damage to the islands' marine life and beaches.