The only island off the coast of California that boasts a full-fledged
town has also hosted spring training for the Chicago Cubs and a movie
set or two. It wasn’t until 1957, however, with the debut of the Four
Preps’ record “Twenty-Six Miles,” that Santa Catalina Island became a
household name and a year-round tourist attraction. Supporting 3,500
full-time residents, Avalon — the main town — bursts its seams with 1
million visitors during the summer months.
Sailors with their own boats can make the 22- to 26-mile journey from
Long Beach and a handful of other seaside communities in an hour or two,
and dock at either Avalon or on the other side of the island at the
less-populated Two Harbors. The majority of visitors, however, climb
aboard one of the ferries from the mainland for about $50 round-trip.
Naive guests try to cram their island experience into a single day,
while others appreciate the scope of the island and its varied
offerings, and make arrangements for overnight stays in one of the
campgrounds, hotels or private rental residences.
Catalina’s natural attractions — turquoise waters, sandy
beaches, rolling hills and clean air — offer vacationers a taste of
Hawaii, minus the distance and expense. Add to all this beauty an
opportunity to sample fine dining, entertainment and adventure, and
you’ll understand why accommodations are often booked 6-to-12 months in
Horseback riding, golfing, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, hiking and
biking fill the days; dancing, karaoke, dining and movies fill the
nights. There are also more daring activities available, such as
parasailing, water-skiing and scuba diving.
Kids will enjoy the large arcade, the beach playground and
miniature-golf course, and kids of all ages will delight in the fun food
choices. Salt-water taffy, fudge and carmel apples are made around the
clock in view of mesmerized visitors. Of course, no visit to the island
would be complete without fish and chips on the historic green pier,
followed by a luscious waffle ice-cream cone at Big Olaf’s.
Most folks choose to navigate the island via rental golf carts
(very few cars are permitted on the island) or bicycles. Regularly
scheduled trolley tours are also available with stops at the Botanical
Gardens, Wrigley Mansion and airport, with a possible glimpse of a wild
boar or buffalo roaming the hills.
For transportation to the island: www.catalinaexpress.com
For information and reservations: www.visitcatalinaisland.com