Jun 11, 2018

Catalina Island - Island of Romance

I was surprised my children were not familiar with the song “26 Miles” by the Four Preps. Twenty-six miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a-waitin' for me, Santa Catalina, the island of romance…

John and I have been to Catalina twice and there is more than romance – there is fun, adventure, and relaxation. 
The easiest and least expensive way to get to Catalina is by ferry from San Pedro, Long Beach, Newport Beach or Dana Point. It takes a bit more than an hour. We could have taken a helicopter from Long Beach, San Pedro, Burbank, or John Wayne Airport.  Carnival cruise line also stops on
some cruises. Avalon, the island’s main town, is small so everything is in easy walking distance. The public bus has a fixed route up the canyon to Wrigley Memorial and the Botanical Gardens. People can rent a golf cart or bike, and there is a sightseeing tour in a motor coach, which is what we did, and a shuttle bus service or taxi van service to the Airport in the Sky, Two Harbors, or the interior campground. 

The island has been inhabited for at least 8000 years. During that time is was home to Native Americans, and visited by the Spanish who named the island in honor of St. Catherine. More recently, until 1970, it was owned by William Wrigley, Jr. of chewing gum fame and owner of the Chicago Cubs. Wrigley developed it into a resort island and it was used as the Chicago Cubs spring training site for several years. Visitors can learn more at the Catalina Island Museum.

The Casino is the iconic landmark in Avalon Bay.  You can’t miss
it.  If you plan to gamble you will be disappointed because it isn’t that kind of casino.  The name comes from the Italian meaning a “gathering place.” The large building contains a movie theater, ballroom, and more. We took the 90-minute walking tour and saw where the big bands played to the enjoyment of their famous guests.

On our recent trip our son and his wife went scuba diving in the kelp fields and declared, “It was awesome!” On our first trip John and I took the Sea Wolf Semi-Submersible Vessel and saw the marine life through our own porthole five feet below the surface. There are a variety of
boat tours to see the dolphins, seals, and glass bottom boats to view the fish. We also took the Avalon Scenic Tour of the town including the home of Norma Jean Baker, better known as Marilyn Monroe. There is also a Hummer of the Avalon Canyon Trail Tour or the one to Mr. Ada for great views of the area. For the adventurous there is zip lining, rock climbing, and/or the unique Aerial Adventure where you can swing and slide from tree to tree.

Don’t miss viewing the buffalo herd. While filming “The Vanishing American” in 1924, the production crew imported 14 bison from the Great Plains.  They never left the island and over the years the herd has increased. 

The island has changed little in the last 50 years… they like it that
way and so do the tourist.  There is a 20-year waiting list to buy/own a car. The fun continues with swimming, stand-up board paddling, kayaking, relaxing with a spa treatment, and golfing. There are a variety of accommodations. To avoid the crowds and take advantage of great values consider visiting in the spring or fall.