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Awareness Magazine
5753-G Santa Ana Canyon Rd. #582
Anaheim, CA 92807
(714) 283-3385
(800) 758-3223
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Escape to Catalina Island

By Ann Nelson

My friend Pat had been working on a frustrating neighborhood project that seemed to be going nowhere and it was time for her to take a well-deserved break. I suggested we take a trip to one of my favorite places: a quiet, little magical place called Catalina Island.

This quaint island destination, twenty-two miles off the coast of Los Angeles, is a perfect retreat for eco-tourists, historians and ocean-water lovers. Catalina, rugged and serene, is a true refuge from the city and a perfect place to unwind and rejuvenate your soul. Sometimes you see the island and sometimes she is hidden in fog, adding to the allure of a place so near and yet so far. Naturalists describe Catalina as “Southern California about 200 years ago.”

We departed on the Catalina Express from Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles. Once onboard the catamaran, the mainland drifted into the background. Porpoises swam beside the boat, sea lions sunned on buoys. Our thoughts turned to the peaceful days that lay ahead of us.

An hour after departing from Long Beach, the ferry boat draws close to the southeastern tip of Catalina and we see the postcard cove of Avalon Bay dotted with sails and the town’s cottage dwellings hugging the hillsides of the bay.

After the ferry pulled up to the dock, we grabbed our bags and walked a short distance to our condo on Pebbly Beach Road. Pat and I wanted to spend two nights in town and one night at the secluded enclave of Hamilton Cove. We worked with Catalina Island Vacation Rentals to find the perfect places to stay. The in-town condo was within walking distance to restaurants, shops and art galleries. Our condo at Hamilton Cove was located in a secluded hill-top area that drops down into the ocean and has magnificent views.

Soon after arriving, we unpacked our bags and headed out to the zip-line. The thrill of zip-ling was not new to me, but it was to Pat. I watched as her sense of terror turned into sheer delight after completing the first two lines. The zip-line tour consists of five separate lines that start high in the hills above Avalon and descend through Descanso Canyon. We traveled 300 feet above the canyon floor at speeds close to 45 miles an hour!

After an exhilarating day, it was easy to find a great restaurant. There are dozens to choose from, but a few standouts include Ristorante Villa Portofino and Steve’s Steakhouse Bar & Grill. Both have bay views and gourmet food. After dinner we walked along the bay side while breathing in the salty air and looking up at the twinkling lights of the houses on the hill. We sat out on our deck at our condo and felt engulfed in the quiet magic of Catalina. It was good to be here.

Catalina has been a Southern California playground for more than 100 years. Chewing gum magnate, William Wrigley, Jr., who made his fortune peddling Spearmint and Juicy Fruit chewing gum, fell in love with Catalina and bought the entire island in 1919. The island spans about 76 square-miles and 86 percent is now protected by the Catalina Island Conservancy.

To get a true sense of what Catalina Island is all about, it is a must to explore the unspoiled backcountry. The only way to visit the island’s interior is to hike, take a shuttle bus or join a motor tour. We decided to hire Catalina Transportation Services to show us around.

Our tour guide, Rene, not only brought along champagne for the trip, but entertained us with fascinating stories as we explored the jagged cliffs, isolated beaches, and miles of rugged wilderness. Since he grew up in Catalina he knew every nook and cranny and even showed us an island lake I never knew existed.

Catalina is a delicate and uni-que environment, home to more than 400 native plants and more than 100 species or varieties

of birds. Rattlesnakes, native quail and Channel Island fox are found here. The non-native animals introduced to the island include pig, goat, deer and American Bison, fourteen of which were brought to Catalina in 1924 and used for the filming of “The Vanishing American” in 1925. Today, about 200 buffalo roam the island.

An early morning kayak expedition to Frog Rock was a definite highlight and the perfect way to see what the Indians must have explored years ago. As we paddled in the peaceful waters, porpoises were playing all around us. As a novice kayaker, I felt totally safe with my trusty guide beside me paddling his own kayak. He gave me pointers and filled my head with history lessons about Catalina.

You won’t run out of things to do while visiting the island. Catalina offers activities and attractions for everyone: golfers, kayakers, divers, hikers, shoppers, campers, couples, music lovers and art buffs.

During our weekend stay, we rarely saw anyone talking on a cell phone, or roaring around in an SUV. Very few cars are in sight. In fact, locals must wait more than a decade to have a car on the island and tourists can’t bring one at all. The golf cart is Catalina’s favored mode of transportation. They’re easy to rent and a great way to get around. Even the sheriff runs around in a souped-up golf cart!

Catalina is one of the rare places where you can arrive without a schedule. The only time we needed an alarm clock was to wake up in time to catch the ferry back to the mainland. Departing Catalina was not easy and leaning against the rail of the boat while watching the island fade into the distance was even more difficult. We promised each other we’d be back……..


Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau: Call (310) 510-1520 or visit www.Catalina Chamber.com

Catalina Express: Call (800) 995-4386 or visit www.CatalinaExpress.com

Catalina Island Vacation Rentals: Call (800) 631-5280 or visit www.catalinavacations.com

Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour: Call (800) 626-1496 or visit www.visitcatalinaisland.com

Catalina Island Kayak & Snorkel: Call (310) 510-1226 or visit www.kayakcatalinaisland.com

Catalina Transportation Services (interior tours): Call (310) 510-0342 or visit www.catalinatransportationservices.com

Ann Nelson is a freelance writer residing in San Diego, CA.