to Catalina Island
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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.
is a delicate and uni-que environment, home to more than 400 native
plants and more than 100 species or varieties
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.
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.
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.
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
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……..
Island Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau: Call (310) 510-1520
or visit www.Catalina
Express: Call (800) 995-4386 or visit www.CatalinaExpress.com
Island Vacation Rentals: Call (800) 631-5280 or visit
Zip Line Eco Tour: Call (800) 626-1496 or visit
Island Kayak & Snorkel: Call (310) 510-1226 or visit
Transportation Services (interior tours): Call (310) 510-0342 or
Nelson is a freelance writer residing in San Diego, CA.