Santa Catalina Island : The Perfect Summer Vacation Destination
As the salty sea breeze blows through your hair, you gaze across the vast blue of the Pacific Ocean. Birds gracefully skim over the waves, and schools of dolphins play alongside the large catamaran you are travelling on. Suddenly, you spot a small smudge of land against the horizon. It gradually grows larger, as giant cliffs and hills loom into sight. The ferry approaches a harbor with boats of many shapes and sizes anchored. The water is the clearest blue you have ever seen, with vibrant fish visible just below the surface. A picturesque island town is nestled in a valley beyond the harbor. Edged by tall palm trees, the beach’s bright sand glares against the hot sun. Small, vividly colored houses are sprawled along the coast and up into the hills, where they are joined by expansive houses with grand terraces. You have finally reached your perfect summer destination: Santa Catalina Island.
How to Get to Catalina Island
Located off the Southern California coast, Catalina Island is just over 20 miles, or 35 kilometers, southwest of Los Angeles. The easiest way to get to Catalina Island is by ferry. Several different boat companies have scheduled service to the island with departures from mainland communities such as Long Beach, Newport Beach, and Marina Del Rey, which is right by LAX. The ferries are large catamarans that make for a smooth ride, with fully-equipped washroom facilities as well as snacks, drinks, and alcoholic beverages available. The trip takes only about one hour, or you can go the route of luxury and book a helicopter ride over, which takes about 15 minutes.
Where to Stay on Catalina Island
Catalina Island has one main town called Avalon, which is a permanent civilian settlement. The town is only one square mile in size, but offers many different types of accommodations. There are campgrounds, beachfront hotels, bed and breakfasts, condos, and cottage rentals. For the luxurious traveler, the Inn on Mount Ada is the ideal place to stay. Located on a hill overlooking Avalon, the inn has breathtaking views of the town, harbor, and ocean, and was originally built for the Wrigley family in 1921. If you can’t afford the steep prices to stay overnight, you can still visit the house and enjoy the view on the grand terrace for lunch.
What to Do on Catalina Island
For such a small town, Avalon itself boasts a wide variety of activities for children, families, adults, and couples, and all within walking distance. If you’re interested in water activities, you can spend a day at the beach. One beach is located right in front of the boardwalk and main harbor, and a larger one is less than a mile down the coast and offers washrooms, showers, and a beachfront restaurant and bar. For the more adventurous, there is snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, kayaking, glass-bottom boat tours, and even parasailing.
The main boardwalk has many stores for shopping, including souvenir shops, galleries, and even fortune tellers. There are numerous restaurants offering an array of food, and seafood lovers can find fresh local fish. The boardwalk also has a few bars, including a fun karaoke bar that can get pretty wild on Friday nights. One spot you should definitely check out is the Casino. This one isn’t for gambling though, it is an Art Deco dance hall built in 1929 to encourage tourism. This 12-storey circular structure is surrounded by the ocean on three sides, and has a movie theatre, museum, ballroom, and spectacular views from the balcony.
If you would rather explore Catalina Island, you can visit the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens, or play golf at Catalina Island’s golf course. You can also go hiking or biking into the interior of the island, but because it is protected by the Catalina Island Conservancy, you will need to acquire a permit. There are also many bus tours offered that will take you throughout Catalina Island by bus so you can explore the island’s beautiful scenery and wildlife. If you are more of the “do-it-yourself” type, you can rent a golf cart and go sight-seeing on your own. There are very few vehicles on the island, and the main method of transportation for permanent residents is the golf cart. With your own golf cart, you can zoom around the town and up into the hills on your own personal tour.
Catalina Island: An Affordable Summer Vacation
For those seeking an affordable summer vacation, Catalina Island is the perfect destination. If you don’t want to stay overnight, the ferry can drop you off in the morning and bring you back to the mainland in the evening, making Catalina Island the perfect summer day trip locale. Pack a picnic lunch and some snacks for the beach, and you will be all set for your perfect summer vacation! If you want to stay the night but also stay within your budget, there are several different camping grounds on the island. You can pitch your tent, gaze at the stars, and listen to the waves rolling against the shore all night long. You can also find very good prices for hotel rooms if you book online ahead of time. Transportation is easy because the town of Avalon is so small. Almost everything you want to do is within walking distance. If you would rather explore Catalina Island on your own instead of paying for a guided bus tour, you can bring your bike with you on the ferry as an easy and quick way to get around.
So whether you live in California, or you are just visiting, you can make Santa Catalina Island your perfect summer destination.