Catalina Island is just a ferry ride away from the Los Angeles and Long Beach area, but it is incredibly unique and has a lot of interesting history to learn about…not to mention enough activities to keep you busy for a week. The island is only 22 miles long most of that is not inhabited, so there’s a real small town vibe. The town of Avalon is pretty much where it’s at.
The island has been inhabited for at least 8,000 years, and the ownership has turned over a few times. At one point William Wrigley, Jr of Wrigley gum owned the island, and made the place a pretty fun spot. He turned Avalon into a resort area, and even hosted the Cubs baseball team for their spring training there from the 1930’s to the 1950’s.
Due to its close proximity to Los Angeles, Catalina has been used as part of a movie set many times. At one point a film crew brought over some buffalo that they needed for the movie and ended up leaving them instead of shipping them back. The buffalo adjusted just fine and today there are about 150 of them roaming around.
Since Catalina has such a unique natural landscape, the building on the island has been kept to a minimum. There is even a quota on how many cars are allowed on the island which means not everyone gets one. Luckily there isn’t always much need and people drive around in golf carts or ride their bikes. There is so little need for cars in fact, that someone from the DMV comes out to the island once a year to do things like driving tests for the students who want to get their license before they go off to college on the mainland.
Most of the residents live in Avalon, and some live in the more secluded area called Twin Harbors. For a visitor, roaming around Avalon will put you in front of bars and restaurants with ocean views.
The water activities of course are extensive, and include amazing scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, boating, kayaking, pretty much anything you can imagine. You can even take a ride on a submarine to get some cool underwater views without getting wet. There are also plenty of activities on land such as laying by the beach and riding the zip line.
In addition to tons of fun outdoor activities, the town takes its resort vibe seriously and has plenty of spas more relaxing massages and restful experiences. Many of the hotels offer ocean views or at least close enough to pop out and stick your feet in the sand. It’s an extremely family friendly and safe area, but can also be a romantic getaway. The weather is comparable to the rest of Southern California, so it is often quite nice.
The Catalina Express Ferry leaves from three different ports, San Pedro, Long Beach, and Dana Point. It is only 22 miles from the shore so making it a day trip is easy.