Barge Wharf and Water Desalination Plant
Favorite thing: Take Wrigley Road a windy mile around the bend from Avalon Bay, and you will discover the industrial park, if you can call it that, of Santa Catalina Island. Located here is the heliport, marine dry docks, and a critically important but rudimentary barge wharf that transfers cargo between mainland and island only during high tide--day and night. Just before we had arrived, a storm had severed the line between the tugboat and barge loaded with cargo, a bit of gossip shared around town during our visit. Needless to say, it is very expensive to build anything on Catalina Island due to the cost of bringing equipment and material to the island. Near the landing, is a warehouse and dock, and lot filled with unusually small box and refrigerator trailers. The trailers are hauled into and round the limited and very tight corners of the truck route in town with a type of tractor normally used in distribution center yards, rather than a conventional highway capable tractor. Adjacent to this warehouse is a tiny "Home Depot" of sorts supplying lumber and hardware to the island. Also here is the only fueling station, with mind blowingly high prices. Down the way is the desalination plant and power plant managed by Con Edison, providing Avalon with electrical power and ensuring a ready supply of drinking water even during drought years.
- Business Travel
- Budget Travel
- Arts and Culture
Planning the trip
Favorite thing: If I had to do it again, which I will, I would stay overnight on this island as opposed to going back to the hotel on the mainland. There is a lot to see and do for nature lovers of both land and sea. From the airport go here first and stay maybe 2 days then go to the mainland.
For those of you who do not heed my advice please note that there are more sailings to the island on Saturdays and Sundays from and to Long Beach. You want to arrive very early in order to take advantage most of the tours and other activities that are there. Please note that the earliest boat from the mainland to the island my not reach on time for you to make your trip.
- Budget Travel
Staying in Catalina Island
Favorite thing: In Avalon there are plenty of places to stay. It's been awhile since I was there so Google "Catalina Island" for hotels. There is everything from B&B's to small hotels or you might be able to find a time share here if you look. Price ranges very and outside of the holidays they won't break the bank. If you stay at the Isthmus I think there is one hotel there and a few campgounds with showers and bathrooms
Fondest memory: Going to Catilina on my buddy Rick's 24' Searay ( a motor boat)and having to spend the night since the fuel dock closed 30 min prior to us getting there. We got drunk at a Pizza joint and sang karaoke (Gilligan's Island theme song of course). Girls in the bar thought we were gay...my buddy ended up sleeping with one and woke up the next morning to this fuggly creature wishing he was gay. Oh and I almost got thrown out of a bar by a S"he"la bartender for wrapping on her bar while she was bs'ing some cretin......hey, I had empty beer glass in front of me..
- Water Sports
Come early, stay late
Favorite thing: There is a lot to see on the island, and the day goes by very fast. If you are in good physical shape, and you intend to go snorkeling, boating, or parasailing, I would suggest you stay on Avalon for the entire day. I would recommend getting to the island by 10am, and don't leave until 9pm in the summer months. You'll be tired when you get home, but you'll be able to see everything. If you leave at 5pm, you wont be able to see everything, and you'll feel rushed. Also, Avalon is very pretty at night, so try to stay at least until the sun goes down.
- Adventure Travel
Favorite thing: The Wrigley family has been raising champion Arabian horses on Catalina Island for decades. To see these horses just go down Avalon Canyon Road (the only road going deep into the canyon to the Botanical Garden). A couple of miles before you reach the Botanical Garden at the end of the road you'll see Catalina Staple, as shown in photo. To see the real good ones, join the "Inland Safari" tours to visit El Rancho Escondido and see the horse show put out by the trainers from the Wrigley family.
- Horse Riding
Favorite thing: If you are planning to stay the entire day, which is what I would recommend, dress comfortably. Good walking shoes are a must. If you plan to snorkel, bring a clean, dry change of clothes, and even some shampoo. There are public showers you can use in Avalon. Don't forget to bring a hat and sunblock, very important during the summer months. Check out my packing tip for Avalon.
- Family Travel
Museum in the Casino
Favorite thing: To learn the history and the places to visit on the island, you should visit the museum in the Casino. It was founded in 1953 and exhibits the unique cultural heritage of Santa Catalina Island. There are Native American artifiacts beside a collection of the local tile and pottery. They have photos of the island from the 1880's and a reseach library with over 10,000 photographs, postcards, books and maps.
The entrance fee is $10.
A Great Weekend Trip
Favorite thing: Catalina is not the Riviera, but it's a great weekend trip with enough to keep you busy with water sports and a couple of historical places to visit. Everytime I've been there the weather is much better than the California coast. No smog, few cars, and if you don't go in the middle of the summer, less congestion. The Wrigley family of Wrigley chewing gum dynasty, did much to preserve the ecology on the island and this can be appreciated by visiting the Memorial Garden.
The indigenous clay has played a large part in making the tile and pottery an art form distinctive to the Island. Catalina tile is much sought after for adorning homes and has over time has become a collector's item. You can see the pottery and tiles in the gift shops and in the art deco interior of the Casino.
Fondest memory: The Casino has always fascinated me. It's a beautiful building and the art deco interior is outstanding. It must have been great fun during the 30's and 40's watching the hundreds of people dancing the Charleston or jitterbug. Don't miss the tour when you're there.
- Water Sports
- Hiking and Walking
Avalon Beach (2)
Favorite thing: Surprisingly the water in Avalon beach is relatively clean. However there's not much water activities here. The beach is full of people, and the water is full of mooring boats. But it's a great place to people-watch.
Avalon Beach (1)
Favorite thing: Avalon has a small beach that stretches a few hundred yards between Green Pleasure Pier and the ferry terminal. Given the high concentration of hotels in the area, the beach is so crowded that people would wake up before sunrise to claim their spot on the beach with a towel or a beach chair, then go back to hotel and sleep till the sun is up.
Favorite thing: It's about $60 for the 10-minute ride. Not sure if it's worth it since I've never tried it. Just want to share the photo with you.
Fondest memory: The fondest, or the funnest moment is when ferries or cruise ships approach Avalon Harbor, the parasailing operator tries to bring their parachute right next to the ship to lure the arriving tourists.
- Family Travel
Double the Fun at Two Harbors
Favorite thing: Catalina Island is about 20 miles long, shaped like a fish. The narrowest part, the neck of the fish, is where you'll find Two Harbors. It's called Two Harbors because there are two harbors, back to back, only a few hundred yards apart, one facing the mainland (Isthmus Cove), the other facing the Pacific (Catalina Harbor).
Two Harbors is rustic compared with Avalon. There's only 1 general store, 1 restaurant (Harbor Reef), and 1 hotel (Banning House Lodge) with little night life. People visit Two Harbors as a leisure day trip from Avalon, or as a stepping stone into campgrounds deep in the west end. The photo shows Isthmus Cove at Two Harbors, which looks like a reduced version of Avalon Harbor.
Favorite thing: Casino:
The #1 landmark of Catalina Island but is no longer an operating casino. Tours are available. The day we visited the jazz fest occupied the building. Built in the 20's.
Casino Tour: Adults $12.00, Children $6.00
Catalina Island Museum: Located in the casino building lower level and contains artifacts and mementos of the island's past. Items of interest include the history of the Wrigley's and the mansion, Catalina Tile, Chicago Cubs training grounds, transportation through the years to Catalina and more.
Open daily: 10:30-4:00
- Casino and Gambling
Fondest memory: All around Avalon you will see Buffalo statues, each one painted different, some very garish. The island of Catalina is known for its buffalo, 14 were brought over for a film in the 1920's and they've since multiplied. To prevent overgrazing the island maintains a population of 300. Buffalo can be viewed from the islands interior only accessible by guided tour.
Pictured is a Chicago Cubs buffalo. Years ago, the Cubs used to practice here.
- Family Travel
Favorite thing: Garibaldi is the symbol of Catalina Island. These orange cuties are easy to spot. There are lots of them around the island.
Fondest memory: If you arrive by ferry, start looking for them when you approach the terminal. You can see them giving you a warm welcome in the clear harbor water even before you get off the ferry.