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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Favorite thing: A popular beach close to the main harbor and casino. Good for kayaking, snorkeling, suba diving, boating and swimming. Rentals available. Beach bar and restaurant, live music. Public restrooms, changing rooms and showers available. Also picnic and large grassy areas.
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.
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: 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.
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.
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.
This waterfront street is the busiest and most touristy in Avalon. In the summer, loads of tourists from ferries and cruise ships stroll down Crescent Street shopping and dining. At night, the bars and pubs open late and the crowd gets a little grouchy.
Fondest memory: The photo shows a typical building on Crescent Street. It's designed to make every use of the waterfront real estate --
1st floor: souvenir shops
2nd floor: restaurants with harbor view
3rd floor: hotels with balcony
Favorite thing: Avalon is a small city surrounded by hills. Once you leave the city, no matter in which direction, you start to climb. And you should, because the view is just spectacular. This can be done by foot, by bicycle, by golf cart, or by one of the Avalon Scenic Bus Tours. The photo shows Avalon Harbor at sunset, as viewed from the Inn of Mt. Ada. The rotunda at the far side is the Casino, and the long pier in the center of the Harbor is Green Pleasure Pier.
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.
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.