When Southern California residents are looking for an escape from traffic and urban sprawl, they sail for the small island of Santa Catalina, aka, Catalina. Linked by ferry to large ports in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, this picturesque island sees a steady stream of scuba divers, kayakers, sun-bathers and sundry in between, come to catch, among other things, a postcard worthy sunset.
Avalon, perched at the southeast tip of the island beside a busy harbor, is the largest tourist center on the island. Though you may have to deal with crowds on the local sandy strips, it’s easy enough to get some elbow room wandering trails in the interior, much of it protected as part of nature preserve. For more information on the island’s indigenous flora and fauna, detour through the Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Garden or sign up for a glass-bottom boat tour for a glimpse of colorful underwater gardens. Local operators also rent out snorkeling gear and organize adventure tours of island highlights. For those more interested in the island’s cultural sights, put a guided tour of Avalon’s historic Catalina Casino Building on your list, and a leisurely stroll through the Catalina Island Museum for Art & History.
There are, fittingly, two harbors in the tiny community of Two Harbors near the north end of the island, though the town is only equipped with small-scale tourist amenities.
The Catalina Island Co operates a boat called the Cyclone and that takes people from Avalon to Two Harbors. It's seasonal, and operates late spring to early fall.
Other means of getting to Catalina Island:
- Helicopter from Long Beach
- Boat charters
- Many visitors sail over to the Island and rent a mooring in either Two Harbors or Avalon
The Catalina Airport-in-the-Sky is 10 miles southeast of Two Harbors and six miles northwest of Avalon; there are no scheduled passenger flights but general aviation aircraft are allowed to land for a small fee.