When Southern California residents are looking for an escape from traffic and urban sprawl, they sail for the small, rocky 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 casino on your list, and a leisurely stroll through the Catalina Island Museum.
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 Express Ferry is the only high-speed ferry transporting to and from Two Harbors. (The Marina del Rey Flyer is no longer an option for travel to Two Harbors.)
Other means of getting to Two Harbors:
- Helicopter from San Pedro or Long Island
- Boat charters
- Many visitors sail over to the Island and rent a mooring in either Two Harbors or Avalon
Bus Service- The Safari Bus links the City of Avalon with the village of Two Harbors, including stops at Little Harbor, Airport in the Sky, and the trail head for Black Jack Junction. The Safari Bus is a quick and easy way to navigate Catalina and runs daily throughout the summer.
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.