Catalina Island

Last April, my parents took a cruise out of Long Beach, CA with the Brickman’s and I was blessed enough to get to tag along. Our first stop of the cruise was to Catalina Island.

Our cruise ship approaching the island

Catalina is about 22 miles southwest of Los Angeles. The island is inhabitaed by about 3,600 people mostly concentrated in the island’s one and only incoprated city, Avalon (which is where we ported). The other village on the island, Two Harbors, is located north of Avalon with a population of about 300 people.

The city of Avalon

Catalina is primarily a vacation getaway

We arrived at Catalina Island in the morning, and due to the smallness of the island, we had to ferry into Avalon. It was a beautiful, bright, crisp Southern California morning.

Taking a smaller boat into the Avalon harbor

Our cruise ship

Arriving in Avalon

Avalon harbor

Approaching the pier

Avalon is a small and quiet town, which is part of it’s appeal to many visitors seeking a peaceful retreat.  For activities, there is the beach, of course, to lay out on and soak up the sun, as well as kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling and para sailing. You can also rent golf carts or bikes to explore the city and island. But due to the hundreds of cruisers descending upon the island at once, all of these activites were booked. So we spent our time just walking around the town and doing a little shopping. And now Catalina includes LA and Orange County’s only zip line through the canyons and wilderness of the island. I definitely would have made us go on the zip line if it had been open when we were there!

Beachfront buildings of Avalon

The main beach in Avalon

The Pier

View of the city along the main street

After doing some shopping, where I bought a beautiful hand-crafted ring, we ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant before returning to the cruise ship. If the weather had been warmer than 60 degrees we probably would have sat on the beach for awhile, but the wind was a bit chilly!

The main street that runs along the beach


Exploring the the town

Fun fact: Motor vehicles are prohibited on the island.

Mom and I overlooking the harbor

Though the island has been inhabited by natives for hundreds of years, and claimed by the Spainish in 1542, Catalina Island was mostly unihabited by the 19th century, except during brief periods (such as the Gold Rush era).  It officially became developed in the late 1800s as  a vacation destination for the growing population in Los Angeles. In the 1890s, the island was developed into a resort with a dance pavilion in the center of town, an aquarium, several hotels, gambling clubs for men, and the beaches were updated with a sea wall, covered benches, and adding a bath house.

View of the harbor

All the boats are just chillin’ in the water

Beach time!

Mama and Papa on the beach

Dad and I

Fun fact: During the 1890s, the island’s owners set up “close to one hundred tents throughout Avalon’s canyon (often called “tent cities”). These tents were created so that, if the expense of a hotel was too much, a visitor could rent out a tent for as little as $7.50 per week, which was quite a bargain at the time. To this day, many homes in Avalon are still in possession of the same tents that stood in that spot over a century ago.”

Catalina Casino, constructed in 1929, is Avalon’s most recognizable structure. It was built as a dance hall, and derives it’s name for the Italian language, where “casino” means gathering place. Thus, there is no gambling here. Rather, the massive building is divided into a grand circular ballroom and movie theater. The theater was the first designed specifically for movies with sound.

The Art Deco building is surrounded by sea on three sides, and the circular structure is the equivalent of 12 stories tall.

Though there isn’t a whole lot to do on the island, it is a beautiful place to visit. I would like to go back to Catalina during the summer, espeically now that there is zip lining, and explore more that the city of Avalon offers. There are hidden coves (used by pirates!) to explore by kayak and shipwrecks to marvel at by snorkeling or diving, and I’ve never been para sailing before!

3 Comments on “Catalina Island

  1. Pingback: Catalina Parte Dos | Wherever Life Takes Me

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