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Ultimate Guide To Exploring Catalina Island
For The First Time
January 3, 2020 | By: Taylor Randolph
Santa Catalina Island is just off the coast of Southern California. It’s often referred to as just “Catalina” or “Catalina Island.” The only incorporated city on the island is Avalon and it’s where 90% of the island’s population lives. The other populated area is the village of Two Harbors. The warm Mediterranean climate of the island means there are very mild winters. The best time to go to Catalina Island is in the spring or fall to avoid the hottest months of the year.
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Catalina Island was settled by Native Americans in 7000 BC. In 1602, Spanish settlers arrived on the eve of Saint Catherine’s day and renamed the island in her honor. By the 1830s, the entire native population had either died or was brought to the mainland to work for landowners. Ownership of the island changed hands many times until William Wrigley, Jr., the chewing-gum magnate, purchased the island and invested millions to building a resort community. The Chicago Cubs even used the island for spring training between 1921 and 1951.
Top Things to Do in Catalina
Catalina Island is an amazing place to visit. Over one million people travel to Catalina Island every year. Avalon is the main resort community, with lots of things to do. If you are looking to escape the crowds, then check out the much smaller resort village of Two Harbors. To get to Catalina Island, you can either take a ferry or helicopter. The Catalina Express ferry only takes about one hour to reach the island from Long Beach. You will love the scenic views of Southern Californa as you sail across the channel. IEX Helicopters will get you to the island within 15-minutes.
Buena Vista Point
For the most beautiful views over Avalon Bay, take a hike up to the Buena Vista Point Scenic Overlook. Starting from the center of Avalon, the hike is about one mile. Bring a camera because you won’t want to miss capturing Avalon’s scenic harbor with the Catalina Casino in the distance.
If you’re looking to relax on the beach and have some fun, then Descanso Beach is the ideal spot. The Descanso Beach Club will deliver food and drinks right to you on the sun-soaked beach. You can relax in a chaise lounge or private cabana while sipping on a pina colada. During the summer, the afternoons have more of a beach party vibe with DJs, live music, and happy hour drink specials.
The Catalina Casino was commissioned by William Wrigley Jr. and opened in 1929. This art deco masterpiece is a historic icon of Catalina’s romantic beginnings. Take one of the guided walking tours offered by the Catalina Casino – Discover the Casino, Behind the Scenes Casino, and Twilight at the Casino. Then, watch a movie in the Avalon Theatre, which was the first theatre built for “talkies.” Movies run every evening at 6:30 pm. You can also attend a variety of events at the Casino’s magnificent ballroom. The Catalina Casino ballroom is on the top level and it is the world’s largest circular ballroom.
Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden
William Wrigley Jr. was the mastermind behind the vision and plan for the beautiful Santa Catalina Island. He attracted many of the elites and celebrities who graced this island and gave the island it’s star-studded legacy. The Wrigley Memorial honors his memory and his contribution to the island. The memorial used as much of Catalina materials as possible, including quarried Catalina stones. It was built by the same architects who designed Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain. The idea of the botanical garden was created by Mr. Wrigley’s wife, Ada, in 1935. Santa Catalina Island’s mild subtropical climate makes it possible to showcase plants from all over the world.
The Trans-Catalina Trail is a 37-mile route along the backbone of the island. If this doesn’t sound like fun to you, thankfully you can just do pieces of the trail and still reach the best views over the island. You will need to start at the Catalina Conservancy and obtain a free hiking permit and trail map. Then, you can choose the length and difficulty of your hike. Check out popular trails like the Garden to Sky Trail, the Avalon Bay Trail, or the Hermit Gulch Trail.
Catalina Room Escape
This pirate-themed escape room is really one of the highlights of Santa Catalina Island. It’s an immersive experience with challenging puzzles, creative riddles, and lots of family-friendly fun. Captain Mike is there to help you if you get too stuck, so this room is also perfect for beginners. You’ll even get complimentary group photos dressed in your pirate costumes. If you have an hour to spare and want an engaging activity, go sign up for the Catalina Room Escape.
Soak in the beautiful scenery while setting out to sea on a sailboat excursion. Enjoy the ocean views and watch for sea lions, dolphins, and whales. You can also have the opportunity to swim or snorkel in the refreshingly clear water. Sunset cruises are really a must-do while you are in Catalina Island.
Check out other things to do in California:
San Diego Travel Guide
Top Things to Do in Hollywood
Travel Guide to Yosemite National Park
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