Catalina Island is located off the coast of Southern California, just a short boat ride or helicopter ride away. Avalon is the only city on the island. While Catalina is small in size, only seventy-six square miles, it is large in the number of activities available to visitors.
Many of Catalina’s activities are centered on the ocean. Visitors can simply swim in the sea. There is also kayaking, snorkeling, and charter fishing. You can try ocean rafting, paddle boating, and parasailing. You can go for a trip on a glass bottom boat. There is scuba diving, from both chartered boats and straight off-shore. One of the most popular places to dive in Southern California is off Casino Point in Avalon. You can go lobster hunting from Casino Point during the season and watch the bright orange garibaldi all year round. Garibaldi is a territorial fish and can be quite fearless. Even though a diver is much bigger than a garibaldi, the fish can be aggressive and have been known to nip, despite the size difference.
Not interested in the ocean? No problem! Take a tour of the Casino Ballroom in Avalon. The Casino was built in 1929, not for gambling, but for dancing. This site was so popular during the 1930’s and 1940’s that big band music was broadcast from there, reaching radios across the country. Today, it stands as an incredible example of art-deco architecture and styling, well worth the tour. Don’t forget to look at the huge organ in the theater that was used to accompany silent movies.
Go to Avalon’s Catalina Island Museum. The Museum covers many topics, including Catalina’s natural history, Native Americans who first inhabited the Island, and the celebrities, including Benny Goodman and Oliver Hardy, who used the Island as a playground. Did you know that the Chicago Cubs used to use Catalina for spring training?
Visit the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden. The Garden showcases California Islands’ endemic plants. The Garden also features the eight plants that are native to Catalina Island only, including the Catalina Mahogany, a very rare shrub.
Take a tour of the Catalina’s wild lands. You will see beautiful canyons and dramatic ocean views. You might see the largest native land mammal of the island, the Catalina Grey Fox. Look for a bald eagle soaring in the sky. There are also bison on the Island, descended from fourteen animals that a silent movie company brought over from the mainland in 1924 and left behind when their filming was over.
You will notice that there are not many cars on Catalina Island. How can you get around, particularly if you want to explore on your own? Rent a bicycle or an electrical cart. This is how the residents all tend to get around!
There are special events scheduled year round. The Catalina Conservatory offers natural history discussions and hikes on a regular basis. The Conservatory also offers special naturalist programs over the summer months. There is an annual exhibition at the Museum featuring the famous Catalina pottery and tile. There are marathons and other athletic evens that you can participate in all year long. There is an annual underwater cleanup at Avalon Bay, the only time that divers are allowed in this area. Silent movies are shown at the Casino. There are fishing tournaments, jazz festivals, and formal dances.
If you enjoy shopping, Avalon has wonderful shops to poke around in. The restaurants on Catalina offer a wide variety of choices, from pizza and burgers to fine cuisine. There are many kinds of hotels, including bed and breakfasts and ones that cater to divers.
Catalina is a wonderful destination, whether you plan to spend a day there or a week. The combination of the ocean, the undeveloped hills of the island, and the number of activities available to participate in make the Island a unique travel destination.