As born and raised Southern Californians, we locals always knew about Catalina Island. Even throughout elementary school in the city of Glendale, we all looked forward to the 6th grade when we would spend a weekend at Catalina’s Camp Fox. This little island, which is just 22 miles from mainland Los Angeles, has been a location for weekend excursions or day trips for over 100 years. Catalina was also the Chicago Cub’s Spring Training Home from 1921 to 1951.
Santa Catalina Island has thousands of years of history, with early inhabitants as far back as 7,000 years. In 1542, the island was first claimed by the Spanish, then given to Mexico and next, the United States. It has seen smugglers, pirates, hunters, missionaries, as well as the Union Army. It was not until the late 1800’s that Catalina Island was turned into its most recent incarnation, a tourist destination.
Catalina Island has changed hands a few times since the 1800s- James Lick, the Banning Brothers, and chewing gum mogul William Wrigley Jr. All have contributed to the history of Catalina Island becoming an island resort and a “playground for all”. Presently, the descendants of William Wrigley Jr. still own the Catalina Island Company, and in 1975 they deeded 42,000 acres of the Island to the Catalina Island Conservancy.
Catalina had become a well known hangout for Hollywood A-Listers from the 1930s until the 50s. The island has also been a popular location for movies, commercials and TV shows, especially in Two Harbors along Catalina’s west end.
The iconic Catalina Casino, takes it name (Casino) from the Italian phrase “gathering place”. It was built in 1929 by chewing gum mogul, William Wrigley Jr in the Art Deco style, which was popular during that time. As well as the Mediterranean Revival which is very a popular architectural style in California. Over the decades the casino has served as a movie theatre, ballroom, high school and a museum.
Since Avalon is only 15 minutes by helicopter or an hour by high-speed ferry, this little city is considered Catalina Island’s recreational and getaway playground. Many people come in for a day trip from Los Angeles or as part of a cruise, while others spend a few days on the island camping or at one of Avalon’s charming hotels.
I have been enjoying Catalina since I was 12 years old and my visits continued onto adulthood. It has been the place for birthday day trips, a fun excursion with out-of-towners or a relaxing escape from the L.A. crazy. I brought my daughter here when she was 13, about the time I first came to Avalon. We had a magnificent time here relaxing on the sand, exploring the city and we even took the submarine tour to watch the plentiful fish that swam in the harbor.
Catalina Island has stayed true to the original owners vision of being a “playground for all”, although I believe it has stretched beyond their initial imaginations. There are many exciting and relaxing activities to choose from. Depending on what you enjoy doing, spending a couple days beyond a day trip may be the way to go. There are a few nice hotels on the island or if you prefer, there are several camping options.
The activities on the island range from luxurious to rugged, from relaxing to a rush of adrenaline. You can explore the island by a land tour or on a bison expedition. You can do a spa day, enjoy one of the island’s delicious culinary experiences and take a tour of Avalon’s historic Casino. There is zip-lining, golfing, hiking and ocean tours to view dolphins and sea lions. There is something for anyone and everyone, as it is truly a “playground for all”.
For hotels, activities and reservations, please visit: Catalina Island Company
Ferries to Catalina:
- From San Pedro, Long Beach or Dana Point- Catalina Express
- From Newport Beach Harbor – The Catalina Flyer
I’m not late, I’m just on Island Time…
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📸 All photos are taken by me and are my intellectual property – Trixie Navarre
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