{weekend getaway} 26 Miles Across The Sea… Catalina Island

When we were kids, our parents would sing us this song, which starts like this:

26 Miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a-waiting for me,
Santa Catalina, the island of romance, romance, romance, romance…

I confess I didn’t realize it was a real place until I was all grown up! Since then, it has been on my list of places to visit. We took a quick weekend trip there with friends and it was a real treat.We flew into Long Beach on JetBlue, hopped in a cab, and grabbed the last ferry to Avalon, Catalina’s most prominent town. (For all intents and purposes, it’s really the only town. There is a second little town called Two Harbors, which has a couple hundred people which has one hotel, and one restaurant, and not much else.)

Catalina Island is home to only around four or five thousand people. But what a life they have! Just 26 miles across the sea in a one hour ferry, and you feel transported to another time and place.

Avalon strictly limits the number of cars allowed, which makes it a clean, clear, quiet place. So most people drive around in golf carts.

Where to eat and drink? Well, M in the Metropole brought us back for excellent bloody marys and tasty bites on their perfect-for-people-watching patio and their airy but elegant dining room.

A fancy dinner at Catalina Country Club might be in order. Or you can try the excellent seafood at The Lobster Trap, an odd place that has an unappealing menu and food that looks unappealing, yet everything tastes stupendously delicious.

If you have to wait for a table, grab a drink at the divey Marlin Club next door.

Or maybe you’d prefer a luau-themed dive bar. In that case, don’t miss Luau Larry’s–the local band that plays on Saturday nights is better than you’d expect. Or, head down past the casino and hit the hip scene at Descanso Beach Club for sand in your toes and a margarita in your fist.

Where to stay? A warning here, lodging is a bit pricey! Aurora is a good lower-priced option, and offers modern boutique hotel charm. The Metropole and the Pavilion are top choices. (That’s the Pavilion down there. Free wine at sunset.)

Catalina also has interesting history. William Wrigley Jr., of Doublemint gum and Chicago ballfield fame, bought up the whole island in 1919 (I guess you could do that back then!) He built something called a casino which is not really a casino but which looks cool and has a movie theater inside.

And he was buried there, in a big memorial. The memorial is still there, although the body was moved for some odd reason.

If you like snorkeling or especially scuba, you will find lots of things to do. There are shipwrecks to explore and all kinds of fish. Nice hiking, too. You can do a zip line if you’re adventurous. Or just go and watch the taffy puller–it’s quite hypnotic–and grab a fresh caramel apple or scoop of Thrifty ice cream, you know? You’re on vacation.

There are also bison on the island, which I didn’t actually see. They have an interesting story too–they were brought in for a film in the 1930s, and the crew just left them there to hang out. Of course, they procreated quite a bit so now there are a lot of them. That’s Catalina for you. Quirky and lovable. And utterly perfect for a mentally transporting weekend.


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4 Responses

  1. Amir says:

    This was great, thanks kar!

  2. Shanya says:

    Most underistimated and useful stuff. Thanks sir

  3. Shanya says:

    Most underistimated and useful stuff. Thanks sir Thanks

  4. haris says:

    All of pics looks are awesome 🙂 now i am starting to download .
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