Catalina Island

I am writing his from 30,000 feet in the air. Gotta love airplane wifi. Surprisingly it’s on a US Airways flight which I have ways considered budget. Times are a changin’! I had a request to post a little bit about a recent trip to Catalina Island so here it is…

I went with a group of friends for 2 nights which is a good amount of time. I don’t really recommend this as a day trip but if you’re a hard charger it’s doable. The island has tons of history so it’s good to wiki it before you go, but there are museums there if you have the time.

If you are not familiar with Catalina it is a rather small island off the coast of SoCal that can only be reached by boat. The island has 2 main towns, Avalon and Two Harbors. To get to Avalon there are multiple ferries from Dana Point and farther north, Dana Point being the easiest for San Diegans. There is easy and decently priced parking right at the ferry terminal. The ferry ride is a little over an hour but may take longer depending on weather or sea creatures. On the way over we were lucky enough to see a whale that kept fluking for us. The captain decided to stop and watch which disgruntled a few of my seasick friends but was well worth it.

Once in Avalon there are a bunch of hotels where you can stay more comfortably but the best option is Hermit Gulch campground which is about 1.5 miles from the ferry dock. Prices are very reasonable and per person, not per tent. It’s easily walking distance if you are fit but bringing a bike is highly recommended so you can explore the island (gears are good!) Note: If you want to bring a bike on the ferry you must reserve early and tell them you are bringing a bike which costs $7 extra, otherwise you can rent one in Avalon but the prices are a little steep.

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Pulling into the harbor you almost feel like you are in Portofino!

Hermit Gulch is the only campsite near Avalon. It’s clean and quiet with decent bathrooms and showers. There are multiple hiking trails nearby as well as the botanical gardens and the Wrigley Memorial which is worth the short walk.

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If you make it here in the summer and want to hit up the beach your options are limited. The best beach is private but you can pay your way in! Descanso Beach Club is just past the casino (now a museum) and has a real sand beach with luxurious cushioned chaises, umbrellas and people that serve you drinks and food like you are a rock star. I highly recommend it if you are willing to dish out some extra cash. It’s about $80 for 2 people, and make sure you book in advance for weekends. Next door to that is a public beach and bar/restaurant which is 2nd best. Don’t forget to order the local drink, Buffalo Milk! There are, weirdly enough, free roaming bison on the island that were left there from a movie shoot decades ago, hence the name.

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Near the beach club there is also zip lining and kayaking, or if you want to chillax there is an outdoor massage place overlooking the water. Lots of options!

Incidentally when I was 13 I was sent to a 2 week summer camp here on the island to learn how to Scuba Dive at the Catalina Island Marine Institute. I didn’t get to dive on this return trip but I highly recommend it. A thick wetsuit is a must and you will still freeze your but off but there is nothing like swimming through a kelp forrest with leopard sharks and seals. The Garabaldi fish are pretty cool too, hint hint they love to eat frozen peas.

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Restaurant-wise you have plenty of options including the very laid back Lobster Trap for some seafood and Avalon Grille for something more upscale. They also have a good wine list. On the pier there are a couple of little places that boast some tasty clam chowder and are too cute not to pass up.

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Our fearless leader Erin, thanks for planning and organizing our 1st annual Catalina Camping trip!

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