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Lesser Known Islands of the USA: Catalina Island, CA

May 22, 2014 at 1:47 PM | by | ()

According to the calendar we’re just days away from the start of the summer season, and that means it’s time to turn our attention towards some great warm weather destinations. So get out on the water, wave goodbye to the mainland, and set you watch to island time.

What’s Catalina Island?

You’ve been to Southern California and visited its tourist attractions, must-sees, and hidden gems; however, we would have to guess that you have not made you way out to Santa Catalina Island. Known just as Catalina Island or Catalina to its friends, the spot does its thing as part of Los Angeles County roughly 22 miles off the coast from Los Angeles itself. It belongs to a larger chain of islands, and they’re all part of one big happy family—the Channel Islands. Some estimates put visitors at close to a million per year, so it’s probably one of the more well known of our lesser known islands.

How To Get There

Paddling a kayak isn’t going to be an option here, and the car is going to need to stay back on the mainland. Ferry service is available from a couple spots along the California coast, but it seems like the major route heads back and forth between Avalon—on the island—and San Pedro. Catalina Express is responsible here, and they also have options from Long Beach and Dana Point. Rates start at around $80 per adult including some mandatory wharf charges, but plan to add a few more bucks if bringing your bike or surfboard.

What to Do

As we mentioned earlier Avalon is where most spend their time on Catalina, but do know that Two Harbors is the other main spot—so distribute your time accordingly if you have a couple of days. The awesomeness of California plus the greatness of an island make for some good times, but plenty of your attention should be focused on getting into and onto the water.

Scuba diving, snorkeling, parasailing, kayaking, and fishing are all great options. Once your fingers are looking a little wrinkled from all that water head into town and check out the shops, restaurants, and the view. Don’t forget to visit the Catalina Casino too, as it’s been the main spot for fun and entertainment since 1929—just don’t expect slot machines. Oh—and there’s also the beach!

Where to Stay

Compared to others spots we’ve mentioned this week there’s a few solid options to spend the night when visiting the island. The national chains haven’t made the ride across the water just yet, so be on the lookout for bed and breakfasts, inns, and local hotels. The Avalon Hotel on Catalina Island seems to be the pick of the place, and the views of the harbor and water can’t be beat. Expect to pay for the pleasure to visit, as rates during a weekend this summer will set you back around $330 before taxes and fees—and another $100 if you’re looking to go from a garden view to a water view.

Who Goes There

To us it seems that anyone and everyone visits the island, so expect all kinds of visitors eager to check out the place. We’re not sure if the ferry ride scares away the local celebrities, but our perusing of Radar Online and TMZ usually does not reveal too many celebrity encounters—despite their proximity.

Where to Eat

Understandably you’re going to want some seafood, but there’s plenty of options where you can overindulge while on island time. It might be a little overrated, but check the Lobster Trap for all things fish and friends. In the mornings the Pancake Cottage and Original Jack’s Country Kitchen seem to be great options for breakfast—we’re hungry for some avocado with our eggs right about now. Later in the day Bluewater Grill would fit most needs, and the cioppino seems to be a favorite along with the ability to enjoy a meal outside and near the water.

What Else

Apparently there’s like a long waiting list to score a car on the island, as it might be over a decade before you can bring one onto the island. As a result golf carts have become a preferred method of transportation in and around the island. If you’re comfortable walking you should be okay over in Avalon, but it might be more fun to grab a golf cart. Rentals are available for around $40 and hour, and ya—why not?

[Photos: b r e n t and JMR_Photography]

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