Two towns on Santa Catalina Island are Avalon and Two Harbors. Each town has its own unique attractions. Avalon is the most visited with many attractions, palm trees, shops, restaurants, and more. Two Harbors sets in the isthmus between the two island peaks that make up Santa Catalina. The breeze off the ocean makes me wonder why I waited so long to return.
Avalon’s Descanso Beach is a place to relax, enjoy a cold beverage, have a nice meal with a beautiful ocean view, or lay in the sun. Activities at the beach are snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, or swimming, with rental fees for equipment. They also have cabanas if lying on a towel on the beach isn’t your thing. There is a small fee to enjoy the beach but well work the price. There is a free beach near the bay by the main shopping area if you prefer not to walk over to Descanso Beach.
The submarine tour that leaves from the pier. The boat doesn’t submerge, but passengers sit below the waterline creating a unique underwater experience. You can shoot fish food near your porthole to attract fish for a close look at an extra fee. It is a tour worth the money.
When you want a break from the beach, there are hiking trails, tours inland, ziplining, and plenty of things to see in town. What you can see inland is wildlife, including Bison. Filmmaker Zane Grey brought Bison to the island while filming The Vanishing American in 1924. The herd grew to about 600 Bison. Many have been relocated to the USA mainland, and the remaining herd is managed by the Catalina Island Conservancy.
All that activity will prepare you for one of the many restaurants in town, ranging in price from a quick burger to steak or seafood. One of our favorite places is the Lobster Trap. Their salad topped with lobster or crab is as refreshing as it is delicious.
There is a casino on the island in the art deco style. Sorry, no gambling. It was built as a meeting place. What you will find there is a history of the island and art. It is well worth the price of admission to learn more about the history and the people that made it. There is more on the island’s history below.
Catalina has more to offer than I can describe in one blog. To see photographs of the island, click “Adventures” from the menu. For more information about Santa Catalina Island, visit www.visitcatalinaisland.com.
The island’s history:
Several owners left their mark on the island, hoping to develop it into a resort destination. The first was James Lick, who bought the island in 1864. After several attempts to develop it into a resort, he sold his interests to the Banning brothers in 1891. In 1894 the Banning brothers established the Santa Catalina Island Company. They built hotels, attractions, and a road to the island’s rugged interior. Tours by stagecoach were established along with Lovers Cove, Descanso Beach, and Sugarloaf Point. In 1909 they built the Pleasure Pier, which still stands in Avalon Bay. In 1915, tragedy struck when half the buildings in Avalon were destroyed by fire. The Banning brothers were forced to sell.
William Wrigley Jr., of the chewing gum empire, invested millions of dollars in creating a “playground for all,” his vision. In 1919 William Wrigley Jr. bought a controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company. In 1921, Wrigley invited the Chicago Cubs for their Spring Training home and built the Catalina Country Club to house the team. That relationship continued until 1951.
The island became a popular location for Hollywood’s elite from the 1930s until the 1950s. More than 500 films, documentaries, commercials, and TV shows have been filmed on or around the island.
By 1975, the Wrigleys deeded 42,000 acres of Catalina Island to the Catalina Island Conservancy, a non-profit organization established in 1972. The Conservancy’s mission is to “be a responsible steward of our lands through a balance of conservation, education, and recreation.”
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