How to Get
There | Catalina
Island Hotels (page 2)
If there is one town in California that
can truly be called idyllic, it's Avalon, set on a
mountainside which curves around a small harbor on
Catalina Island, much like Monte Carlo or one of the
Greek island villages.
The island -- 21 miles long, eight miles
wide and separated into two sections by a narrow isthmus
-- was formed by volcanic action. and has a delicate
closed ecosystem. The fragility of island life was seen
too clearly after the island's owners of the 1800s
brought goats, cattle, sheep, mule deer and horses to
Santa Catalina's tender slopes.
The island was badly ravaged by the time
William Wrigley Jr. (of the chewing gum family) acquired
the island from the Banning Brothers in 1919. Avalon had
already been developed as a resort town, but the Wrigleys
were sensitive to the needs of the island environment and
began conservation measures that started to restore
natural order. In 1975, 86 percent of the island was
deeded to the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy, a
nonprofit foundation set up to manage the conservation
and preservation of the island. Travelers may not take
their cars and RVs to the island.
How to Get There
The favored way to reach Catalina from the
mainland is a boat cruise across the 22-mile channel.
However, you can get there by helicopter or by airplane,
landing on the island airstrip perched on a ridge
Three cruise operators offer boat
transportation to the island:
Catalina Express, (800) 805-9201,
departs from Long Beach and San Pedro, both in the Los
Angeles area. The trip takes about an hour, and
reservations are taken from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Catalina Passenger Service, (949)
673-5245, offers one daily crossing from Newport Beach,
at the Balboa Pavilion. This fast catamaran, with three
decks, departw the mainland at 9 a.m. and leaves Avalon
at 4:30 p.m. Parking on the mainland costss $7 per day.
Catalina Cruises, (800) 228-2546
(800-CATALINA) or (310) 519-1212 have large boats holding
hundreds of passengers, and offering food and cocktails.
The cruise departs from Long Beach, and takess under two
hours. There are daily departures. This is the least
expensive boat ride to the island (but not by much).
Parking costs $7.50 a day.
You can also get to Catalina Island by
Island Express Helicopter Service,
(310) 510-2525, has hgelipads at both Long Beach and San
Pedro harbors, at the boat terminals. It takes only
fifteen minutes from lift-off to set-down. A 25-lb.
baggage limit is imposed, and passengers should check-in
a half-hour before flight time. Let the pilot know if you
wish to take a taxi from the island helipad to Avalon
(about .75 mile).
Or go on a scenic plane trip from San
Diego. The daily flight is the most expensive way to
get to the island -- about $ 100 one-way -- leaving from
Montgomery Field at 2 p.m., daily, returning from Avalon
at 3 p.m.For information, call (619) 279-4595
What to See & Do
The best way to see the island on a short
trip is by taking a sightseeing tour provided by one of
the island's two major tour companies, Discovery
Tours (Santa Catalina Island Co.) and Adventure
Tours. Both operate busses and glass-bottom boats
with Discovery Tours providing one of the new
semi-submersible "submarines" where you sit underwater.
The Conservancy has bus tours to its nature center and
Memorial Botanical Garden. Bicycles are available
for riding throughout the island.
Little Casino Reef, just off-shore
beside the Casino, is a manufactured reef and kelp
forest, opened in 1962 and a favorite haunt for divers.
There are several scuba outfitters in the harbor area.
A visit to the famous art deco Catalina
Island Casino is a must. In the 30s and 40s it was
the scene of big-band dancing, and dances are still held
on major weekends in the circular ballroom.
For information on island attractions,
contact the Catalina Island Visitor's Bureau, P.O. Box
217, Avalon, CA 90704 or call (310) 510-1520.