Catalina Island & Avalon - California

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 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 overlooking Avalon.

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 helicopter:

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.

For suggestions on where to stay on Catalina Island,
Go to our catalina-Avalon Hotels page.

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