05 Mar Catalina Sways to Island Time
Author: Ronnie Greenberg
Photos by: Joe Hilbers
5310 Dubois Ave
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Catalina Sways to Island Time
By: Ronnie Greenberg
Photos: Joe Hilbers
An early morning mist ambles over the sparkling Pacific as a flock of seagulls take to the air and dolphins frolic below. Onboard the luxurious Catalina Express, leaving from Long Beach to Avalon you’re on your way to a mix of both the gentle pace and excitement of Catalina Island.
Catalina came to be when the Island Company was founded in 1894 by the Banning Brothers. In 1919 it was purchased by William Wrigley Jr. whose dream was to turn it into a world class resort. Descendants of the Wrigley family still own the Island Company keeping up the vision of Wrigley.
The Island lures visitors to its perfect climate of golden sunshine and cool evenings. Its busy harbor bustles with activity year round, attracting lovers of the outdoors, avid fishermen who come to hook a tuna or marlin, and cruisers whose ships dock here for a few hours. Located 22 miles off Southern California, there are two distinct experiences on Catalina. Historic and charming Avalon on the east, and the more remote rustic Two Harbors on the west end. It’s outdoor activities and natural discoveries are punctuated with relaxation.
Where to stay
A two minute walk from the Pier brings you to the Atwater Hotel, an elegant homebase in the heart of Avalon. Newly refurbished and beginning from its welcoming lobby it gloriously incorporates the comfy plush furnishings, chandeliers and paintings of the Art Deco era along with all modern luxury accoutrements. It was named after Helen Atwater Wrigley, wife of Philip Knight Wrigley, who loved to play the harp and piano. Her harp still sits in the lobby. When it opened in 1920 it was a favorite with the Hollywood elite.
Today it features one bedroom suites, some that look over the city and others with mountain views. Each suite has a mini-fridge, smart TV, top of the line linens and high end fixtures throughout.
There is an evening wine (where Sean starts a pour with Mums) and cheese reception, and breakfast is complimentary*
Located at 423 Crescent Avenue in Avalon, phone (877)778-8322 for reservations.
Life on the island
For those who prefer the beach, the water is calm and protected by the harbor so it’s safe to swim and play. Steps from the beach and close to attractions there’s a myriad of activities. Kayak through the crystal clear waters that surround Catalina Island and paddle into secluded coves and reefs teeming with marine life or enjoy a round of miniature golf at Avalon’s Golf Gardens.
Nature lovers will appreciate the Island’s conservancy that has babied the flora and fauna, returning it to mint conditions. Some of the native plants are Lemonade Berry, Catalina Currant, Coastal Prickly Pear Cactus, Toyon Holly, and St. Catherine’s Lace. Home to a staggering amount of wildlife in such a small area, it’s a favorite haunt for bald eagles who soar freely in Catalina’s unspoiled reserve and countryside, and buffalo that roam its rolling hills. Hiking gets you to see the backcountry where you can catch sight of deer, fox, wild pigs, razorback boar and mountain goats.
For others, it’s horseback riding, exploring charming shops and galleries., visiting the museum, or going on a sightseeing tour.
Take a tour
The exciting narrated journey along the scenic “Skyline Drive” takes you 10 miles into Santa Catalina Island’s protected wilderness area. Along the trip you’ll see spectacular vistas, deep canyons, quiet coves and endless blue ocean. Keep your eyes open for the island’s wildlife before you visit the Catalina Nature Center at the Airport in the Sky. The airport’s DC3 Gifts & Grill offers a quick bite and their famous “killer cookies.” This is one of the highest points on the island also features a small historical photos museum about aviation. Be on the lookout for bison as they travel along the same path as the tour bus. The tour last 2 hours and 15 minutes and can be booked along with an array of different tours at any Catalina Island Company ticket booth or phone 800-626-1496 or go to VisitCatalinaIsland.com
Glass Bottom boat trips let you explore the underwater world in the clear waters of the Marine Sanctuary highlighted with island plants and animals and endless bright orange garibaldi, bait fish and barracudas, and night tours view the famous flying fish. You can feed the fish through specially designed tubes as they engage in feeding frenzies in beautiful underwater gardens.
Excitement of a romantic past comes to life in the crescent cove harbor of Avalon. Waves rock the small boats and yachts moored in the marina in California’s only resort city.
Rising from its perch on the edge of the sea, the Casino Building (a place of entertainment) has become Catalina Island’s most recognizable landmark. The round Art Deco structure played host to the dozens of Big Bands that filled the dance floor with swinging jitterbugs and lindy-hoppers through the 1930’s and 1940’s.
Where to dine
Avalon Grille presenting urban chic and island casual, features Angus-beef and line caught local fish, artfully crafted into a variety of original dishes and regional favorites. The spectacular central bar serves fine wines, micro-brews and signature cocktails. A wall of windows opens to create an al fresco dining experience steps from Avalon Bay.
* The Atwater Hotel guests have their hosted breakfast here.
Located at 423 Crescent Avenue in Avalon. (310)510-7494.
How to get around
The town of Avalon is only one square mile and easy to navigate on foot, shuttle bus, bicycle, taxi or electric golf carts.
How to get there
Catalina Express offers daily departures for a smooth one hour boat ride from Long Beach’s Downtown Landing, to Avalon Harbor in Santa Catalina Island. For information and reservations phone: (800) 995-4386 or www.catalinaexpress.com
Other locations are San Pedro and Dana Point. All are Handicap friendly.