Southern California Day Trips

Catalina Island

I love Los Angeles, but sometimes you need to get away, and an easy way to really get away is to leave the mainland and visit Catalina Island. The Island sits just 26 miles from the LA coast and is unique, historic and fun for active people.

Getting There:

Access Catalina via the marine shuttle service provided by the Catalina Express, which leaves from ports in San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point, or the Catalina Flyer, which leaves from Newport Beach. The boat ride is between 1 to 1.5 hours depending on your departure point. You can either do a long day trip or a day-and-a-half trip by staying overnight. Most visitors tackle Catalina Island in a day, but for those that want to stay overnight, check the Visit Catalina Website for package deals, and also check Groupon for specials before or checking general hotel websites. Once on the Island, the primary mode of transportation are golf carts and your feet.

Getting to Catalina Island requires a boat, but the Long Beach boat launch for the Catalina Express is accessible in Downtown Long Beach, which is accessbile via the Metro Blue Line Downtown Long Beach station. It is about a half mile walk from the station to the Catalina Express depot. There are taxi stands that wait outside of the Long Beach Catalina Express departure point as well for those that live fairly close to Downtown Long Beach.

Most boats arrive in Avalon, which is where most people on the Island live and work:



The other arrival point is Two Harbors, which is much more secluded and is primarily a camping and hiking-launch point (and below is one part of it):

catalina 1

Things To Do:

Besides camping/hiking at Two Harbors, there are many things to do on Catalina Island, including scuba-diving  and Ziplining. You can also enjoy Avalon in a golf cart (the preferred mode of transportation on Catalina Island), on a bicycle or on foot. The Casino, which is not a gambling casino, but actually a “casino” in the Italian sense of the word, is the Island’s most famous building and is also a movie theater and a museum.


Buffalo and Back Island Tour:

Interested in seeing wild Buffalo and what the rest of the outside of Avalon looks like? Take the 3.5 hour Back Island Tour and you will see the descendants of the 124 Buffalo that were left on the Island after a movie shoot in 1924. The buffalo are getting smaller physically because there is not enough grass on the island, so they are evolving into a smaller species that do not need as much sustenance. You will also see the airport, the Wrigley’s farm, which is now being turned into a winery, and Two Harbors. One suggestion: sit on the left side of the bus for the best pictures on the tour.


Urban Scavenger Hunt:

You can also turn Catalina Island into a giant game board with an Urban Scavenger Hunt.  Combine the excitement of the Amazing Race with a three-hour city tour. Guided from any smart phone, you and your partners can make your way among well-known and overlooked gems of Avalon, solving clues and completing challenges while learning local history. There are three ways to enjoy the Catalina Island Scavenger Hunts, in a golf cart on a bicycle or on foot.

The Scavenger Hunts are available 365 days a year, sunrise to sunset.  Start when you want and play at your pace.  Save 20% off with our promo code: normally $49, with our code your adventure is only $39.20 for a team of 2-5 people after using the following Promotion Code: DTSOCAL. You can easily sign up online at right on your smart phone and don’t forget to use the Promotion Code: DTSOCAL.

Food Suggestions:

Food Suggestions: For breakfast, try Original Jack’s Country Kitchen 118 Catalina Ave, Avalon, CA 90704 and for dinner try Steve’s Steakhouse, 417 Crescent Avenue, Avalon CA 90704. There are also several bars and ice cream parlors in Avalon that you will enjoy. One bar to enjoy is El Galleon on 411 Crescent Avenue, where you can enjoy German beers and sausages in an eclectic dining room.

Brief Modern History:

William Wrigley Jr. (of the Wrigley Chewing Gum) played an instrumental role in the development of the Island. He bought a controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company in 1919, and, with the Company received the Island. Wrigley improved the Island with public utilities, a hotel, the Casino and extensive plantings of trees, shrubs, and flowers. Between 1921 to 1951, the Chicago Cubs (owned by Wrigley) had their spring training on the Island (except during WWII). Philip K. Wrigley continued his father’s work improving the infrastructure of the island when he inherited the Island in 1932 after his father’s death. In 1975, Philip Wrigley deeded 42,135 acres of the Island from the Santa Catalina Island Company to the Catalina Island Conservancy that he had helped to establish in 1972. This gave the Conservancy control of nearly 90 percent of the Island. 

Actress Natalie Wood drowned in the waters near Two Harbors under questionable circumstances over Thanksgiving weekend in 1981. Wood and her husband, Robert Wagner, were vacationing on their yacht with Christopher Walken.

Day Trip Into A Weekend Trip:

Expand this Catalina Island Day Trip into a multi-day trip and spend a day enjoying Downtown Long  Beachafter taking the Catalina Express from/to there.

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