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Catalina Island Port of Call
Golden Gate Bridge © RyanJWilmot
Catalina is 22 miles (33km) off the coast of LA but with its
peace and seclusion it feels a million miles away from big city
life. Bicycles and golf carts outnumber the few cars, and the pace
of life is addictively relaxing.
The undersea ledge immediately off-shore is home to abundant sea life, easily experienced by snorkeling or glass-bottom boat. The only settlements are at Avalon - a magical, eccentric town where buffaloes stroll the airport runway - and smaller settlement of Two Harbors, precipitously located at the tip of the island.
Cruise ships anchor in Avalon bay as there is no deep water port. Passengers are tendered into town via smaller boats arriving at Green Pleasure Pier where there is a visitor's bureau and water-sports rental companies.
Motor vehicle use off-limits to visitors. Jump on the Avalon Trolley ($1.50) and ride to any point on the island; or rent a golf cart ($30 p/hour). Tandem bicycles are another popular option. Other than that everything is within walking distance.
The great charm of Catalina is that you can explore at your own pace, using the self-directed transport options listed above. The main attraction is the opportunity to slow down, relax and breathe clean air. For committed sightseers, the Botanical Gardens, old casino and golf course make for a good half-day exploration. The newly built Catalina Island Nature Center toward the center of the island is also worth visiting.
Catalina Country Club - patio dining in style with live jazz
Ristorante Villa Portofino - great Italian food
Steve's Steakhouse - excellent steaks and seafood with great harbour views
The breakfast special at Antonio's Pizzeria
Shops and boutiques are concentrated along Crescent Avenue. This is not a big retail environment but you can find interesting collectables and antiques, and eclectic clothing outlets.
Hike to the cliff top above Two Harbours for great views
Take a snorkel tour of Lover's Cove
See Garibaldi fish and Leopard Shark on a glass-bottom boat trip
Tour the town and see the grave of Wrigley Jr, chewing gum magnate