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Visit Catalina Island When You’re In The Los Angeles Area

Aquarium of the Pacific, Caribbean, Hawaiian Islands, IndyCar, Los Angeles, Santa Catalina Island, California, Avalon City, Long Beach, Casino,

Catalina Island, where the Casino isn’t actually a casino, the main mode of transport is a golf cart and you might almost mistake it for the Caribbean.


If you’re ever in the Los Angeles area, take the time to spend a nice leisurely day on this beautiful little island – you won’t regret it. Located just 35 minutes south of LAX is the city of Long Beach – famous for the IndyCar race, the Queen Mary cruise liner as well as the wonderful Aquarium of the Pacific – and your gateway to Catalina Island.

Once in Long Beach, getting to the island is as easy as taking a bus. Choose the terminal that’s convenient for you (San Pedro, Long Beach Downtown, Long Beach at the Queen Mary or Dana Point) and the destination on the island (Avalon or Two Harbors). There’s plenty of convenient parking and Catalina Express Ferries whisks you over to the island in about an hour once on board. You don’t have to wait long because there are about 30 departures a day from the mainland.

From the outside, the boat doesn’t look that big, but it’s quite wide and the seats are set up like an airplane with much wider aisles and plenty of legroom. I usually get sea-sick, however I needn’t have worried, as the one hour ride was very smooth. Ten minutes before docking, the island is very close to the point where you start to see a lot of details – it looked a lot like one of the Hawaiian Islands, or maybe like a mini Monaco – more mountainous than I had expected.

There is plenty to do on the 76 square mile island: you can hike, camp, scuba dive, dine at one of the many restaurants or stay at a hotel/Bed and Breakfast. We took a leisurely walk around the metropolis of Avalon City – which is actually more of a village than a town checking out the many shops and galleries with everything within easy walking distance. With a 15-year waiting list to bring regular vehicles onto the island, almost everyone drives around in golf carts that you can rent for several hundred dollars a day, or you can chose from a variety of bicycles to rent. We chose shoe transport, which completely eliminated the problem of where to park in a small town with little or no parking.

Since we only had one short day to spend on Catalina Island we chose to take in two tours. We booked the Avalon Scenic Tour, jumped onto the tram and got a very comprehensive tour of the town and the countryside immediately surrounding Avalon. As well as getting a much closer look at those houses up on the hill, you gain some insights on the city’s history and what it’s like to live on the island all year round. The tour lasts about 50 minutes and I’d highly recommend it.


Next up was the Undersea Tour where you sit in a semi-submersible boat with windows lining the hull. After a short journey from the pier at speed, the sub slows, the captain drops food in the water and thousands of fish suddenly appear out of nowhere. At first there are so many fish you can’t see anything else – all within inches of your face. It was certainly a very unique an enjoyable experience – the tour lasts about 45 minutes, but I could have sworn it was only 5!! It’s probably the next best thing to actually getting in there with your fins on!


All too soon our day in Avalon was over. We would have loved to see the interior and Two Harbours but, you need more than just one day for that.

[When planning our trip to Catalina Island we found the following web sites to be invaluable: Catalina Chamber of Commerce –  and ]




Copyright © 2014 Iain & Gail Shankland / (at)
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Iain Shankland & Gail Shankland started blogging in order to inspire and motivate people to travel the world from their perspective – specializing in having the most fun while using the least amount of money, travelling on the cheap without sacrificing comfort.

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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Driving The Infamous California Highway 1 (San Francisco to Monterey) |

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