25 March 2011

Breathtaking Island Getaway minutes from Los Angeles

Hello there! Let me start off by apologizing for the post gap! I have been tied up with final exams and moving into a new home! Time to dust off the sexton and get back to work.

I recently returned from a three day visit to Santa Catalina Island, about sixty minutes south west of Long Beach, CA. The island is largely undeveloped 80% of the land is occupied by the non-profit Catalina Island Conservancy which manages and preserves this gem of natural beauty. Avalon, the island's main town, is nestled in hills overlooking the north-facing harbor where homes, hotels, and restaurants are tightly interwoven amongst steep curvy streets. The town has a quiet, sleepy feel, and the downtown can be circumnavigated on foot in less than 20 minutes!

Avalon Harbor, with Casino in background

Catalina Island is a mixture of modernity and quirky tradition. Cars are restricted on the island resulting in a ten year waiting list to bring one out. Subsequently, golf carts are the preferred transportation method on the island. (Yes, they are available for rent!) Several locals proudly pointed out how Avalon is a town of contradictions.

Avalon has a 3rd St with no 1st or 2nd. There is a bird park with no birds. The town's Casino has no gambling. The island has a post office, but no mail delivery. The private yacht club is open to the public. 
Downtown Avalon

If Disney operated an island, the result would be Catalina. As it turns out, the island is largely owned and operated by a corporate interest: the Wrigley Family (of the chewing gum fame). In 1919, William Wrigley Jr bought a controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company which oversaw use of the island. All property is owned by SCIC, and most homes and business exist on leased land.

Pier and Harbor
Avalon town and harbor
I really liked my stayed at the Casa Mariquita Hotel. Perched on a hill about five minutes walking from the water, we had beautiful panoramic views from out room. The room was nicely furnished and recently redecorated, and the hotel has a unique layout which provides many semi-private balconies and nooks to read a book or enjoy the sun and views. The staff was extremely friendly, offering a warm welcome and insider's tips and advice about the island. I would highly recommended this hotel for an overnight stay on the island.

Casa Mariquita Hotel

Overall, I enjoyed my trip to Catalina. To get a better feel for the island, click here to see the locations of the above pictures! I will follow up this post with more specifics on the island's attractions and activities. If you live in Southern CA and need to get away from it all, Catalina is an hour away by ferry!

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