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Catalina Island in Kalifornien, Bild: Chris Grant / shutterstock

Catalina Island – Island Adventure Off the California Mainland

The legendary road trip along the west coast of the USA has long since ceased to be an insider tip. Every year, millions of people embark on this unique adventure. No wonder! California attracts with year-round mild temperatures, beautiful beaches and highways with breathtaking panoramas along the Pacific coast. Anyone who thinks that this is all is wrong! In addition to the major tourist metropolises of Los Angeles and San Francisco , California has another ace up its sleeve: Santa Catalina Island.

The prelude

The tranquil island of Santa Catalina, derived from Spanish as “Saint Catherine”, is located about one to two hours from the Californian mainland and can only be reached by ferry or boat. These depart from the ports of the coastal towns of San Pedro, Long Beach or Newport Beach. The duration of the crossing depends on the choice of means of transport. You have the choice between the normal ferry or the speedboat. But if you want to have the chance of an unforgettable natural spectacle on the crossing, you should keep your eyes open. Often you can watch dolphins or whales during the crossing, which are also a bit curious and like to come closer. You should therefore always have your camera ready, because maybe with a little luck you will get one of the marine mammals in front of the lens.

Catalina Island – Where to go first?

Casino Avalon Bay
The casino in Avalon, Image: Atomazul / shutterstock

The ideal starting point to explore the island is the town of Avalon. This is also where most of the almost 4000 islanders live. Avalon got its name from the now world-famous legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Presumably, the naming is related to the fact that archaeologists in the 1920s and 1930s reported human skeletons that they claimed to have found during excavations on the island. These are said to have contained remnants of blond hair and were unusually large. King Arthur, if he existed, is also said to have had an above-average height of over two meters by the standards of the time.

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Today, Avalon is more of a quiet resort. It is also the only place on the island that is fully accessible to tourists. For the rest of the island, some rules apply to the protection and preservation of nature. If you also treat your surroundings carefully at home, you have a nice relaxing holiday ahead of you on Santa Catalina.

Avalon itself is a coastal town that boasts the Catalina Island Museum and the Catalina Casino. The latter is located in a building of the typical Art Deco style and houses a round ballroom that dates back to the thirties. A big piece of history! In the same building there is also a cinema, which was used as a theatre at the time. Along the coast there are numerous shops and restaurants. After extensive souvenir shopping, you can enjoy fresh fish and a glass of wine in the restaurants, for example. The beautiful sunset over the sea is free of charge.

Pure nature!

If you’ve had enough of city trips, you should definitely explore the rest of the island. Here, for example, you can see bison in the wild and have the chance to spot the increasingly rare bald eagle – the American heraldic animal. A nature reserve has been set up for it on the island. The best way to explore nature is on foot, as part of extended hikes or by bike tour. Since these two activities may require prior permissions, it is advisable to check with local tourist centres or simply at the reception of your hotel before setting off. Real water rats were already recommended the whale sightings at the beginning. However, if you like it a little more adventurous and would like to get up close and personal, there are numerous excursion options towards the sea. During a trip on the glass-bottom boat, you can observe impressive reefs and sunken shipwrecks. An unforgettable experience, especially for the little guests! If you want to get up close and personal with the underwater world, you can snorkel or dive in the clear waters off the coast of Santa Catalina. The visibility is great and the encounters with colorful schools of fish are guaranteed to be unforgettable.

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And what about a little action?

Active holidaymakers also get their money’s worth here. For example, jeep or safari tours across the island or kayak tours are offered. There are also special fishing trips.

Catalina Island – From A to B

Point Vicente Lighthouse, Catalina Island
Point Vicente Lighthouse, Image: Ken Wolter / shutterstock

As already described at the beginning, various, partly private, nature conservation organizations attach great importance to the preservation of the island structure and nature. Normal cars are only allowed on the island up to an upper limit of about 700 cars. There are therefore very long waiting lists for new registrations at the local motor vehicle authority. Nevertheless, they have also found absolutely equal alternatives on Santa Catalina. The fact that the island can only be reached by water already relieves the traffic on the island enormously in terms of tourism. In addition, the restrictions only apply to cars that exceed a total length of three meters. Cars, such as the two-seater Smart ForTwo or the Mini Cooper, are therefore very common on the island. Otherwise, most of the locomotion takes place with electric golf cars. To get to the center of the island, there is also a bus. In addition, special water taxis also run between the individual towns on the island. So you don’t have to worry about missing out on anything here. Santa Catalina Island is well aware of its beauty and wants to show it off.

Overnight on Catalina Island

In addition to the typical hotels, there are also some tent and camping sites on Santa Catalina Island. So if you want to be particularly close to nature or want to enjoy sleeping under the stars, this is the place for you.