Sunday, June 16, 2024

Calling Catalina!

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Ahoy, fellow adventurers! It’s your old mate, The Monthly Traveler, here to whisk you away on another unforgettable voyage through the Golden State. If you’ve hit the open road with me before, you know that each of our journeys is a unique tapestry of discovery and delight. And if you’re a first-time traveler, well, prepare to have your wanderlust ignited like never before!

Our last escapade led us to the enchanting city of Solvang, where we strolled through streets that felt like they’d been plucked straight from the pages of a fairytale. But now, my friends, it’s time to pack our bags and embark on a two and a half day expedition to a destination that’s both magical and mystifying, where adventure awaits just a short boat ride away.

Where Adventure Meets Paradise

Today, we’re casting off towards the sun-kissed shores of Catalina Island, a haven of unspoiled beauty nestled in the embrace of the Pacific Ocean. But there’s something truly magical about this visit. While fall slowly descends upon the mainland, Catalina Island basks in the glory of what’s aptly named “Second Summer”.

As summer travel season winds down elsewhere, here in Catalina, it’s a special time when summery weather typically extends well into the month of November. So, let’s embark on a journey to this sun-filled haven, where adventure dances with paradise!

Island Tales: Where Legends Come to Life

Before we dive headfirst into our Catalina escapade, let’s take a moment to uncover the island’s rich history. Long before tourists flocked to its shores, the Tongva people called this island home, cradling its secrets and treasures. They lovingly referred to it as “Pimu” or “Pimugna,” and their legacy still whispers through the rustling palms.

In the late 19th century, Catalina found itself on the cusp of transformation when George Shatto, a visionary real estate speculator from Grand Rapids, Michigan, acquired the island for $200,000 (equivalent to $6.7 million today) from the Lick estate during the Southern California real estate boom in 1887. Shatto would create the settlement that would become Avalon. His dream was to develop a bustling resort community and he laid the groundwork by building the town’s first hotel, the original Hotel Metropole, and a pier.

However, despite Shatto’s ambitious efforts, he encountered financial difficulties and defaulted on his loan after just a few years, leading to the island’s return to the Lick estate. It was during this turbulent period that the Banning brothers, sons of Phineas Banning, entered the scene. They bought the island from the Lick estate in 1891 and committed themselves to fulfilling Shatto’s vision by constructing numerous tourist facilities.

And let’s not forget that Avalon’s history, like any grand tale, has its share of challenges. On November 29, 1915, a devastating fire ravaged half of Avalon, reducing six hotels and several clubs to ashes.

Coupled with the decline in tourism due to World War I, the Banning brothers found themselves grappling with staggering debt. In 1919, they were left with no choice but to relinquish their hold on the island, selling it in shares.

However, the real game-changer for Catalina came when chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr., swept in to purchase the Catalina Island Company. Yes, you heard that right! Wrigley’s arrival heralded an era of transformation and growth. He invested millions, brought the Chicago Cubs to the island for spring training, and created the iconic Catalina Casino (and no, it’s not what you’re thinking!) that we will be exploring a little later.

Now, as we prepare to set sail for this sun-soaked paradise, you’ll discover that there’s so much more to Catalina than meets the eye. From thrilling activities to breathtaking landscapes and tantalizing cuisine, every moment promises adventure, and every corner whispers tales of wonder.

Day 1

All Aboard!: Setting Sail to Catalina

Now, after indulging in the captivating history of Catalina Island, it’s time to pivot from stories of the past to creating our very own island adventures. Buckle up, fellow explorers, because our next stop is the Catalina Express, your ticket to paradise!

But wait, we’re not just ordinary tourists. We’re about to kick things up a notch and add a touch of luxury to our adventure. Allow me to introduce you to the exclusive Commodore Lounge, our golden ticket to cruising in style.

These can be pre-booked, and trust me, it’s worth every penny. Not only do you enjoy enhanced privacy, but you’ll also be treated to a complimentary beverage. Plus, with priority check-in and boarding, you’ll be among the first to step foot on Catalina Island, ready to make memories that will last a lifetime.

Are you ready? Because the journey is about to get a whole lot more exciting!

From Boat to Balcony: Checking In and Living It Up at The Avalon Hotel

Our adventure on Catalina Island kicks off with a splash—literally—as we step off the Catalina Express and onto this captivating island paradise. But before we set off on our island explorations, let’s check in, and drop our bags at the exquisite Avalon Hotel, our cozy haven right off the boat.

Nestled in the heart of Catalina Island, The Avalon Hotel is the perfect starting point for our island escapade. With sweeping ocean views that will steal your breath away, private balconies inviting you to soak in the island’s beauty, and a delectable complimentary continental breakfast each morning, this boutique hotel ensures your stay is nothing short of extraordinary.

As we step into our cozy room for the next couple of days, we are welcomed by thoughtful amenities that enhance your comfort and convenience. In-room coffee means we’ll be able to savor that first morning cup while taking in the tranquility of the island. Personal climate control ensures we’ll always be at the right temperature, while microwaves and refrigerators offer flexibility for snacking at our leisure.

But The Avalon Hotel isn’t just a place to rest; it’s a destination in itself. The rooftop patio beckons with panoramic views of Avalon and the harbor, perfect for sipping a morning coffee or enjoying a starlit nightcap beneath the island’s twinkling sky. Meanwhile, the garden patio offers another delightful escape, complete with comfy seating, a cozy fire pit, and a captivating fountain inhabited by friendly Koi fish. As an added bonus, the Avalon Hotel is a member of Kind Traveler’s Every Stay Gives Back program, where donations support the island’s Marine Mammal Rescue program!

As we revel in the incomparable scenery, we can’t help but notice the hotel’s unique charm. With its craftsman styling, modern comforts, deluxe bedding, and upscale bath amenities, The Avalon Hotel offers an enchanting experience. Most rooms provide breathtaking ocean views of Avalon harbor and its picturesque surroundings.

Catalina Island is renowned for its resort experience, and The Avalon Hotel effortlessly embodies that spirit. So, whether you’re here for relaxation, adventure, or a bit of both, this boutique hotel provides the perfect launching pad for our island getaway.

As we step out from The Avalon Hotel, we carry with us the promise of adventure and the comforts of a welcoming retreat. But for now, let’s drop our bags, savor the views, and relish a delightful breakfast at Catalina Coffee & Cookie Co., our first official stop on this remarkable island journey.

Morning Magic: Breakfast at Catalina Coffee & Cookie Co.

After a smooth check-in and dropping our bags off at The Avalon Hotel, we’re just a short and leisurely walk away from our first foodie escapade: Catalina Coffee & Cookie Co. It’s the perfect stop to fuel up for the exciting day ahead on this island paradise.

As we step inside this delightful eatery, the air is filled with the enticing aroma of freshly brewed gourmet coffee, rich espresso, and delectable pastries. It’s a sensory experience that sets the perfect island tone.

Catalina Coffee & Cookie Co. takes breakfast seriously, offering it all day long. So whether you’re an early riser or prefer to savor the morning at a more relaxed pace, you’re in for a treat.

Imagine crafting your perfect breakfast sandwich, choosing from a tempting array of ingredients like fluffy eggs, savory bacon, or creamy avocado—all nestled within a warm, toasted bun. And to complement your morning delight, there’s an array of beverages, from meticulously crafted cappuccinos to invigorating chai teas.

For those who prefer something cooler, there are frappes and smoothies that are as refreshing as a dip in the island’s azure waters.

And, of course, there are the cookies! You won’t be able to resist the sight of freshly baked cookies cooling on bakery racks. They promise a symphony of flavors in every delightful bite. If you’re looking for a memento from this island adventure, there’s a variety of gift ideas to choose from.

So, let’s get together around the cozy tables, soak in the island vibes, and indulge in our custom breakfast creations. As we sip our morning espresso and savor the delightful bites, we’ll be fully energized and ready to kick off our day’s adventures with gusto.

Sea Adventures Await

Let’s set the stage for our next exciting adventure. After a delicious breakfast sandwich built to perfection, it’s time to dive into the aquatic wonders of Catalina with none other than Catalina Adventure Sailing.

With the sun warming our spirits, we embark on a thrilling voyage led by the ever-knowledgeable Captain Raphael, a true sailing aficionado, who’s navigated these waters countless times. Our vessel, the Catalina 385, is a stunning 38-foot sailboat perfectly suited for this unforgettable experience. As we step on board, you can feel the excitement building in the air.

The adventure begins with a gentle sway as we set sail from Avalon Harbor, and the rhythmic sound of the waves instantly transports us to a world of tranquility and wonder. This remarkable journey offers us a unique perspective of Santa Catalina Island, revealing its unspoiled coastline and the abundant marine life that calls this place home.

As we glide through the crystal-clear waters, keep an eye out for playful dolphins dancing in our wake and colorful fish darting beneath the surface. It’s not uncommon to spot majestic sea lions basking on the rocks, adding to the magic of this marine safari.

Our vessel is equipped with all the comforts you could wish for during this oceanic escapade. Step inside, and you’ll find a spacious cabin complete with a restroom, shower, changing rooms, a fully stocked galley, and a Bose stereo system that sets the perfect soundtrack for our voyage.

For those yearning for a more immersive experience, consider the option of a private overnight stay with the mooringside B&B, BarcoIris. Picture yourself waking up to the soothing sounds of waves, indulging in a refreshing morning swim at Descanso Beach, snorkeling at the Casino Dive Park, or embarking on a paddle-boarding adventure to explore Avalon Harbor at your leisure. It’s a unique opportunity to embrace the tranquility of the island while being surrounded by the enchanting beauty of Catalina.

So, whether you’re an experienced sailor or setting foot on a sailboat for the first time, Catalina Adventure Sailing promises an experience you won’t soon forget. As we sail along, reveling in the sea breeze and the beauty of Santa Catalina Island, it’s impossible not to be swept away by the thrill of the open water and the wonders that await beneath the surface.

Bison, Foxes, and Eagles, Oh My!: Catalina’s Conservancy Eco Tour

As we return to solid ground after our exhilarating sailing adventure, the thrill continues on Catalina Island, but this time we’re venturing into its heartland. Our next stop is the Catalina Island Conservancy’s Eco Tour, a remarkable journey that will take us off the beaten path and deep into the island’s pristine wilderness.

Imagine swapping the gentle sway of the ocean for the rugged terrain of Catalina’s interior. With access to over 165 miles of both paved and unpaved roads, this naturalist-Catalled Eco Tour promises a unique and bumpy ride. But it’s these very roads that will lead us to places most visitors never have the chance to explore.

Catalina Island Conservancy, the guardian of 88 percent of the island’s sprawling expanse spanning approximately 48,000 acres, stands as a testament to Philip K. Wrigley’s vision. He and his sister, Dorothy Offield, founded the conservancy to protect the island and ensure its natural beauty remains pristine—a truly unique aspect of this island paradise.

Within this vast expanse lies the region’s most extensive publicly accessible undeveloped coastline, a sanctuary for both nature enthusiasts and dedicated conservationists alike. The Conservancy’s unwavering commitment to research and conservation makes it a steward of Catalina’s delicate ecosystems and a safeguard for its unique species, all amidst the Mediterranean climate that defines the island.

Our adventure will be guided by the incredibly knowledgeable Beth, a true island insider who’s brimming with information about Catalina’s rich history, unique plant life, and diverse wildlife. As we traverse unpaved roads and trails, don’t be surprised by the occasional bump and jar – it’s all part of the fun.

Keep your eyes peeled for the spectacular sight of bald eagles soaring high above, the elusive Santa Catalina Island fox, and the iconic American bison. These bison are believed to be descendants of a small herd that arrived on the island in 1924, courtesy of a movie company. Left free to roam and reproduce, they’ve thrived, and today, there are approximately 100 bison on the island. And let’s not forget the island’s rare plants and intriguing archaeological sites that Beth will introduce us to along the way.

This 3-hour journey promises more than just adventure; it’s a chance to get up close and personal with the untamed side of Catalina. So, get ready to buckle up and explore the uncharted territories of this beautiful island. The Catalina Conservancy Eco Tour is bound to be an unforgettable experience, unveiling a hidden side of Catalina that few have the privilege to see.

During our exhilarating Catalina Island Conservancy Eco Tour, an unexpected highlight awaits us – a visit to the Airport in the Sky! This remote aviation hub, nestled 1,600 feet above sea level, added an exciting twist to our adventure. With a brief 30-minute break, we’ll have the chance to explore this unique plateau, savor delicious treats at the renowned Airport in the Sky Restaurant, and shop for souvenirs at the on-site store. This historic airfield, commissioned by the Wrigley family, is a must-see, offering an unforgettable glimpse of Catalina Island!

This 3-hour journey promises more than just adventure; it’s a chance to get up close and personal with the untamed side of Catalina. So, get ready to buckle up and explore the uncharted territories of this beautiful island. The Catalina Conservancy Eco Tour is an amazing experience, unveiling a hidden side of Catalina that few have the privilege to see.

Seaside Delights: Coastal Cuisine at Antonio’s

After an afternoon turned into evening filled with adventure and exploration, our appetites are calling, and we answer with enthusiasm as we head to Antonio’s for a delightful dinner. This charming eatery perfectly blends a laid-back, family-friendly atmosphere with the allure of waterfront dining.

Antonio’s diverse menu is a treasure trove of flavors to please every palate. Imagine savoring crispy flatbreads, their crust kissed by the wood-fire pizza oven, or relishing in an array of sandwiches that include tantalizing options like bison burgers, short rib grilled cheese, and zesty buffalo chicken. For those looking for a lighter option, hearty salads are a refreshing choice.

But the culinary journey doesn’t stop there. Antonio’s offers an array of delights, from mouthwatering wings to savory tacos, each bite more satisfying than the last. And when it’s time to satisfy your sweet tooth, their dessert menu promises a delightful ending to your meal.

As you dine, be sure to take in the captivating views of the water. Whether you opt for the open-air ambiance of the patio or the cozy indoors with a window view, the sight of the harbor adds an extra layer of magic to your evening.

With a full bar featuring specialty and classic cocktails, a carefully curated wine list, and a selection of domestic, imported, and draught beers, Antonio’s ensures you have everything you need for an unforgettable dining experience.

So, with the sun setting over the water, casting a warm and inviting glow on your table, you’ll relish the fact that you’ve wrapped up a perfect first day on Catalina Island.

Travelers’ Choice

– Kung Pao Chicken Lollipops

– Pan Seared Maryland Crab Cakes

– BBQ Chicken Flatbread

– Fish Tacos

– Chocolate Chip Cookie

– Peanut Butter Snickers Pie

– Limoncello Lemon Drop

– Cyn-Cyn

Day 2

Ah, good morning, fellow explorers! After a restful night at the charming Avalon Hotel, it’s time to greet the new day with a light breakfast. But guess what? You won’t even have to venture far for this morning delight because The Avalon Hotel has us covered.

As you step out onto the hotel’s beautiful patio, you’ll be greeted by the soothing sounds of a small pond inhabited by vibrant Koi fish. It’s a touch of tranquility that sets the perfect mood for the beginning of your day.

Picture this: You’re seated comfortably at a cozy table, surrounded by lush greenery. The morning sun casts a warm glow, and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee fills the air. It’s a slice of paradise, right here at The Avalon Hotel.

Before we dive into the day’s adventures, let’s treat ourselves to the hotel’s Complimentary Continental Breakfast. Sip on a rejuvenating cup of coffee, savor a refreshing juice, and delight in a light breakfast that’ll fuel you up for what lies ahead.

Beneath the Waves: Exploring Catalina’s Submerged Secrets with Scuba by Design

After a delightful breakfast at The Avalon Hotel, we’re charged up and ready to embark on another day of exhilarating experiences here on Catalina Island. As we step outside, the island air carries a sense of anticipation, promising a day filled with wonder.

Our next adventure is a true immersion into the island’s magic, and it begins just a short distance from our hotel. We’re heading to Casino Point Dive Park with Scuba by Design, where the underwater world of Catalina awaits. The Casino Dive Park is a famous dive spot for scuba diving and exclusive to divers.

Meet Lisa, our experienced dive instructor who’s as passionate about diving as she is about sharing its marvels with others. Her journey into the world of diving is as fascinating as the ocean itself. It all started with her son, an experienced dive instructor, who relentlessly encouraged her to give diving a try. After a decade of persuasion, Lisa finally took the plunge and discovered a new love and passion beneath the waves.

With countless dives under her weight belt, Lisa’s expertise is matched only by her dedication to providing a memorable experience for her guests. At Scuba by Design, they’ve coined the term “scuba tailgating.” It’s all about convenience and comfort, from providing shade, mats, and chairs to top-notch gear and delicious catered lunches. They’ll set it all up and break it all down, allowing us to focus solely on the underwater wonders.

But what truly sets Scuba by Design apart is Lisa’s commitment to inclusivity through their Adaptive Diving program. This unique initiative ensures that individuals of all abilities have the opportunity to explore the ocean’s mysteries, making it an experience like no other on the island.

Today, we’re venturing beneath the waves, where a world of awe and fascination unfolds. Scuba diving isn’t just a sport; it’s a doorway to a realm of vibrant colors, graceful creatures, and serene beauty. Lisa, a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, is our guide into this enchanting world.

At Scuba by Design, the experience is tailored to you. Whether you’re an experienced diver or it’s your very first time, Lisa ensures that your underwater adventure is perfectly suited to your preferences and comfort level.

When asked what new divers take away from their first underwater trip, Lisa beautifully summed up the essence of the scuba experience: ‘When you first learn, it’s like being fire-hosed with information, but you come out with a sense of wonder. The earth is primarily water, and we don’t have any idea what all is out there. It’s transformative, It quiets the mind, and is well known to be good for mental health. It’s a feeling of freedom.”

As we gear up and prepare to take the plunge into the crystal-clear waters of Casino Point Dive Park, there’s an undeniable sense of excitement growing. The underwater wonders of Catalina beckon, promising a day of discovery and delight. With each dive, you’re not just exploring the ocean; you’re discovering a profound connection with the world beneath the surface. So, let’s jump in, explore, and create memories that will last a lifetime beneath the waves.

Cocktails and Coastlines: Descanso Beach Club’s Seaside Serenity

After our underwater exploration, it’s time to refuel, relax, and enjoy the beauty of Catalina Island. I’ve got just the place for it: Descanso Beach Club. Located along the picturesque waterfront, just a leisurely stroll from our morning dive, this charming beachside restaurant and bar offers a unique Catalina experience.

Descanso Beach Club is Catalina’s well-kept secret—a secluded beachside oasis nestled along the waterfront. As we arrive, you’ll immediately sense the tranquil atmosphere and captivating views.

At this unique California destination, you can enjoy the pleasure of sipping a refreshing cocktail with your toes nestled in the warm sand. Don’t miss the chance to indulge in the legendary Original Buffalo Milk, a local favorite celebrated for its creamy and delightful flavors. Just a friendly reminder, if you’re planning to enjoy this alcoholic beverage, make sure to have your ID ready!

The lunch menu here is a delightful mix of flavors, featuring fresh and seasonal options, including mouthwatering vegetarian choices. As you dine, soak in the breathtaking ocean vistas—the perfect backdrop to your meal.

All you adventure seekers will find plenty of thrilling activities like snorkeling, kayaking, and even a zip line, while those seeking relaxation can unwind at beachside cabanas, or chaises, and take in the delightful atmosphere.

Descanso Beach Club promises a slice of beachside bliss on Catalina Island. With soft sands, cool ocean breezes, and mesmerizing views, it’s the ideal spot to relax and rejuvenate before heading to our next stop that is sure to take us back in time.

Travelers Choice:

– Guacamole & chips

– Seafood Burger w/ Fries

– Shrimp Taco

– Original Buffalo Milk

Lights, Camera, Catalina! Exploring the Catalina Island Casino 

After our delightful lunch at Descanso Beach Club, our next stop is the enchanting Catalina Island Casino, an architectural masterpiece and a treasure trove of Hollywood history. Fun fact, Casino originally meant a “place to gather” which is exactly what this structural jewel was used for. Gambling is not permitted on Catalina Island.

Upon entering, we find ourselves in the historic Avalon Theatre, directly on the lower level. Its magnificent 50-foot domed ceiling and exquisite Art Deco murals by John Gabriel Beckman create an ambiance that takes us back to the golden age of cinema. This theater was a pioneer in the era of “talkies.”

But our adventure doesn’t end here. We’re in for a treat as we embark on a guided walking tour, unveiling the hidden stories of this iconic building. We gain access to areas that have been off-limits to the public for over seven decades.

One of the tour’s highlights is the Casino Ballroom, a grand and glamorous space that once hosted legendary big-band acts like Jimmy Dorsey, Woody Herman, and Harry James. As we step inside, we’re transported to an era when couples swayed to the melodious tunes of live orchestras, and the ballroom floor came alive with graceful dancers.

Don’t forget to look up; the intricate details on the stunning glass Tiffany chandelier that has graced the ballroom since 1929 are simply mesmerizing. But that’s not all. Our journey takes us behind the scenes to explore the projection room, where state-of-the-art equipment ushered in the era of talking pictures. We’ll also be visiting the green rooms, where Hollywood stars like Errol Flynn and Cary Grant prepared for their moments in the limelight.

The Catalina Island Casino, with its captivating hand-painted murals, timeless elegance, and a touch of Hollywood magic, invites you to savor an unforgettable experience on our island getaway. It’s a place where history and glamour intertwine, leaving you with lasting memories.

Reel in the adventure

Now, let’s dive into the heart of Catalina Island’s adventure offerings with a stop that promises excitement and fun – Catalina Coastal Tours! Brace yourselves for an aquatic journey like no other along the island’s unique and diverse coastline.

Calling all fishing enthusiasts! RedRum is your gateway to coastal angling thrills around Catalina Island. Whether you’re a couple seeking a romantic angling escapade or a small group of friends looking for adventure, RedRum has you covered.

If you’re craving an adrenaline rush, Catalina Xtreme Parasail is your ticket to new heights. Their Coast Guard-inspected vessel accommodates up to 12 passengers, making it perfect for friends and family outings. Choose from single, tandem, or three-person flyer options, and prepare for a breathtaking experience as you soar high above the island. Early bird specials offer savings on select morning trips, so don’t miss the chance to view Catalina from above!

In a heartwarming partnership, Catalina Xtreme Parasail has joined forces with the Susan G. Komen foundation to make a difference in the fight against breast cancer. This collaboration aims to raise awareness and provide support for breast cancer research and those facing this challenge.

Drinks, Games, and Good Times: Cheers to fun at Flx Biergarten 

After our captivating journey through the Catalina Island Casino, delving into the island’s storied connection with Hollywood, along with enjoying a little fishing and parasailing with Catalina Coastal Tours, it’s time to wet your whistle and enjoy some refreshing drinks at Flx Biergarten.

This stop is a unique gem in Avalon, drawing inspiration from the iconic ’50s Flxible buses that once roamed Avalon’s streets and paying homage to Catalina’s rich history. Its open-air ambiance invites us to unwind and create memorable moments with friends and fellow travelers. With charming string lights overhead and inviting firepits, this biergarten sets the stage for a perfect island afternoon.

What can you expect at Flx Biergarten? An enticing selection of beverages awaits, from cold beers to wines, seltzers, and even kombucha. Beer enthusiasts can embark on a flavorful journey with delightful beer flights, offering a taste of various styles.

But Flx Biergarten is more than just a place to enjoy drinks. It’s a hub of fun and entertainment. Engage in friendly competition with games like Jenga, cornhole, and beer pong. The lively atmosphere, complete with upbeat music and a friendly staff ensuring swift service, makes it an ideal spot to soak up the sun, and enjoy island vibes.

Wanderlust in Paradise: Avalon on Foot 

After enjoying some refreshing drinks and soaking in the vibrant atmosphere at Flx Biergarten, it’s time to continue our adventure on Catalina Island. Our next destination? Exploring the charming town of Avalon on foot.

As we stroll along the waterfront and venture into the heart of this picturesque town, we’ll have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in its rich heritage and unique character.

While exploring the pedestrian-friendly streets of Avalon, we’re immediately immersed in a world of colorful house fronts, hotels with red-tiled roofs, and a delightful blend of architectural styles. This charming atmosphere evokes the coastal beauty of Cinque Terre and Tuscany in Italy, yet it’s unmistakably Californian.

You’ll also have the chance to discover quaint shops and boutiques, each offering a unique slice of Catalina’s culture. Whether you’re in search of island apparel, local artwork, or simply craving a sweet treat from one of the ice cream and candy stores, Avalon’s shops have something for everyone.

This leisurely stroll has worked up our appetite, and now, we’re eagerly headed to our next destination where a delectable dinner awaits!

Good Catch! 

After a delightful stroll around town, it’s time to savor the flavors of Catalina, and what better way than with some delicious seafood for dinner? Prepare your taste buds for a culinary adventure at The Lobster Trap. This fresh fish restaurant is more than just a dining experience; it’s a chance to immerse yourself in the island’s culinary delights.

The Lobster Trap boasts a warm and welcoming ambiance, where great food meets friendly staff, all in a casual and inviting setting. It’s the kind of place where you can instantly feel like a local, even if you’ve just arrived on the island. Conveniently located just half a block off the main drag, this hidden gem is a culinary treasure waiting to be discovered.

Their menu is a seafood lover’s dream come true, offering a diverse selection to satisfy every palate. Whether you’re craving the comforting embrace of clam chowder served in a warm bread bowl or the exquisite flavors of cheese ravioli, The Lobster Trap has something to delight your taste buds.

Now that you’re good and full, It’s time to wrap up the evening and head back to The Avalon Hotel for some well-deserved rest. Tomorrow holds a few more exciting things to enjoy before we say goodbye to this island paradise.

Travelers Choice:

– Lobster Roll

– Clam Chowder

Day 3

A Tasty Send-off: Breakfast at the Atwater Bistro

As we embark on Day 3 of our Catalina Island adventure, we’re fully aware that it’s our last day in paradise. But don’t worry; I’m determined to make it memorable for you, starting with a delightful breakfast at Bistro at the Atwater, located adjacent to Hotel Atwater

This charming café has a diverse selection of grab-and-go breakfast items, from delectable baked goods and breakfast burritos to savory sandwiches, wraps, salads, and more.

Of course, you can also savor your morning cup of coffee or tea, along with cool and refreshing juices and specialty drinks, to energize yourself for our final island adventure.

Travelers Choice:

– The Bistro Burrito

Saddles & Vineyards: El Rancho Escondido’s Unique Blend 

As we bid farewell to the charming Bistro at the Atwater, our Catalina adventure takes an exciting detour into the heart of the island’s serene interior. Our destination: El Rancho Escondido, affectionately known as “the hidden ranch,” nestled 12 miles beyond Avalon’s bustling streets.

This exclusive journey into the island’s inland beauty is a testament to the area’s rich history. We’re on the cusp of a remarkable experience that will transport us back in time to the roots of El Rancho Escondido. This historic site, founded in 1930 by Philip and Helen Wrigley, began its journey as an Arabian Horse Ranch. It was a visionary breeding program initially focused on preserving the wild horses of Catalina Island. However, its story took a fascinating twist as it evolved into a breeding ground for champion Arabian horses. These magnificent animals soon became stars on the national stage, earning acclaim at shows and competitions throughout the United States.

Today, El Rancho Escondido continues its legacy as a cherished home for the Wrigley family’s horses. However, it also plays a significant role in the family’s ventures, including the renowned Rusack Vineyards. Amidst the rugged beauty of Catalina’s interior, the ranch’s sprawling vineyards flourish, nurturing chardonnay, pinot noir, and zinfandel grapes. This unique blend of equestrian heritage and viticultural excellence defines the character of El Rancho Escondido, and we’re about to embark on an exclusive exploration led by Kathy, an experienced horse trainer who will guide us through the ranch’s treasures.

But there’s even more to this captivating journey. In the future, visitors will have the opportunity to board a vintage Flxible Bus—a delightful nod to Catalina’s history—to see the Arabian Horse Ranch and experience its fascinating story up close. Stay tuned for this exciting addition, promising a deeper connection to Catalina’s heritage.

Beyond the ranch’s rich equine history, it holds a special place in the heart of the Wrigley family. Passed down through generations, this hidden gem on the southwestern edge of Santa Catalina Island is a cherished family gathering place. The Wrigleys, known for their gum empire and their ownership of the Santa Catalina Island Company since 1919, have created a lasting legacy on this island paradise.

The Rusack family, in particular, has breathed new life into El Rancho Escondido. Alison Wrigley Rusack, a member of the Wrigley family, and her husband, Geoff, have played a pivotal role in the ranch’s rejuvenation. Under their guidance, the property has undergone renovations while preserving its iconic mission-style architecture, featuring white stucco walls and clay tile roofs—a quintessential element of Southern California’s architectural heritage.

Upon arriving at El Rancho Escondido, the first thing that will catch your eye is the timeless design of this historic establishment. Now over 90 years old, it has recently undergone a thoughtful renovation to maintain its iconic mission-style appearance. The classic white walls and clay tile roof have been carefully preserved. Notably, this renovation wasn’t just about aesthetics; it also brought the existing structures up to modern building standards. It’s a seamless blend of old-world charm and contemporary functionality, setting the stage for the captivating experience that awaits us within.

Kathy, who passionately leads our journey at El Rancho Escondido, emphasizes the unique experience: “One of the most thrilling aspects of our work here at El Rancho Escondido is the opportunity to showcase Arabian horses in this remarkable historic backdrop. It’s like breathing life back into the rich heritage of these majestic animals, and we have exciting plans to reintroduce Arabian horse exhibitions right here on Catalina Island,” she enthusiastically reveals.

While exploring the ranch, you’ll have the privilege of visiting the Saddle & Trophy Room, a fascinating repository of history. Here, you’ll encounter an array of trophies and saddles, along with a rich collection of Western memorabilia and original attire, all echoing the ranch’s equestrian heritage. Additionally, you’ll find a treasure trove of black-and-white photos documenting the Wrigley family’s connection to the island, dating back to the early 1930s. These glimpses into the past, including photos of the Wrigley family arriving on the island aboard their private DC-3, provide a captivating window into the island’s history.

But the ranch has even more to offer. A brand-new lookout deck, positioned right outside the riding ring, offers panoramic views of the ranch’s stunning surroundings. It’s the perfect spot to soak in the natural beauty of the property. This will be where future visitors will be able to enjoy shows featuring Arabian horses once again.

Another very unique offering at El Rancho Escondido that you’ll get to explore, sits atop a gentle hill just above the vineyard. This is where you’ll discover The Bishop’s Chapel, a private sanctuary built on the property. This charming chapel boasts one of the most breathtaking views in all of Catalina, offering vistas of an uninhabited hillside and the vast expanse of the ocean. It’s a serene spot that invites contemplation and reflection, making it a true hidden treasure on the island.

Our adventure at El Rancho Escondido promises a unique blend of equestrian legacy, viticultural excellence, and a deep appreciation for Catalina’s history. It’s a journey that connects us with the island’s heritage in ways few experiences can, leaving us with cherished memories of Catalina’s hidden wonders.

Last Bites on the Island: Lunch at Catalina Coffee & Cookie Co.

As the day’s adventures on Catalina Island come to a close, we find ourselves back at the bustling Avalon Harbor, ready to embark on the journey back to the mainland. After grabbing our bags, and completing a smooth check out from The Avalon Hotel, the anticipation of the trip home begins to build. But, we’ve worked up an appetite after our El Rancho Escondido Tour, So let’s make a stop at Catalina Coffee & Cookie Co. one more time to enjoy lunch before heading back to the mainland.

We’re treating ourselves to a mouthwatering Chipotle Chicken Pizza Bread, a savory creation that combines the bold flavors of chipotle, tender chicken, and melted cheese. It’s a perfect blend of spice and comfort, making it the ideal choice for a quick and delicious lunch. To accompany our meal, we opt for a refreshing beer from their selection of alcoholic beverages. Wine is also available for all you vino lovers. The open-air patio offers a pleasant setting to enjoy our last meal on the island.

Before we board the boat for the mainland, it’s a must you take a piece of Catalina with you. The Best Cinnamon Roll Ever, a delectable treat from the cafe’s bakery, is too tempting to resist. It will serve as a sweet reminder of our island getaway as we savor it during the boat ride, watching Catalina’s scenic beauty one last time.

Farewell to Catalina: The Journey Home 

Yes, it’s true; our island escapade is coming to a close. But, for those of you now thinking about coming back to Catalina Island, Second Summer is the ideal time to experience its magic. Take advantage of a variety of hotels offering “Buy Two Nights, Get the Third Free”! These deals are valid until November 2, 2023 on, and will help you revel in the extended summer vibes. Be sure to check property availability, blackout dates, and restrictions to make the most of this special offer. Explore the list of participating hotels HERE and seize the opportunity to enjoy Catalina’s beauty a little longer.

As we make our way to the dock to board the Catalina Express, let’s breathe in that island air one more time and take a mental snapshot of this remarkable getaway. I am the Monthly Traveler, and I trust you’ve enjoyed this unique Southern California destination as much as I have. But don’t stray too far, because our next adventure promises to be equally captivating. For all you wine enthusiasts, we’re venturing to the crown jewel of California wine country: Napa Valley. So, get those glasses ready! I’ll be seeing you again soon. Until then, stay curious!!

– The Monthly Traveler

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