“Twenty two miles across the sea,
Santa Catalina is awaitin’ for me,
Santa Catalina the island of romance
Romance, romance, romance”
From Santa Catalina, performed by the Kingston Trio
Just a stone’s throw from the mainland of Los Angeles (San Pedro, actually) lies the island retreat of Catalina. Once the quick getaway of Hollywood stars during the 1920’s and 19430s, Catalina retains much of the charm of those bygone days.
You won’t find any freeways, the cars are limited by law. There are no big box stores, just some small boutiques and specialty shops. Catalina is a trip to life in the slow lane. And that is just the reason to visit this charming bit of real estate in the Pacific – to just kick back and relax.
There are just two villages on the islands, Avalon, the main town; and Two Harbors at the opposite end of the island. Avalon is the main hub and palm-lined Crescent Avenue is the closest thing you’ll find to a main street. It simply oozes charm and there are enough boutiques to do some serious damage to your wallet. Two Harbors pretty much is the territory of the yachting set, with mostly boat supply shops,a couple of patio restaurants and an historic Civil War barracks.
The Art Deco gem of Santa Catalina is the Avalon Theatre. One of the last of the truly great ballrooms of its day it has been carefully restored to its pre-depression day glory and now functions as a movie theatre.
The pier is the perfect place to stroll away an afternoon, you can breathe in the fresh ocean air, snap photos of the fabulous sea and sky views, stop for an open air lunch and linger over a latte as people pass you by. And because it’s a pier, you’ll also find tour cruise boats and even a semi-submersible should you be overtaken by an urge to runaway to sea.
Head over to the opposite side of the island and yacht-gaze at the sloops and sails of the rich and famous. Nicholas Cage has been known to moor his boat in the harbour and to be seen around town.
Feel the need to be nurtured by some nature? The Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Garden is filled with cacti, succulents and other local plants that remind the visitor that this is Southern California and comes by its desert climate naturally. The paths are a delight to wander but make sure you save time and energy to climb to the top of the memorial for an outstanding view of the area.
You can even get far off the beaten path in the interior portion of the island, a protected area, that remains a wilderness complete with roaming bison, native plants and even bald eagles.
Don’t forget you are on an island and head for the beach! The island’s reefs and clear waters are filled with wildlife – colourful fish and corals. Favorite local places to snorkel include Lover’s Cove, a protected marine preserve and Casino Point Underwater Dive Park. If you want to view all of this from above try a kayak or glass-bottom boat.
However you spend your time on Santa Catalina, just a ferry ride from San Pedro, you are bound to come home humming, “twenty two miles across the sea….”