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Santa Catalina Island
You road-less-traveled types may adore Catalina. During high season, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Southern Californians flock to this overgrown rock like Bostonians to Martha's Vineyard. Californians visit Catalina's hilltop Wrigley Mansion (now the pleasant Inn on Mt. Ada), attend movie premieres and Kenny Loggins concerts at its landmark Casino Ballroom (where Duke Ellington once played) and take bus tours through its vast backcountry (still occupied by real buffalo herds).
These are all legacies of chewing-gum baron William Wrigley Jr., who bought the whole 76-square-mile island for a couple of million bucks sight unseen in 1919 and shaped it into his vision of an offshore hinterland and equestrian-class resort.
There's a sunny nine-hole golf course here too (reportedly the oldest in Southern California), a triathlon and an October jazz festival. But come winter, when tourism plummets to a fraction of its fair-weather numbers, Catalina may be something closer to a secret getaway.
-- Jordan Rane
Read more: Catalina Island becomes more like a secret getaway in winter
Planning your trip:
Explore Catalina's 42,135 acres of rugged outback the easy way, in an open-air Mercedes Unimog or a 1950s Flxible bus ( 510-8687, www.visitcatalinaisland.com). Hiking in the backcountry requires a permit (free) from the Catalina Island Conservancy ( 510-2595, www.catalinaconservancy.org).