Santa Catalina Island — more often referred to as Catalina Island — is part of the Channel Islands of the California archipelago, 22 miles long and 8 miles at its widest, and about 22 miles south-southwest of San Pedro.
Most of the island is owned by the Catalina Island Conservancy, whose mission is "to be a responsible steward of its lands through a balance of conservation, education and recreation."
The island is home to thousands of species of native animals, including North American bison and Catalina Island quail.
For the first time in half a century, two bald eagle eggs hatched in the wild in April without human assistance, and the birds can be seen flying above the coves.
Almost everything — including quaint shops and galleries — in the square-mile town of Avalon is within walking distance, but golf cart rentals are available year-round.
Bicycles are also available for rent, or guided tours in motor coaches and open-air trams are other options for seeing the sights. Swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing and kayaking are popular water activities.
The Catalina Flyer is a catamaran that leaves once a day at 9 a.m. from the Balboa Pavilion and arrives in Avalon at 10:15 a.m. The boat leaves Avalon daily at 4:30 p.m. and arrives back at the Balboa Pavilion at 5:45 p.m.
Round-trip tickets are $61 for adults (13 and older); $56 for seniors (60 and older); $46 for children (3-12); $4 for infants (2 and under). One-way fares are half the regular ticket price. Snacks and beverages are available on the ship. Call (949) 673-5245 or go to www.catalinainfo.com.
The Catalina Casino opened in 1929, and the 12-story building with its grand ballroom and movie theater is a focal point in the harbor.
No gambling takes place here, as "casino" literally means "gathering place" in Italian.
The casino was completely restored a few years ago, and the ballroom, with its "lavish medley of rose-hued walls, an arching, 50-foot ceiling with five Tiffany chandeliers, an elevated stage, raised seating areas around the dance floor, and a vintage, full-service bar in back," is where most of Catalina's major indoor events happen.
The movie screens first-run films every night. Tours of the casino are year-round; tickets are $16 for adults; $14.50 for seniors; $8 for children; free admission to the Catalina Island Museum is included. Call (800) 626-5440.
WRIGLEY MEMORIAL AND BOTANICAL GARDEN
The Wrigley Memorial honors the memory of William Wrigley Jr., who lived from 1861 to 1932 and played an instrumental role in the history of Catalina Island.
Wrigley brought many improvements to the island, including a hotel and the casino building.
The Wrigley Memorial is the centerpiece of the Botanical Garden, and the Wrigley Memorial Garden Foundation oversees the preservation of all native Catalina plants it grows there.
The garden is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults; children under 12 are free.
South Beach, Middle Beach and Step Beach are all located in the center of town. The Descanso Beach Club is located just beyond the Casino Building and visitors are welcome to snorkel, kayak or swim in the water there.
Chair and umbrella rentals are available; guests can use restrooms, outdoor showers and dressing rooms.
Descanso Beach also offers the only seaside bar and restaurant in Avalon.
— Sue Thoensen