Family Travel Destination: Catalina Island

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Family Travel Destination: Catalina Island

Catalina Island is a fun travel destination for families with kids of any age.  Whether you visit overnight, for a weekend, a few days, or a week, you’ll find plenty to do.

Just 22 miles off the California coast, Catalina Island is 22 miles long and up to 8 miles wide.  It takes about an hour to get there by boat (or 15 minutes by air).  Boats leave year-round out of ports in Long Beach, Dana Point, Newport Beach, and San Pedro.  For my family, the boat ride to and from the island was a fun and memorable part of the trip. 

Once you get to the island, you’ll instantly notice how cute and quaint it is.  It’s pretty small with hills off in the distance, a charming little town with lots of shops and restaurants, little strips of beach, a pier, and the most spectacular views from everywhere.

The main town on Catalina Island is Avalon (there’s also the unincorporated community village of Two Harbors).  Avalon’s main street is Crescent Avenue, where you can walk around, shop, eat, visit the beach, and enjoy stunning views.

 

While you’re there, you may want to try some of these family-friendly activities: taking a boat or submarine ride, renting a golf cart to explore the island, relaxing and playing at the beach, shopping, visiting a museum, playing miniature golf, and more.  Here are a few recommendations:

Sea Adventures
You can choose from a variety of sea-going activities, which you can book and access from the centrally located pier, the Green Pleasure Pier.  We loved the submarine ride, Undersea Expedition, where we got to go under water and look at lots of fish through the windows.  See http://catalinatours.com/tour/undersea-expedition/

 

 

Other boat adventures include the popular glass-bottom boat, Ocean Runner dolphin watching tour, nighttime Flying Fish Tour, Sundown Isthmus Cruise, and if you really want a true ocean submersion experience, the Sea Trek Walking Tours and “Snuba” – not something I’m willing to try.  You can also go snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, or paddle boarding.

 

Land Adventures

One of the most favorite things my family did when we there was rent a golf cart to drive all over the island.  You can follow the map the rental company gives you to go on a self-guided scenic tour.  It takes you way up in the hills where you can stop and take in the most beautiful views.  You can also venture off and explore more of the island, such as through residential streets and other hillside areas.  Visit http://www.catalinaislandgolfcart.com/.

Other options for exploring by land include walking, hiking, or renting bicycles, as well as taking tours by Jeep, Hummer, or bus.  Visit https://www.catalinatours.com/.

Beaches

Catalina has a few cute little beaches, including Descanso Beach (mentioned below).  The main beach is Crescent Beach, which is right next to the Green Pleasure Pier, from where many of the sea excursions depart.  There are no big waves at these beaches, so swimming, playing or floating in the water is ideal.  It also makes it really nice for young kids.  Our daughter enjoyed collecting shells, rocks, and sea glass there.

 

Descanso Beach Club

Descanso Beach Club is a beautiful and fun cove beach with stunning views.  You can lie out in the sand and play in the water there.  They sell all kinds of whimsical rafts and tubes in the gift shop.  You can also rent a cabana or chaise lounge chairs.  

 

It’s a lot of fun to have lunch at the outdoor restaurant, where the food is delicious, and the setting and views are amazing.  My daughter enjoyed her first mocktail there, a Virgin Strawberry, Mango, Coconut Daiquiri.  See http://www.visitcatalinaisland.com/activities-adventures/descanso-beach-club

 

Catalina Island Museum

If you’re interested in learning about Catalina’s history, visit the Catalina Island Museum, which is in a gorgeous new building (the New ADA Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building).  The museum includes over 18,000 square feet of exhibit space and features artifacts from and about the island.  Museum staff engage kids by giving them a treasure hunt/fact-finding task to earn a prize at the end.  The museum is located at 217 Metropole Avenue, and is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  See http://www.catalinamuseum.org/

 

More Catalina Island Adventures

Other fun activities to consider, if you’re interested, include rock wall climbing, zip-lining, miniature golfing (at Golf Gardens), and touring the iconic Catalina Casino, which also has a movie theater that shows a first-run movie each night.  

Shopping

Catalina has tons of cute little shops, most of which are on Crescent Ave. and adjoining side streets.  Your kids will be happy to know that there is a great toy shop, at 233 Sumner Ave., right off Crescent Avenue (near the intersection of Sumner and Beacon St.).  Island Toy Store Plus More is a darling little shop with all kinds of toys and goodies (and a small section of goodies for pets).  There are also several souvenir and gift shops, clothing stores, a general store, and other shops and boutiques.

Great Food

There’s lots of great food on Catalina Island!  Here are just a few suggestions (all on Crescent Ave.):

Luau Larry’s – a casual, tropical bar and restaurant, it serves burgers, sandwiches, sea food, salads, appetizers and specialty cocktails.  See http://www.luaularrys.com/

Blue Water Grill – on the water with gorgeous views and great food, including all kinds of fresh seafood.  See http://www.bluewatergrill.com/locations/catalina-island

 

Antonio’s Pizzeria and Cabaret – waterfront with excellent Italian food.  See http://www.catalinahotspots.com/original_antonios/

Sweet Treats

If you have kids, you will most likely visit Lloyd’s of Avalon Confectionery, which has delicious and beautiful candies of all kinds, including their renowned saltwater taffy, caramel apples, fudge, chocolates, and ice cream.  It’s located at 315 Crescent Ave.

See http://catalinacandy.com/

Other places to get sweet treats: Scoops Homemade Ice Cream (505 Crescent Ave.) and Avalon Bake Shop (122 Catalina Ave.).

Getting to Catalina Island

We took the Catalina Express out of Long Beach.  It was an enjoyable, comfortable, smooth, hour-long ride.  http://www.catalinaexpress.com/

Lodging

There are lots of hotels in Avalon, and most are within walking distance of everything.  I would recommend staying at an ocean-front hotel (on Crescent Ave.), steps from the beach and everything else.  Here are a few:

Hotel Mac Rae

www.hotelmacrae.com

Pavilion Hotel

www.visitcatalinaisland.com

Portofino Hotel

www.portofinohotel.net

Hotel Vista Del Mar

http://www.hotel-vistadelmar.com/

The Edgewater

http://www.theedgewater-hotel.com/

Another option that looked interesting was the Catalina Cottages (via the Hermosa Hotel), which are located right next to the new Catalina Island Museum (131 Metropole Ave.).  These are affordable, studio apartment style rooms, some with kitchens.  See http://hermosahotel.com/

For more information on planning your family trip to Catalina Island, see http://www.visitcatalinaisland.com/ or http://www.catalinachamber.com/.

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  • Lori Granieri
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