Posted in North America, Travels, United States

Day Tripping on Catalina Island

Another late post — this time, I remembered what day it was, but with all the excitement in the States these last few days, my social media feed has exploded, and it has been difficult to keep up. Whatever the next four years may bring, my hope is that we all realize that we’re all on the same boat, and trying to poke holes in one side or the other to gain an edge isn’t going to help anyone — it’s going to make us all sink. On the other hand, I also feel that The Simpsons is now a prophetic show, and I will continue watching to see what the future will bring. So don’t let me down, Homer.

On a lighter note, keep reading for experiences on my day trip to Catalina Island. A sad attempt at tandem biking, living out my dream from The Magic School Bus days, and golf carting.

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Catalina Casino from the pier

Catalina Island is located off the western coast of California. I went during the summer months, and the Sibling and I decided to take a side trip there after visiting family on the mainland. I only know of getting here by boat or by helicopter, but we took the ferry from Long Beach to Avalon. There are also ferries at other ports that go to Two Harbors, which is on the other side of the island from Avalon. I thought the ferry was pretty pricey ($72 for an adult round trip), but you do get a free ferry ride on your birthday, so you might want to plan for that if you’re cheap like me.

The Santa Catalina Island Company (link here) has some great information. While I didn’t use them for any tours, they do provide a lot of information on visiting the island and points of interest.

Some cruise ships also stop at the island.

Anyways, it was about an hour from Long Beach to Catalina, and there isn’t too much to see along the way. Just lots of water. The island itself is beautiful, and there’s plenty to do here, even if you’re just here for a day. Just an FYI, Catalina IS an island, and there are beaches here — don’t forget to bring appropriate clothing for the beach if you so desire. It didn’t occur to me that I could go to the beach and swim on that day, and I had no change of clothes, so I just watched beachgoers longingly from the pier.

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Tandem bike

The Sibling always wanted to try tandem biking. There are a bunch of places along the water where you can rent bikes, and the staff are all really helpful in letting you know the best places to bike. Let me be the first to tell you that tandem biking is HARD. You both have to be in sync, and the person in the front decides where you go. There was quite a bit of yelling and arguments during our ride. Oh, and helmets are optional, but I have knocked myself unconscious in the past, so I decided not to take any chances and rented a helmet that I prayed would not be sweaty (it wasn’t … really). If you’re a novice biker, stay close to the water because the roads are mostly flat. We biked from the pier all the way down the road to the casino building. Besides a video about the history of the building and a small gift shop, there wasn’t really much there. For a small fee you can also see the museum located there. We only rented the bike for an hour, but that was enough time to bike through the whole lower part of Avalon and even walk around the outside of the casino. FUN FACT: They give you no provisions to lock up your bikes. Apparently it’s not something they’re worried about there. You just call the rental company if you find that the bike is stolen and they handle it from there. But of course, that doesn’t mean be an ass and steal bikes. That’s not cool.

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Made a new friend

After returning the bike, I decided on a glass-bottom boat tour. I saw the bus turn into one on an episode of The Magic School Bus, and I wanted to see what it was like in real life. I thought it was pretty cool. There wasn’t much to see besides a bunch of fish and rocks around Catalina on this day, but the guy who ran our tour said that occasionally they’ll see small sharks in the water.

One thing I did learn on the tour is that there’s a certain species of fish that’s common around these waters (some sort of bass I think, I don’t know – my fish are already dead by the time they end up on my plate) that has very good eyesight and will often look up at passengers through the glass. I happened to catch one. We held eye contact for about a minute. “I guess you could say things are getting pretty serious.”

Lunch took us to Bluewater Avalon. It has beautiful views of the water, and you can sit inside or outside. Try the Tuna Poke. It was my favorite.

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Ocean view

I told my friend about my pending trip to Catalina Island, and she recommended renting a golf cart to tour the island. So I did. Again, rented from a stand along the water. The guy was super nice — I wish I remembered which stand it was. Golf carts are also the main mode of transportation around the island. Anyways, I would say set aside at least a couple of hours for touring the island with a golf cart. We only had about an hour to spare, so we weren’t able to follow all of the trails he recommended, but the guy we rented from did provide a map and highlighted some of the best parts of the town. I had only driven a golf cart once before in college, and it consisted of me and two other guys trying to see who could rollover first (incredibly stupid, I know, but I thought I was invincible at 19). Besides the slow struggle of getting up hills and the occasional backfire, touring yourself around in a golf cart is great. You get some great views of the water at the top of the hills. We also drove down the hill into the town for some souvenir shopping. There’s lots of little shops and even a local candy shop where I was mesmerized by their taffy machine. The taffy itself wasn’t too bad either.

If you have the time (and money if it’s not your birthday) visit Catalina. It’s a beautiful place with an interesting history and I’m sure you’ll find at least one thing you’ll enjoy. Has anyone else been to Catalina? Any other suggestions on what to do?

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