Ferries like this one bring most of the visitors (and residents) to Catalina Island. Read about all the options
Avalon from the Water
As the ferry approaches Avalon, this is the view. The town has a few thousand permanent residents, whose homes layer up the hillsides around the edges of town.
Avalon from the Hilltop
This picture was taken from the hillside just below The Inn at Mt. Ada, a bed and breakfast hotel that was once the home of William Wrigley (the chewing gum Wrigley). It's the town's best view.
The big white building across the harbor is the casino.
The Avalon Casino
Don't think gambling when you hear the word casino on Catalina Island. Instead, it's a place for entertainment with a ballroom and a movie theater.
Catalina Golf Carts
The number of automobiles allowed on Catalina Island is severely limited, creating waiting times for a permit that could try anyone's patience. With such a small town and no other means of transportation, residents use golf carts to get around. You can enjoy the experience, too - rent them from companies like the one shown here.
Made in Avalon from clay found on the island, Catalina Tile is a classic, much sought after by those who enjoy the craftsmanship of the era when it was created. This fountain shows some of the designs and you'll find plenty more all around town. Several companies make reproduction Catalina tile, including Silver Canyon Pottery who operate a small shop near the pier that sells copies of the classic inlaid paver tiles along with others using the same technique in new patterns. We think their products are one of the best souvenirs you can buy.
If you walk around Avalon, you're bound to catch glimpses of these bright orange fish, who swim in shallow water near the shore. It's hard to believe that this photo hasn't been color enhanced, but I can tell you from experience that every single one of the I've ever seen was just that bright.
They're called Garibaldi or Garibaldi damselfish, named for Italian military and political figure Giuseppe Garibaldi.
Flying fish only "fly" in the summer, so I wasn't able to get a picture of them. Undaunted, I found this painting of one on a mural in the Catalina Express' Long Beach terminal. These flying creatures first swim at top speed toward the water's surface and break into the air. Their wide pectoral fins function a bit like wings, carrying them over 100 feet before they submerge again. On summer nights, you can take a flying fish tour to see them in action.
This photo was taken from the top of the mountain that rises above Avalon and the Botanic Garden. To get to the spot, go through the Botanic Garden to the Wrigley Memorial and turn right, following the fire road as it switchbacks upward. At the top, you're standing on Catalina's backbone, with views of the Pacific Ocean to the west and the town of Avalon and mainland Los Angeles to the east.
Back Country Tour
The Trans Catalina Trail allows hikers to travel the length of Catalina Island on a dedicated walking path. It begins on the Renton Mine Trail just east of the town of Avalon and runs for 37.2 miles past Two Harbors to the island's west end. Campgrounds along the way allow the entire trip to be made in three to four days.
For any trip into the island's interior, you need a free hiking permit, which you can get through the Catalina Conservancy.
Back Country Eco Tours
If you don't want to (or can't) hike, the Catalina Conservancy's Eco Jeep Tour is one of the best ways to explore Catalina's interior. Tour length varies from two hours to all day and can take you to places no other tour goes. If you're lucky enough to get guide Fred Freeman (shown here), you'll not only get an excellent tour but you can top up your repertoire of jokes at the same time.
Three passengers are required for the three hour tour to run, but you can pay for an extra seat to be sure your trip is confirmed.
Buffalo (American Bison)
Descendants of 14 American Bison came to Catalina island to star in the 1924 motion picture The Vanishing American. The balky creatures must be like me, they liked the place so much that they didn't want to leave. Today's herd numbers in the hundreds. When the herd grows too large, some of them are taken off the island to South Dakota.
If you encounter them while hiking in the interior, it's easy to forget that they're wild animals, and very big ones at that. Keep a respectful distance and watch their body language for signs of aggression.
The Catalina Island Fox, which is no bigger than a house cat is one of Catalina Island's endemic species (which means they are found only on Catalina Island). Others include St. Catherine's Lace, the Beechey Ground Squirrel, Bewick's Wren and Catalina Mahogany.
Airport in the Sky
Taken from an airplane going from Orange County to San Jose, this aerial view shows Catalina Island's Airport in the Sky. Located in the middle of the island (more or less), it's one of the few developed parts of the island's interior.