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Top 7 Things to do in Avalon – Catalina Island


Living in southern California for most of my life, I have spent a few weekends in Catalina. It’s only a short hour hour boat ride from Long Beach, but it seems like a world away. I love that it is so small and everyone gets around on golf carts. It definitely seems like a less stressful life than living in other parts of southern CA.  Either way, it is a great place to relax and enjoy some free time.  Here are my top 7 suggestions to see and do while visiting Avalon (besides playing in the water of course). Let me know what you think  :-)

Have a Meal at Eric’s on the Pier


This famous restaurant is one of the first things I always notice as I step off the boat upon landing in Avalon. They have been open daily for over 76 yrs and are one of the most popular places in town. They serve breakfast sandwiches, breakfast burritos, the best old-fashioned burger, Buffalo burgers, soft taco, burritos, fish & chips & more & to go. All welcome to come in bathing suit – pick a stool, drink your beer, or a mango daiquiri, inside the famous white line. Definitely a place you must try while in Catalina.   Eric's on the Pier is definitely a place you must try while in Catalina. It's probably the one pier I like the most next to the Seal Beach Pier in Seal Beach.

Take a Tour of the Casino


When approaching it from the mainland, it is the most visible landmark in Avalon Bay, and is not what you think of when you think of “Casino”. The Catalina Casino gets its name from the Italian language term casino, meaning a "gathering place." There is no gambling at the facility. The large building contains a movie theatre, ballroom, and island art and history museum and epitomizes everything glamorous about Santa Catalina Island. You’ll see the extraordinary Art Deco murals and a classic 1929 pipe organ inside the Avalon Theatre, which still shows nightly movies on its massive screen. A short film is shown highlighting the history of this iconic building and its Hollywood connection.

Spoil Yourself at the Island Spa


They say that the Island Spa Catalina is a remarkable place to relax, rejuvenate and play. Ran by the Island Company, the spa was Catalina Island’s first-ever destination resort spa. They are located in the historical El Encanto building and features 15,000 square feet of indoor bliss and include a variety of outdoor experiential spaces including luxurious lounges, a soaking pool, and the vista deck.  With 9 Treatment Rooms, they offer a variety of thoughtfully selected treatments and rejuvenating therapies with intrinsic island botanicals.

Tour the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens

wrigley memorial

If you love gardens, you have to see these. The Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Gardens is a 30-minute walk up Avalon Canyon from downtown Avalon and is operated by the Catalina Island Conservancy. The idea for the gardens originally came from Ada, Mr. Wrigley's wife. Pasadena horticulturalist, Albert Conrad, planted the original Desert Plant Collection. Catalina Island's temperate marine climate made it possible to showcase plants from every corner of the earth.

wrigley gardens

Today the garden is 37.85 acres and places a special emphasis on California island endemic plants. Many of these plants are extremely rare, and some are on the Endangered Species list. The Memorial Gardens are particularly concerned with the six Catalina endemics – plants, which grow naturally only on Catalina Island. The Wrigley Memorial Garden Foundation maintains a special interest in the preservation of all Catalina endemics, including the rare Catalina Ironwood. Very beautiful to see and enjoy.

Take a Glass Bottom Boat Voyage


As you may well know, Santa Catalina Island is famous for crystal clear water and glass bottom boats are the perfect combination for family fun and discovery. Take a ride on one of these large, comfortable vessels which brings the undersea world right to you. There are also night trips available for charter with advanced reservations. During the trip you'll visit Lover’s Cove Marine Preserve, where colorful fish and marine plants thrive among the kelp forests. I remember enjoying this a lot as a kid.

Soak up the Sun at the Popular Descanso Beach Club

Descanso Beach Club

What is a trip to Avalon without spending some time in the water at the Descanso Beach Club? As they say “Put a Drink in Your Hand and Your Feet in the Sand.” It is the last private beach in California that still has public access. It is located just past the Casino building and features upgraded furnishings, fire rings on the beach, private cabanas, and chaise lounge rentals. You don’t even have to leave your chair to grab some food. The only seaside restaurant, Descanso Beach Club Restaurant, will deliver food to your chair or towel.   Why not splurge and enjoy a specialty Cat

Jump on the Catalina Island Avalon Scenic Tour


Rediscover the enchantment of Avalon on this delightful journey along the beachfront, up the hillsides, and through the heart of this friendly and historic town. This Scenic Tour always receives the highest ratings for customer satisfaction on their visitor surveys. You’ll see picture-perfect views and colorful local attractions as your guide shares interesting Catalina Island history and folklore from the comfort of our passenger vehicle. This seven-and-a-half mile journey provides a comprehensive history of Santa Catalina Island’s only city, Avalon. Don’t forget your camera. I have taken this a couple of times with different people and always enjoyed it. Great for a first-time visitor.

I have always enjoyed a day trip or a weekend trip here. Like I said, it feels like another world, even though I was only an hour away from my house. If you live in southern CA, or are visiting the area, definitely a great place to visit. Happy Travels.


Images (10)
  • Avalon
  • Descanso Beach Club
  • Avalon
  • Eric's on the Pier
  • Casino
  • Island Spa
  • Wrigley Memorial
  • Wrigley Gardens
  • Glass Bottom Boat
  • Descanso Beach Club

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Comments (5)

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I've never really had Catalina on my list, but it's been in my head for nearly 60 years since the Four Preps song told me that "26 miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is waiting for me..." 


For any others who remember (or would like to), here's a YouTube link...

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

 Thanks Samantha, great report! I'm from Southern California and I sure miss going to Catalina. My favorite thing has to be watching the flying fish as you take the ferry across. They used to rent motorboats to go around the island yourself, which was cool.  Do they still do that?

If you want a thing done, ask a busy man.

I only visited Catalina once in the ~25 years I lived in Southern California, but I remember it being exactly as you describe it -- a quieter place that's well away from the glam, glitz and adrenaline-paced speed of the mainland.  


We also did an island tour and enjoyed that.  Mr. Wrigley introduced a herd of bison on to the island which are still very popular.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

Thanks for the comments everyone. Loved the song! Hadn't heard it for a LONG time.   Not being near the ocean is the hardest thing (besides missing family/friends) about being in CO. But that's what vacations are for, right? Thanks again all.

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