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Called Pimu by the Tongva Native Americans, evidence suggests that Calalina Island was inhabited as far back as 7,000 BC. This 22 mile long island, one of California's channel islands, is home to California's first underwater dive park, and has a decent variety of selections for shore excursions, from water sports to inland adventures. The Art Deco casino/dance hall from 1929 is truly a sight to behold, and glass bottom boat tours off Catalina Island are simply classic! Enjoy!
 
Catalina Island (California), third largest of the Channel Islands, feels like a world away. Twenty-two miles west into the Pacific from Los Angeles, the island combines natural beauty with a wide range of amenities and activities. With over fifty miles of shoreline, secluded coves and dramatic views, this destination has earned a reputation as "the island of romance."
 
Fittingly, Avalon, Catalina's mile-square port city, is named for an island paradise in the King Arthur legend. Catalina's most famous landmark, the 1929 Art Deco Casino, dominates the waterfront. Rows of shops, restaurants and hotels stretch along Crescent Avenue and up into narrow streets dotted with bougainvillea-framed bungalows. Most of the town's attractions are within comfortable walking distance from the pier - snorkeling, kayaking, dining and shopping.
 
The good news is that Catalina's charms should be enjoyed for years to come. The Santa Catalina Island Conservancy, a non-profit organization, owns and manages over 80% of the 76-square-mile island, a gift from the family of chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. The Conservancy's holdings include Catalina's rugged interior and most of the coastline. Its goal is to restore and preserve the island's natural state.
 
Catalina is a relaxed, friendly island with a Mediterranean feel, easy to explore on foot or by golf cart. Its rich marine life and clear calm waters make it a popular destination for water sports, from fishing and wake boarding to snorkeling and kayaking.
 
Where You are Docked
Catalina's port is too small for cruise ships. Instead, ships anchor outside the harbor and tender passengers to Green Pleasure Pier in the center of downtown Avalon. Green Pleasure Pier is a hub of activity. It's home to the Visitors Bureau, as well as rentals for motorboats, wave runners and fishing equipment. Glass bottom boat tours and semi-submersible tours launch from here. For years, the pier has been Avalon's official weigh station for sport fishermen, including Zane Grey, Cecil B. DeMille and Charlie Chaplin. Nearby Crescent Avenue is a pleasant place to window shop and enjoy an ice cream cone.
 
Cars are limited on Catalina (there's a 8-10 year waiting list to own a car on the island). Most folks walk or rent golf carts and bicycles, the preferred modes of transportation. Even the sheriff drives a golf cart fitted with a siren and special high-speed gears (about $30/hour for carts for those 25 and older with a driver's license; $10/hour for bikes).
 
Insider's Tip: On weekdays, tourists easily mingle with the island's 3,800 year-round residents. But on weekends and during the summer, it can be tough to find a place to lay your beach towel. To escape the crowds, bring your mask and snorkel on a short walk from the boat dock to the preserve at Lover's Cove. With no fishing or boat anchorage allowed, the Cove is rich in marine life. Or visit Little Harbor on the southwest shore, reached by Catalina Safari Shuttle Bus. Rugged waves crash on two beautiful sandy beaches at this secluded cove.

You'll find a lot of things to do on Catalina Island. In fact, we've compiled a list of 101 things to do. In case you don't have time to do all 101 of them, though, we've narrowed the list down to these top things to do.
Many of these activities require reservations, or at least a ticket. Stop at the ticket booth at Crescent and Catalina Streets and you can reserve them all at once.
 
Things to Do

Waterfront Walk
The walk along the waterfront from Casino Point to Lover's Point is a personal favorite. Along the way, you'll see orange garibaldi fish swimming in the kelp beds and boats in the harbor, pass through the center of town and out again, to where the beaches are less busy and the views unobstructed. Keep going all the way to Pebbly Beach if you have time.

Rent a Golf Cart
Catalina residents drive golf carts because it's difficult to get permission to bring an automobile onto the island, but most visitors do it just for fun. You'll find rental places along the waterfront. While you've got wheels, check the map and head up the hill to take in the vista from just below the Inn on Mt. Ada, run out to the Botanical Garden, then go across town toward the Zane Grey Hotel for a different point of view.
Take an Inland Tour: Hikers and residents with special driving permits can go inland, but for the rest of us, a tour is the only way to get to see Catalina's back country. Destinations and itineraries vary, but these are your options: Discovery Tours offers an Inland Motor Tour and an off-road tour. Catalina Adventure Tours calls it the Inside Adventure Tour. Your tour dollars go toward a good cause if you take the Catalina Conservancy's Eco Jeep Tour and their tour guides are the best-versed about the island's flora and fauna.

Botanical Garden
Located at the end of Avalon Canyon Road, this small garden features some excellent specimens of succulents and cactus. The Wrigley Memorial above the garden overlooks Avalon much as Mr. Wrigley once looked out over his Chicago Cubs baseball team practice at the field you passed on the way up. If you have the energy, take the trail above the memorial all the way to the ridge.

Casino Tour
Catalina's "casino" (the big, white, round-shaped building at the end of the harbor) was never a gambling place, but it does have a beautiful ballroom and movie theater. Take a guided tour or just go to a movie here, arriving early to explore the elegant wood-paneled lobby (appraised at more than $4 million for the wood alone) and enjoy the stylish Catalina history murals inside the auditorium.

Flying Fish Tour: The little fishy critters really do "fly," speeding toward the water's surface, into the air and every once in a while into a startled visitor's lap. Make a reservation for the boat tour that's designed just to see them, but time it right: their antics only happen on summer nights.
Look Underwater: Catalina's clear waters and abundant marine life make it a favorite for divers and snorkelers. The two most popular spots to go into the water are Casino Point and Lover's Cove. On busy days, you'll find wetsuit rentals and diving supplies for rent at both locations. If you can't swim/dive, you don't have to be stuck looking at the water's surface. Semi-submersible sub tours with Discover Tours or Catalina Adventure Tours offer diver-like views and glass-bottomed boat rides have been a Catalina tradition for almost a hundred years. Take a night ride to see lobsters scuttling along the ocean floor and sharks gliding below.
Go On the Water: You can rent almost any kind of watercraft from businesses around the harbor, from old-fashioned paddle boats to jet skis and small motor boats. If you'd rather let someone else do the driving, try a Sundown Cruise, Seal Rocks Cruise or an excursion with Catalina Ocean Rafting.

Take a Hike
Get ideas for day hikes, from a short ramble around town to a nine-mile walk that's mostly downhill. Serious hikers may enjoy the Trans Catalina Trail, a 37-mile route which runs the length of the island.
Nothing: Catalina Island has a way of invoking profound relaxation. Maybe it's the smell of the eucalyptus trees and wild fennel, both relaxing scents according to aromatherapists. Whatever the reason, you may find yourself so chilled out that nothing is the only thing left to do.
 
The Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden: After chewing gum magnate and Chicago Cubs owner William Wrigley Jr. bought a majority interest in Catalina in 1919, he proceeded to ferry guests by steamship to his hotel and Casino. The Memorial in his honor offers dramatic views of Avalon Bay. Wrigley's wife Ada planned the peaceful 37 acre garden that features endemic plants like the rare Catalina Ironwood (1400 Avalon Canyon Road, open 8 am to 5 pm daily).
 
Casino:In the 1930's and 1940's, big bands and musicians like Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman played for thousands of dancers at this 12 story, art deco building. Though those glamorous days are over, the elegant ballroom with its fifty foot ceiling and Tiffany chandelier still draws crowds for concerts, weddings and annual October jazz festival. Other highlights include the 1,200-seat movie theater, with its classic pipe organ and murals, Catalina Island Museum featuring a collection of Native American artifacts, photos and pottery, and Catalina Art Association gallery. Be sure to check out the view of the harbor and mainland from the terrace.
 
Chimes Tower
In 1925, Ada Wrigley presented this tower, located near the Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel, to the town of Avalon. Ever since, the chimes have been tolling on the quarter of the hour between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Catalina Island Golf Course: In 1892, the Banning brothers built this course, the first in Southern California. A very young Tiger Woods played here, as did Craig Stadler and Amy Alcott (green fees are $27 for 9 holes, $48 for 18 holes, www.scico.com).
 
Interior: Most of Catalina's interior remains rugged and uninhabitable, like it was over 450 years ago when Portuguese explorer Juan Cabrillo arrived. To see this wild side of the island, The Catalina Island Conservancy (www.catalinaconservancy.org) offers a half-day, 4-wheel drive jeep tour to the island's interior. A knowledgeable naturalist points out endemic plants as well as buffalo, bald eagles, foxes, and squirrels.
 
Take a Dive: With its easy entry and shallow depths, the Casino Point Marine Park is a great place to take a scuba lesson or join a guided dive. In addition to giant kelp, a sunken 70-foot schooner and artificial reefs provide habitats for marine life like bright orange garibaldi, calico bass, and lobster (www.catalinadiverssupply.com).
 
Escape to Two Harbors: Located at the island's windward side, about 18 land miles and 12 nautical miles west of Avalon, this village of 150 people features an isthmus on one side and Catalina Harbor on the other. A hike to the top of the cliffs overlooking the isthmus rewards visitors with views of both sides of the island. Or take a half-day rafting "cruise," (www.catalinaoceanrafting.com), whose highlights may be spotting sea caves, bald eagles, harbor seals and flying fish.
Paddle past pelicans, topside, by kayak (www.kayakcatalinaisland.com). There are kayaks built for two, open deck kayaks for beginners and intermediates as well as decked kayaks for experienced ocean kayakers.

Eating Out
You can find a nice variety of cuisine while visiting Catalina Island- Italian, Mexican fare, and all American favorites as well. Burgers, fish tacos, salads, pizza, and steaks are quite popular. Of course you'll be able to locate seafood, too!
Just above the busy bayside promenade is a fantastic collage of old photos which have forever captured the Avalon of old. Steve's Steakhouse boasts sweeping views overlooking Avalon Bay is the perfect setting for the hearty menu of steaks, seafood, and pasta -- all of which can be ordered from the full bar as well as the dining room. Catalina swordfish is the specialty at Steve's Steakhouse, along with excellent cuts of meat. You can also make a filling meal from the wide assortment of appetizers, especially the fresh oysters and sashimi. Main courses range in price from $7 to $15 for lunch, and from $15 to $32 for dinner. This restaurant does accept Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express. Located at 417 Crescent Ave, Santa Catalina Island, CA, their hours are daily from 11am-3pm and 5-10pm. Reservations are recommended on weekends, and you can call them at 310/510-0333, or visit http://www.stevessteakhouse.com/.
 
You'll find some of Avalon's most elegant meals at this landmark, the Catalina Country Club Restaurant. Newly restored, this establishment is housed in Spanish-Mediterranean-style clubhouse that was built by William Wrigley, Jr., during the 1920s. The menu is peppered with old photos and vintage celebrity anecdotes. For seating choices, outdoors in an elegant tiled Fountain Terrace courtyard, or inside the intimate, lavish dining room. The cuisine is American/International fusion and the executive chef creates a wide variety of dishes using only the finest free-range, organic meats, fresh produce, and seafood from environmentally sensitive fisheries. The Club is only a few minutes from the waterfront, but it's uphill. Shuttle service is available from Island Plaza (on Sumner Ave.) on weekends only. Main courses range in price from $9 to $18 for lunch, and from $26 to $35 for dinner. American Express, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa are accepted, and reservations are recommended. Their hours are daily from 11:30am to 2:30pm, and from 5 to 9pm (closing hour will vary seasonally). They are located at 1 Country Club Dr Catalina Island Avalon, and you can contact them at 310 510 7404.
 
At CC Gallagher, grab a draught beer, wine, or sake and have a seat at one of the front tables for one of the best people-watching perches in Avalon on Catalina Island. Or head for the coffee bar in the back corner if all you want is a nice coffee drink and a pastry. Excellent place for a quick quiet meal - excellent paninis, coffees and teas that would be at home in even a large city. The service is friendly and the surroundings are relaxed. CG Gallagher is a real find. Specialties are the Ahi Tuna and Salmon sashimi and the Chocolate truffle cheesecake. Prices typically range from 10 to 15 USD per entree. All major credit cards are accepted.This restaurant is located at 523 Crescent Ave, Avalon, CA. You can contact them at (310) 510-1278, or visit www.ccgallagher.com.
 
Seafood: Along with a sushi bar, Flip's Saltwater Bar & Grill features live music (128 Catalina Avenue). On the deck at Armstrong's Fish Market, enjoy lunch favorites like fresh swordfish and mahi-mahi (306 Crescent). For fish and chips or seafood cocktail, stop by Avalon Seafood, known locally as Rosie's (end of Green Pleasure Pier, spring to fall).
 
Italian: Cafe Prego offers plentiful portions of homemade pasta and fresh seafood, an extensive list of California and Italian wines, and a harbor view (603 Crescent Avenue). Ristorante Villa Portofino serves similar selections (101 Crescent).
 
Desserts: Satisfy your sweet tooth with saltwater taffy and caramel apples at Lloyds of Avalon Confectionery (315 Crescent). Nearby is a new Cold Stone Creamery (118 Sumner Street).
Staying in Touch -- Tradewinds Internet Cafe & Expresso Bar serves up lattes and cappuccinos along with its four terminals and one laptop. The Internet rate is $12 per hour or $3 for fifteen minutes (119 Sumner Street).
 
Shopping
You won't have any trouble finding that must-have Catalina key chain or refrigerator magnet, as Crescent Avenue is lined with a myriad of schlocky souvenir shops. There are, however, a few stores that do offer unique and tasteful items. C. C. Gallagher (tel. 310/510-1278) carries high-end gifts and also is a coffee shop; it's best for finding beautiful art, music, and jewelry created by local artists. Buoys and Gulls (tel. 310/510-0416) offers men's and women's wear such as Reyn Spooner islander shirts, Nautica, Hurley, and Billabong. The Steamer Trunk (tel. 310/510-2600) is loaded with unique gifts to take home to the dog sitter or neighbor who collected your mail. Leo's Drugstore (tel. 310/510-0189) is the obvious spot to pick up the sunscreen that you forgot to pack. Von's, located on Metropole Avenue in the center of town, and Von's Express on Catalina Avenue, are Avalon's main grocery stores where you'll find all your staples.






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