Popular Catalina Island Shore Excursions
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).
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 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.
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," whose highlights may be spotting sea caves, bald eagles, harbor seals and flying fish.
Paddle past pelicans, topside, by kayak. There are kayaks built for two, open deck kayaks for beginners and intermediates as well as decked kayaks for experienced ocean kayakers.