Catalina Island, from offshore, appears magical. As you look past the paddle boards, sail boats and yachts, you see 54 miles of pristine coastline and an island that has the charm of a bygone era.
On the East side, you’ll see stunning white villas with tile roofs, reminiscent of Greece, gracing the hillside. Looking a bit further, is a circular structure that the locals call “the casino.” Construction on this beautiful facility started in February 1928 and opened May 28th 1929. It is 12 stories tall. Make no mistake, it’s not a gambling establishment. The main floor is a theatre and the upper levels hold a promenade and boasts a magnificent 20,000 square foot ballroom with a 180-foot diameter dance floor that can hold 3000 dancers. It’s the worlds largest circular ballroom. It surprised me that the theatre holds 1154 people and houses a built pipe organ.
To the West, was a quaint little seaside town bursting with personality. Avalon reminded me of Key West, with its own unique vibe.
We were like excited little kids when we discovered that our accommodations were the spectacular villas that we previously spotted while on the ferry. Hamilton Cove was luxurious. It was like walking into an episode of lifestyles of the rich and famous. It was 1300 square feet of comfortable, luxurious Mediterranean elegance, with breathtaking views of the surrounding villa’s, swaying palm trees and the bluest water imaginable. Speaking of swaying, the suite came with a golf cart. What happens in a golf cart stays in a golf cart.
My girlfriends and I chartered a boat from Catalina Coastal Tours and Fishing. The wind blowing our hair back was exhilarating. I felt like a dog, grinning with my head sticking out of a car window. Captain Sandra led us on a fun adventure. The boat glided over crystal, turquoise water with great tunes blasting and spectacular scenery. Seals and their pups lined the shore on the East side of the island. Have you ever seen a white seal? May through August is mating season and seal pups as small as 2 feet long can be born on land or in the water. To my surprise the gestation period is twelve months and one male is born to every 20 females. Females average 230 pounds. Males grow to over 800 pounds and have a big hump on their heads.
Huge eagle’s nests could be seen on the hillside. When they flew from the nest their wingspan was about 6 feet wide and they weigh on average 18 pounds. It was a magnificent sight to see and wonderful to know that eagles are now off of the endangered species list. Did you know that eagles mate for life?
The locals were friendly and so proud of their home and heritage. Many were 5th or 6th generation with families that came to the island in the 1800’s.
It’s fun to ask the locals to share something not commonly known. Roger Hill shared something very interesting about the island. He said “Our island has a mausoleum with no bodies, a casino with no gambling and a bird park with no birds”. Is that hilarious or what?
Steve’s Steakhouse, a local’s favorite for 15 years. I stopped in for lunch and the food was delicious and the view…. just imagine an island paradise.
At sunset the island has a stillness that is settling. It was heavenly watching the shimmer of the moon on the water as we stood and listened to the peaceful silence, as the the waves crashed in the distance.
Catalina is a very special place that can make you feel like you’re having a far-off adventure. The good news is that this local treasure is only a 55-minute ferry ride from Long Beach, California. A blast was had by all.