Location: Catalina Island, CA
Description: The first weekend of August we were lucky enough to score a friend's luxurious two story condo at Hamilton Cove, following a last minute cancellation during the otherwise busy summer season. Excited at the prospect of a destination vacation only an hour from home, we reserved our seats on the Catalina Express and drove down to San Pedro. The boat ride was part of the whole experience, first wandering slowing out of the busy industrial San Pedro Marina, and then hitting full speed across some choppy early morning seas. Though you can pay more for VIP areas of the boat, we got a very VIP seat upstairs outside at the rear of the boat (part of the "general seating"), enjoying the wind and ocean smells...
A few dolphins played in the surf, while travelers on the boat had drinks from the bar (not sure about that on choppy seas...) but before we knew it, Avalon appeared and the Express pulled into the docks. The weather on Santa Catalina Island doesn't get as hot as LA, and we enjoyed a sunny day in the low 80s. A nice relief from home, but still warm enough to play on the beach.
Our best surprise was finding out the our friend's condo came with a golf cart, available for us to get to and from Hamilton Cove, and put-put around Avalon. Driving the golf cart is a bit like driving a toaster, but we were able to hit the full scenic tour mapped across the heart of Avalon and it's hillsides and beaches. Everything on Catalina is smaller, smaller driveways and streets, smaller shops, and tiny beaches. But the lack of size brings everything to your doorstep, making Avalon a fun weekend getaway – you can see it all, golf-cart or not! Cute local places for lunch (Eric's, El Galleon, Jack's) can't be touched by chains (in fact, the only chain business we saw was Coldstone and a Vons). Shopping features sweet seaside shops, and few fancy kitchen supply stores and the typical beach strand fare.
In the evening we boarded another boat, this time a open deck 64 foot solid wood vessel built in 1924. Commissioned by Wrigley (original owner of the island, and name sake of attractions like Wrigley gardens) the boat is still being used for it's original purpose: to illuminate the night sea and draw out the unique flying fish that live off the coast of Catalina. A trip touted as "one of a kind," it truly is not to be missed. Flying across the night sea alongside clever pelicans poised for the impending flying fish spectacle, the host explains the unique life and biology of flying fish, touches upon the history of Catalina Island and it's owner Wrigley, and chaperones us around the coast of the island as far as seal rocks, were fat seals can be seen finding a rock to rest on for the night.
Surprisingly, the city does not fall asleep early, with late night ice cream at Olaf's and mini-golf at the incredible Golf Gardens (last round 10:45 pm – I think). It was hard to believe we were only an hour from home. Locals referred to us as mainlanders, and the pace of life truly took us away. Though the downtown of Avalon is busy with tourists, locals keep the atmosphere relaxed and are always friendly with suggestions and island insight. Having the golf cart brought some fun slapstick comedy, with one or two parallel parking predicaments, but also gave us a private view of the island along the scenic drive where only tour buses wander twice a day. Just be sure to figure out where the gas tank is before you get to the single gas-station in town (open only to 5pm).
Some specifics (including yelp links for addresses, and contact info):
- We found a really great organic grocery, boat supply, and general store.
- Ice cream was un-missable at Olaf's.
- Great local coffee with fantastic service in a cute secluded courtyard.
- Organic upscale sandwiches and market, very cute décor.
- Bacon waffles and more deliciousness at tiny classic Sally's Waffle Shop.
Welcome to Our Escapes Month at Apartment Therapy!
Join us by sending in your own pictures or links to your favorite summer escapes. In return, if we post your photo, we'll send you the Apartment Therapy t-shirt of your choice (take a look here). Whether it's a summer place, a roof deck, a lake house, a hotel, a tent or a B&B in a foreign country, we're looking to share the touches, tips and inspiration that are brought home. Share the wealth.
Email us your:
- Location (resort name/link)
- A short description of your travels/memories
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