After returning from a quick trip to Oahu, my mother had a day off and we decided to island hop to Catalina Island for some mother-daughter time. She had never been to Catalina Island before and it was local enough for a day trip.
To get to the island, we boarded the Catalina Express, the fastest and most popular mode of transportation to the island. We departed from the Long Beach port, which charges a $15 parking fee, but Warren works in the area, so we got dropped off. The vessel offers multiple departure times so you can choose the time that is most convenient for you. We were upgraded to The Commodore Lounge, which offers priority boarding and includes snacks and a complimentary beverage (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). For a small fee, you can be one of the first on board and have something to munch and sip on while taking in the scenery.
The Catalina Express offers both inside and outside seating so you can roam around as you pass sites like the Queen Mary.
In about an hour, we were dropped right in the city of Avalon where most of the islanders reside. Below was our view as we were pulling into the port.
The tour is about 3 hours long and we got to taste items from 6 restaurants, while learning about the island in between. It was such a fun way to learn about the island and try all the cuisine the island has to offer.
Below is a list of the restaurants we visited and the items we were served. My favorites were the roasted tomato curry soup from Steve’s Steakhouse, the sweet and spicy cinnamon tea from Catalina Coffee & Cookie Co. (I even drank my mother’s!), and the ginger beer poured over salted caramel gelato from CC Gallagher (just YUM!).
*My favorites, **2nd favorites
Coconut Shrimp with Thai Chili Sauce
Roasted Tomato Curry Soup*
Mr. Ning’s Chinese Garden
Wonton with Crab and Cream Cheese
Green Beans with Garlic Brown Sauce
John Daly Drink
Taco de Papas**
Catalina Coffee & Cookie Co.
Sweet and Spicy Cinnamon Tea*
Dark Chocolate Pistachio Bar
14 Mile Pale Ale
Crabcake on Pesto Aioli**
Ginger Beer poured over salted caramel gelato*
During the tour, our guide, Lili, shared anecdotes of the island’s history and took us to areas with views that can easily be missed by passersby. The crystal clear water and the views of the casino below can be seen from the deck seating area in the back of Bluewater Avalon.
Lili also pointed out a couple of the famous mansions located on the island. The Inn on Mt. Ada was once the home of William Wrigley Jr. and his wife Ada. William Wrigley Jr. was the “father of chewing gum” and purchased Santa Catalina in 1919. He is responsible for the construction of many landmarks on the island, including the world’s largest bird park, the Casino Building, and this mansion, which he named after his wife Ada. Today, you can stay in the 6-guestroom mansion if you book far enough in advance.
The mansion with the cone-shaped roof is known as the Holly Hill House and was originally owned and built by Peter Gano, who was also responsible for Catalina’s first freshwater system. He built the home for his fiancé who ended up refusing to come live with him on the island. Legend has it that he named it Lookout Cottage because he would lookout to the ocean to see if his fiancé changed her mind and returned. When she didn’t return, Peter Gano would later place signs around the property that stated “No Women Allowed.” Lookout Cottage has since been renamed Holly Hill House due to the holly growing around the property.
Once the food tour was over, we had a little bit of time before the next item on our agenda. We spent our time exploring the unique shops and vendors. We found that on Catalina, you can never judge a store by its storefront. Stepping thru an ordinary entrance can lead to something extraordinary inside.
The next item on our list was a visit to the Catalina Island Museum. The museum is adjacent to the Casino Building, which is just a short walk from the port. The walk to the museum allowed us to view Avalon waterfront buildings like the Catalina Island Yacht Club, which is one of the oldest (founded in 1893) yacht clubs in Southern California. As an aside, the Casino Building is NOT a gambling casino. The word “Casino” in Italian means a “Place of Gathering” or “Place of Entertainment”. The Catalina Casino Building features a movie theater and ballroom.
Once at the museum, we learned about the history of Catalina and how it used to be the playground destination for Hollywood’s greatest stars in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Walking through the exhibits was like reading the tabloids of the time. We learned about the death of Natalie Wood, Marilyn Monroe’s (then Norma Jeane Baker) first marriage, and Errol Flynn’s womanizing ways. It was fun to see my mother recognize all the celebrities in the exhibits, while I only recognized a couple :)
After we were done visiting the museum, we had a couple of hours before having to board the Catalina Express back to Long Beach, so we sought to explore as much as we could. The walk back from the museum was scenic and serene. I think I have a soft spot for sail boats as evident by my Santa Barbara and Oahu, HI posts.
We were intrigued by the quaint architecture of the homes on the island and thought it so neat that most residents traveled by golf cart instead of motor cars.
This is the view that residents get to enjoy every morning when coming down from their homes. Not bad, huh?
The rest of our day was spent getting lost in the alley ways that led to charming activity areas and enjoying the calm lifestyle of island living.
In true mother-daughter fashion, we ended the day with a mini photoshoot :)
Thank you, Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, Catalina Express, Taste of Catalina Food Tours, and Catalina Island Museum for hosting us and making our mother-daughter trip unforgettable. Of course, all opinions are our own.