Avalon, the only incorporated city on Catalina Island, is one of the prettiest towns in all of California. Located on one the most well known Channel Island, it is the southernmost city in the Los Angeles county. The city is barely eight square kilometres, giving it a very local and cozy atmosphere. Despite its population of only a few thousand, Avalon attracts about a million visitors per year. Its main street has tons of vibrant and colourful shopfronts, with a backdrop of soaring mountains and a romantic harbour. In this post I’ll be sharing my complete guide to Catalina’s unofficial capital, with info on everything you’d need to know about the town before visiting.
Basics of Catalina
Currency – The currency used throughout the island is limited to US dollars.
Language – English is the main spoken language throughout the island, though tourist info is often in many other popular languages.
Safety – With its tiny population, Avalon is overall very safe.
When to Visit
Avalon is charming anytime of the year, as it never drops below 10 degrees in the town. The busy seasons are during most holiday weekends, and most of the summer months. I’d recommend visiting on one of the off times of the year if you can, though it’ll still be a great visit if you’re there during a busy time. My family and I visited during Thanksgiving, when it was somewhat busy, but we still had an amazing time.
There are barely any cars on the island, as well as a twenty year waiting list to bring a car on. However, the town is very easy to navigate by foot, so a car isn’t even necessary. Renting a golf cart to drive around the town’s surroundings in is a popular decision, and many people also rent bikes to get around the small town a bit faster.
With dozens of choices for where to stay, it can be hard to make a decision on which place to stay at. The Portofino hotel is where my family and I stayed for the two nights we were in Avalon, which gave both a hotel and a local feel. Located on the end of Crescent Avenue, in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Avalon, its at a prime location. Plus, the rooftop of the hotel offers truly stunning views of the harbour and street, aka a perfect sunset watching spot.
Designed in Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival style, the Catalina Casino is the most visible landmark on the island. Its name comes from the Italian term of “casino”, meaning gathering place, as it isn’t actually using for gambling. The casino was completed in 1929, built by William Wrigley Jr., and was the first theatre in the country made for movies with sound. Its a short and refreshing walk away from the town centre, and is definitely worth stopping by even if its just for some photos while you’re in Avalon.
Catalina Chimes Tower
The Catalina Chimes tower, built in 1925, is a Spanish style tower built by William Wrigley Jr. Sounding with chimes every fifteen minutes, it brings a special European character to the island. Plus, it offers beautiful views over the town and ocean from its position atop one of the surrounding mountains.
Often called Front Street by locals, Crescent Avenue is the main street of the island. Most of the main beaches can be found off this street, as well as many shops and restaurants. One great restaurant is a pizza shop called Antonio’s, with two locations on the island. For dessert, Scoops has great ice cream and Eric’s on the Pier has delicious funnel cake.
Green Pleasure Pier
The Green Pleasure Pier is a small pier jetting out from the bay, lined with small restaurants leading up to the fish and chips shop at the end. South, Middle and Step beach all surround the pier, and it has great views of them all.
Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Garden
A thirty minute walk or a short golf cart ride up from the town centre and you’ll find yourself at the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden. Honouring William Wrigley Jr., practically the establisher of almost everything on Catalina Island, both the memorial and garden are worth a visit. The botanical garden displays many rare and endangered plants, some found only on the California islands. At 40 metres tall, the huge memorial tower is the focal point of the garden. It has incredibly breathtaking views of the rolling mountains and blue ocean looking east, and is one of the prettiest spots on the entire island. The memorial is primarily made of materials coming from the island itself; the blue mosaic coming from the back side of the island and the red from a former Catalina pottery company.
That’s all for my guide to Catalina Island. I hope you enjoyed! Thanks for reading.