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Are you ready for some Catalina romance?

As we all know from the Four Preps 1958 song, 26 Miles, Santa Catalina Island is "the island of romance, romance, romance, romance."

Avalon and Avalon Harbor: Avalon is the only incorporated city on Santa Catalina Island
Avalon and Avalon Harbor: Avalon is the only incorporated city on Santa Catalina Island
Photo by Ipotatol on Flickr

Songwriters Glen Larson and Bruce Belland most likely referred to romantic liaisons with the girls they hoped to meet there, but Catalina exudes more than just love vibes.

Catalina's historic love affairs with the rich and famous...

  • people like William Wrigley, Jr., heir to the Wrigley Chewing Gum empire;
  • actress Natalie Wood, whose drowning death in 1981 still plagues us today;
  • Marilyn Monroe, who lived in Avalon for a time with her first husband, James Dougherty;
  • author Zane Grey, whose Avalon home is now the Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel

...make the island every bit as alluring as the sights of pretty girls in itsy-bitsy bikinis, palm trees wafting in an offshore breeze, and surfers that ride the azure waves.

Some of the most intriguing (and thus romantic) things about Catalina Island include:

  • The only way to get to the island is by sea or by air (see "Getting There" below)
  • Most islanders use golf carts to get around, and you can too
  • The Catalina Casino, focal point of Avalon Harbor, isn't a place for gambling
  • The famous schools of flying fish return to Catalina Island waters every summer
  • Herds of wild buffalo roam the rocky hills (actually, they're American Bison and not at all related to Cape or Water Buffalo)
  • Almost 90 percent of the island belongs to the Catalina Island Conservancy, which means Catalina will be preserved for more generations of lovers and other romantics

To learn more about Santa Catalina Island, take a look at the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce's Visitors Guide.

Getting There

As mentioned above, the only way to arrive at Catalina Island is by sea or by air. If you have your own boat, plane, or helicopter - you're all set.

But for those of us who are transportationally challenged, catch the Catalina Express ferry from downtown Long Beach, or from San Pedro, then kick back and let someone else do the driving.

Or, climb aboard the Island Express Helicopter at the Queen Mary or San Pedro heliports for a quick hop, skip, and a 15-minute jump to Catalina.

In all cases, be sure to make your reservations well in advance as most scheduled trips fill up fast.

5 not-to-be-missed things to do on Catalina Island

  1. Rent a golf cart and explore the island
    Full-size cars are restricted on the island, so golf carts are the main source of transportation. Most islanders have their own, but visitors can rent a cart and follow the guide map through the streets of Avalon and all around the island, stopping where you want for beautiful photo ops and classic island attractions.
  2. Tour behind the scenes at Catalina Casino
    Built by William Wrigley, Jr. in 1929 as an entertainment venue (casino means gathering place in Italian), the building has many fine examples of Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival styles throughout, and contains a movie theatre complete with theatre pipe organ, a grand ballroom encircled by French doors leading out to the balcony, and the Catalina Island Museum dedicated to the arts, culture, and history of Santa Catalina Island.
  3. Parasail high above the island waters
    Sail on the wind high above the waters; float above the forested shores, the towns of Avalon and Two Harbors; if you'd like, let them dip your feet in the water before returning to land on the boat. The views are awesome and the thrill is to die for. Chutes can take two or three friends or family members up together.
  4. Take a Ghostly Tour of Avalon
    Visit and - perhaps - be visited by the lost souls of days gone by that have wandered the ways and byways of Avalon for generations (the town was built on a Native American burial ground). Stories of murder, fame, and history abound with white lady hauntings; sightings of Natalie Wood or Zane Grey; mysterious orbs that appear out of nowhere...
  5. Celebrate the return of Catalina's flying fish
    Discover four days of festival fun at the Catalina Island Flying Fish Festival, which is highlighted by flying fish boat tours, sand sculpture, boat building, races, and more. The festival takes place at the end of May each year.

Whether you visit Santa Catalina Island for a romantic honeymoon of moonlit walks and couples spa treatments, or you come to hear romantic tales of history and intrigue, or simply to exhume the insider secrets that islanders hold dear, you're sure to find what you're looking for on the Island of Romance.

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