Travel

Catalina Island is a Trip Offering Some Fascinating Oddities

By Donna Polizzi

Catalina Island, in my opinion, is a heavenly place and we are going to tell you the best places to visit so your quick getaway feels like a full week vacation. There are so many choices depending on what “kind” of trip you want. I needed a relaxing experience to enjoy the natural beauty and good food while spending time with my favorite person. Let’s break it down.

Day one, from Long Beach we boarded the Catalina Express. Make sure you leave an hour sooner because traffic is always a mystery. On the Catalina Express, for convenience, upgrade to the Commodore Lounge. The benefits are that you board immediately to avoid the line. It’s private and comfortable with a full bar. You will get four beverage tickets for the round-trip to the island. The vacation started with watching brave ones parasailing over the water while being surrounded by a pod of dolphins, and a cocktail. It was thrilling.

It is no wonder William Wrigley Jr. purchased the island. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to this every morning?

catalina island ocean view

Catalina Island ocean view. – Courtesy photo / Donna Polizzi Keys 2 The Coast

In 1919, William Wrigley Jr. became the owner of the island. He bought and brought the Chicago Cubs baseball team for spring training in 1921. In the 1970s Wrigley deeded 88% of the land to the Catalina Island Conservancy so that the island would remain undeveloped. Many deer and bison roam the island. Unlike buffalo who are home in South Asia and Africa; bison were brought over by Hollywood in the 1920s for a movie. Since then, the population of bison has increased to about 150. Be careful if you ever see a wild bison because they can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and can jump up to six feet vertically.

William Wrigley Jr. was 29-years-old with $32 dollars in his pocket and a will to be a salesman. He started off selling soap but with a premium. His premium would include baking soda which turned into selling baking soda with a premium of two packages of gum. He realized how underdeveloped this market was and in 1893 Juicy Fruit came out with Spearmint following behind it.

This 12-story casino was built by Wrigley in 1929 for people to enjoy a romantic night out when they come to the island.

Catalina Island casino

Catalina Island casino. – Courtesy photo / Donna Polizzi Keys 2 The Coast

Wrigley built a casino is 1929 in celebration of his ten-year anniversary of buying the island. Five hundred men built the 12-story casino in less than a year. In Italian casino means gathering place so there was no gambling.

His goal was to build a place for a romantic night out where you could watch a movie, eat dinner, and dance the night away. There is a movie that plays nightly and one hour before the movie you can hear the theater’s original 4-manual, 16 rank pipe organ.

Catalina Island comes with many oddities. Third street is the only numbered street. There is a bird park that no longer has any birds. A mausoleum that does not have any bodies and flying fish that swim in the ocean.

The Catalina Coffee and Cookie Company has an assortment of treats. Their gluten-free options and their Sweet and Spicy tea is what has people coming back for more.

Catalina Coffee and Cookie Company entrance

Catalina Coffee and Cookie Company. – Courtesy photo / Donna Polizzi Keys 2 The Coast

If the history and the beautiful architecture do not make you want to come to Catalina then the food will. Lloyd’s of Avalon Confectionery has been serving up delicious treats since 1934. There you can pull fresh taffy right off the machine. Can you believe Marilyn Monroe worked there? She was better known at that time as Norma Jean Baker. She earned money pulling taffy there in 1943. I would highly recommend the Catalina Coffee and Cookie Company. This place has so many gluten-free options, including cookies, rice crispy treats and delicious sweet and spicy tea that you can enjoy in their tropical courtyard.

Do you want to bring home, a one-of-the-kind souvenir that you made yourself? Silver Canyon Pottery owned by Robin Cassidy is the place to do it. She has been an island girl for 50 years. With her you can create your own masterpiece. This is a place great for all ages.

Bluewater Avalon has great outdoor seating with a view of all the boats out on the water.

Bluewater Grill Avalon view of the ocean.

Bluewater Grill Avalon view of the ocean. – Courtesy photo / Donna Polizzi Keys 2 The Coast

Catalina Food Tours was an awesome experience through downtown Avalon. Lili Dana our guide took us on amazing food and wine tour. Bluewater Grill Avalon is located right on the water, where they have indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the turquoise water and the beautiful boats that sit on top of it. They serve their New England Style Clam Chowder which can keep you warm from the ocean breeze. The creamy clam chowder is loaded with clams and is the best clam chowder without having to go to New England to get it. They also serve giant prawns served atop their house-made sauce. This delicious seafood selection matches their sea life décor and atmosphere while providing a great dining experience.

Steve’s Steakhouse is an elegant dining spot located on the water. They serve an excellent surf and turf that includes a teriyaki marinated skirt steak cooked to your liking with caramelized onions and mushrooms that melt in your mouth. Lightly toasted coconut shrimp over a Thai chili sauce was our favorite. Steve Bray, the owner is a respected philanthropist and his wife Margaret Bray is the owner of Maggie’s Blue Rose Diner. Maggie serves up excellent chicken quesadillas topped with poblano sauce paired perfectly with a coconut margarita.

The Glenmore Plaza Hotel has lovely Victorian charm.

Glenmore plaza hotel entrance

Glenmore Plaza Hotel entrance. – Courtesy photo / Donna Polizzi Keys 2 The Coast

When looking for a place to stay the Glenmore Plaza Hotel is a great choice. The hotel has Victorian charm while keeping the title of the oldest hotel on the island; as well as being the second oldest in the state (built in 1891). Recently the hotel underwent a 2-million-dollar renovation and it exudes Victorian charm. From your room, you have a view of the ocean and can watch the seals frolicking in the water. It was wonderful to walk just a few feet with my morning coffee to take a stroll on the island’s edge.

Life is short, get out there and have some fun.

September 25, 2018

About Author

Donna Polizzi Donna Polizzi Is a Regional Travel Expert and Founder of Keys2TheCoast.com.  Keys 2 The Coast Is a Travel Resource for Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey Counties.  We give honest recommendations and “Locals Choices” Of the Best Places to Wine, Dine, and Explore!


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