The Island of Romance has been attracting visitors for more than a hundred years. Those visitors enjoyed many of the same things those who visit Catalina today will find, thanks to the Catalina Island Conservancy, which has protected the island from rampant development. No strip malls, parking lots or suburban sprawl here. Instead we have kelp forests dappled with sunlight, quaint shops with one-of-a-kind treasures and a relaxed pace of life found nowhere else in Southern California.
Catalina Island takes a lifetime to reveal all that she has to offer. Some of her many charms include:
Backside: Not yours, ours - or rather, the island's. Locals refer to the island's remote windward side as The Backside. With crashing waves, windswept promontories and a sense of isolation unparalleled in Southern California, The Backside offers a gift of nature that few take the time to experience. Hiking and mountain biking are one way to get there, but the Wildlands Express Shuttle offers another.
Casino Building: If you had a hankerin' to dance with a one-armed bandit - forget about it. Avalon's Casino has no gambling, just a deserved reputation as one of the jewels in the crown of Southern California landmarks. Built in 1929 at a then astronomical cost of $2 million, the circular Moorish masterpiece is an Art Deco lover's delight. It hosts a movie theatre, a museum and frequent weddings and dances in the circular ballroom. Walk in the footsteps of millions and take a stroll along Via Casino walkway to experience this architectural marvel.
Catalina Conservancy: This private, non-profit organization is responsible for protecting nearly 90 percent of Catalina Island. Education and recreation are other goals and the Conservancy offers an array of programs to support its mission, ranging from week-long volunteer vacations to a summer naturalist program and monthly hikes.
Get Wet: It all started with an intrepid and entrepreneurial fisherman who cut out the bottom of his rowboat, replaced it with a pane of glass and charged the curious for a ride across the top of the sea. Nowadays, whether you're interested in a glass bottom boat tour or a wreck dive with Nitrox, you'll find a buffet of options for exploring the underwater world.
Geocaching: How can you not like the idea of using a multi-billion-dollar collection of military satellites to find worthless junk hidden by individuals similarly inclined? Cellphones and/or portable GPS units utilize those aforementioned satellites to direct you to geocaches hidden around the world, in an international treasure hunt that has achieved world-wide popularity. Several geocaches can be found right here in Avalon, just enough to whet your appetite for this addicting diversion.
Golf: We've got both kinds: A nine-hole executive course that can be played with two sets of tees for 18-hole play and a classic miniature golf course that will have you and your amigos giggling for hours.
Interior: Take a tour and discover breath-taking vistas, natural wonders and Island natives. No, not the locals, although some of them are quite unique as well. Catalina Island is home to several species found nowhere else on earth, including the Catalina Island fox, Beechey's ground squirrel and the Catalina Island mountain-mahogany.
Nightlife: Dive bars, a nightclub and pool halls can all be found in close walking distance from Aurora. You'll also find a few upscale wine bars. Or check out a first run film in the classic movie palace in the Casino.
Shopping: Art, fashion, crafts, books, toys and kitschy souvenirs - Avalon's stores have it all.
Take a Tour: Jeep Eco-tour, walking tour, ghost, kayaking, zipline, food tour or snorkeling. Catalina offers tours for all interests and abilities.