For years I’ve been meaning to visit Catalina, but sometimes we manage to miss the things closest to home. So, this past weekend my husband and I, adding a little spontaneity to the mix, set sail for “the poor man’s Hawaii” or so a local called it. Pardon me if I disagree with that description. This quaint little island was reminiscent of a less crowded Isle of Capri, and as we passed the rocky cliffs that fall into the surf, I thought it sad that we are so quick to dismiss our breathtaking homeland for places perceived more glamorous.
Leaving from Marina del Rey on the Catalina Flyer, we were a little let down by the less than posh cabin and realized that we were only paying more to leave from the Westside. Next time, I might splurge on the helicopter ride (or at least one way—time IS money). Arriving in the gorgeous Avalon Harbor, I was pleasantly surprised that we quickly stumbled upon M Restaurant, an amazing spot for lunch with an outdoor patio overlooking Avalon Bay. Their yellow fin sandwich with a tarragon aioli served with truffle fries washed down with their Bloody Mary (made with fresh squeezed tomatoes) was all the fuel we needed for the mile and a half hike to the top of the Botanical Gardens, home to the William Wrigley Jr. Memorial, who lived here from 1861-1932.
Admittedly spoiled by the Huntington Gardens, the Botanical Gardens are an homage to indigenous plants and perhaps not my favorite landscape (I prefer the English garden to the desert), but the view from the Memorial was spectacular. Being that we were only here for the day, we decided that the golf cart rental was worth the $40/hour price tag so we could really get acquainted with the island. We drove the scenic route down Country Club Drive, taking in the beautiful homes and views, ending at Descanso Beach Club, the perfect spot for soaking in some rays. With only an hour left before our boat departed, we stopped into the adorable C.C. Beau Deli for a little sorbet and Lloyd’s of Avalon for some homemade candy, which was the perfect treat on the journey home.
STAY: The Inn on Mt. Ada, former home to Mr. Wrigley himself, has been turned into a four star B&B—just book early or check the website for last minute deals…they book up quickly! The Avalon Hotel, a craftsman style boutique property with view of the harbor.
WHEN TO GO: Summer is high season and the prices rise. We were a little cool on a sunny day in March, but if you don’t plan to partake in water activities, you’ll be fine with a sweater.
TIP: Check online for transportation coupons. We scored “buy one; get the second half off.”