The clear blue waters of the Pacific surround the jagged coastline and rugged terrain that covers Catalina Island. One of the eight Channel Islands that form an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, Catalina is the only one that has permanent inhabitants. The main city is the resort area known as Avalon, where hundreds of tiny white boats float, tethered in the harbor. Avalon features many family-friendly activities that make for a memorable trip with the kids.
Heading out to sea
Although it is only twenty miles off the coast of California, the hour-long boat trip from San Pedro will trick your child into thinking that they are heading to a far-off adventure. While heading to the island, the waters are often choppy so if you know your child is prone to seasickness, be sure to bring something along to help or stay up top on the main deck so the little one can keep his eye on the horizon. You can also use this as an opportunity to search for dolphins or whales that swim in the channel during summertime.
You will know you’ve reached Avalon once you spot the famous Catalina Casino, a round white building that sits at the other end of the harbor. Tiny boats dot the water as you pull in to the dock and disembark from the ship. Walk along the beach boardwalk as you soak up the sunshine, listening to the sounds of kids shrieking as they play on the beach and the waves crashing on the warm sand. Small beach shops line the main street filled with island dresses, pottery, jewelry and wind chimes. Stop by Golf Gardens to challenge your little one to a tricky round of miniature golf.
As Catalina is surrounded by water, it’s only natural that there are nautical activities galore. One thing that kids will really love is the undersea submarine tour in Avalon Bay. These vessels take you under the surface to see local fish, plants and bat rays. The marine life swim next to the boat and there are buttons your children can press that will release fish food into the water. This 45-minute adventure runs year-round and is an unforgettable adventure for little ones.
If you prefer not to be submersed, you can take a glass bottom boat tour instead. The combination of pristine waters and crystal clear glass gives you and your children the ability to search for lobsters, eels and sharks, in addition to the abundant fish and kelp beds. Your little one will love being up close and personal with so many sea creatures.
Hiking to the Wrigley Memorial
William Wrigley Jr., creator of the famous chewing gum company, helped to develop Catalina Island into what it is today. The Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens is a fantastic place to go to learn about the island and the local plant life. Hike through the garden to see many rare plants that can only be found on California’s Channel Islands, like the Catalina Bedstraw, the Catalina Ironwood and the Catalina Live-Forever. The gardens cover over 30 acres of land, providing visitors with endless desert cacti, flowers and island plants to view. As you travel up a hill through the gardens, you will reach the Wrigley Memorial, constructed from native concrete stones, blue flagstone rock and red roof tiles. The colorful tiles, giant bronze doors and amazing view overlooking all of Avalon and the ocean in the distance will delight your children and make the long hike worth every step.
Catalina’s famous zip line will send your family soaring over the hills and canyons as your tour guide informs you about the island’s history, culture and wildlife. With five separate lines totaling over half a mile in length, you will be able to view everything from the hills to the canyon to the sea. This thrilling adventure comes to an end at Descanso Beach, but your child’s raving about the experience will not come to an end for some time, especially if you partake in two hour Night Zip adventure. With solar lights illuminating the landing platforms, you will be soaring at 45 miles per hour through Catalina’s hills and canyons under the moon and the starry sky.
If your day has made you too sleepy to trek back to the mainland, consider staying overnight on the island. Pavillion Hotel is the ideal place for kids with spacious, ocean view rooms that are perfect for families. The gorgeous outdoor courtyard and tropical decorations will make you feel as if you’ve left California completely. It’s within walking distance of the ferry so the next morning you will be all set to head back home.