From the moment you step off the ferry, in your head, you’re already on the beach, strolling along the harbor and savoring seafood. On this SoCal island, there are many ways to escape.
Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden
A short stroll up Avalon canyon is a beautifully curated 38-acre desert garden with, at its apex, a dramatic Mediterranean-Art Deco memorial to William Wrigley Jr., of chewing gum fame. The towering memorial was built with as much native Catalina material as possible but still succeeded in achieving the look and feel of the 1930s Mediterranean coast. Quarried Catalina stones form most of the walls, local blue flagstone surfaces the ramps and terraces, and the red roof tiles and colorful handmade glazed tiles used for finishings came from the Catalina Pottery plant. The locally-sourced building is a particularly fitting memorial for Wrigley, who once owned 90 percent of the island and is responsible for its ongoing protection—he left his holdings on the island to the Catalina Conservancy to preserve them permanently.
Descanso Beach Club
Located at the end of a charming boardwalk in a beautiful cove just beyond the casino, this resort-like beach club offers private cabanas and lounges with waiter service and a serene beach for swimming or sunning. Nearby, people gather around the open-air bar and restaurant and celebrate under the sun at a regular beachfront dance party complete with DJ.
The island’s most popular hike is the Garden-to-Sky Trail, an excellent extension to a botanical garden visit. The payoff is dazzling views over Catalina and the surrounding sea. The 1.1 mile trail begins at the Wrigley Memorial, but you must check in with the office of the Catalina Conservancy in town for a trail map and permits before you embark.
This iconic, circular Art-Deco structure has hosted dances and screened movies since 1929. Its guided tours are a must and include a walk on the stage. The artistically executed interior is the highlight with its massive painted and mosaic murals of a fantasy undersea world and opulent use of gold and silver leaf on period architectural details.
Photos by Don Skypeck
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