Santa Catalina Island, California

Porpoises escort you to a rugged island where buffalo really do roam.
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Porpoises escort you to a rugged island where buffalo really do roam.

Contact Information:

Catalina Conservancy

125 Claressa

Box 2739

Avalon, CA 90704

(310) 510-1421

Santa Catalina on the web

Two Harbors Visitor Services

Box 5044

Two Harbors, CA 90704

(310) 510-1550

Fax: (310) 510-0244

Location:

Santa Catalina is located about 22 miles from Los Angeles off the coast of Southern California.

Getting There:

Catalina Express offers daily boat passage from San Pedro and Long Beach to Avalon and Two Harbors (Box 1391, San Pedro, CA 90733; 310-519-1212). Catalina Safari provides shuttle service to the island's interior (Box 5044-SG, Two Harbors, CA 90704; 310-510-2800).

Seasonal Information:

Catalina offers a Mediterranean-type climate similar to mainland beach communities, with dry summers and temperate winters. Rainfall averages about 14 inches annually and occurs primarily between November and April.

Fall and spring are the best seasons for hiking and camping. In spring, Catalina becomes an emerald island with bursting wildflowers and newborn buffalo calves. Summer is crowded and hot, with temperatures soaring into the 90s. Although sometimes rainy and chilly, winter is considered the "undiscovered season" on the island. Scuba diving is at its best in winter, and hiking trails wait in solitude.

There are many seasonal events, such as a New Year's Eve Celebration and a South Seas Luau, at various times throughout the year.

Wildlife:

In the water, you'll see porpoises, sea lions, seals, garibaldi, octopus, lobsters, eels, and possibly gray or humpback whales. On land, there are boar, rattlesnakes, about 200 bison, and two animals found nowhere else in the world ~ the Catalina Island fox and the beechey ground squirrel. In the sky, look to see bald eagles.

Insects:

Contact park office for information.

Plant Life:

Fringed by palm, the rugged terrain explodes in a brilliant canvas of Mariposa lilies, wild goldenfield, and giant coreopsis.

There are eight plants endemic to Catalina ~ Catalina ironwood, Catalina mahogany, St. Catherine's lace, yerba santa, Catalina live-forever, Catalina manzanita, wild tomato, and Catalina bedstraw. Flora also includes California holly, Catalina cherry, lemonade berry, spurge, dragon-tree, prickly pear cactus, and elephant bush.

Facilities:

Camping:

  • Camping is permitted only at designated sites.
  • Three seaside campgrounds are located at Parson's Landing, Two Harbors, and Little Harbor. Tepee tents and tent cabins are also available seasonally at Two Harbors.
  • One mountaintop campground is located at Blackjack.

Ten coastal coves (accessible by private boat only) are available for camping and yurt cabins can accommodate six people.

All campgrounds have picnic tables, fire pits, barbecues, and chemical toilets. All campgrounds, except Parson's Landing, have sun shades, fresh water, public telephones, and rinse-off showers. Rangers have firewood, propane, butane, and charcoal available for purchase at all campgrounds except Parson's Landing. At Parson's Landing, firewood and bottled water are included with each campsite. Reservations (310-510-0303) are needed for all sites.

The Santa Cantalina Island Company (310-510-TENT) also operates a site in Avalon ~ Hermit Gulch Campground. Facilities include flush toilets, showers, grills, picnic tables, vending machines, microwave, ice, and camp store. No pets or wood fires are allowed. Reservations are always a good idea and are required in July and August.

Banning House Lodge is an 11-room bed and breakfast inn perched on a hilltop overlooking the village of Two Harbors. The Catalina Cabins are also located at Two Harbors.

Bus service is available between Avalon and Two Harbors with stops at all campgrounds along the way.

Safari tours, kayak rentals, charter boats, tennis courts, diving instruction, and camping equipment rentals are all offered. Doug's Harbor Reef Restaurant and Saloon, The Reef Grill, and the Two Harbors General Store meet food and supply needs.

Parking:

No information available.

Permits:

Free hiking permits are required and are available in Avalon at the Catalina Conservancy Office or in Two Harbors at the Visitor Services office.

Permits are required for both Blackjack and Little Harbor camps.

Bike permits are also required outside of Avalon for a fee of $50 for individuals and $75 for families (good for the year May 1-April 30).

Campgrounds are $7 to $8 per night. Tepee tents and tent cabins run between $40 and $60 per night.

Policies:

Fires are only permitted in rings provided at campgrounds.

Hazards:

  • Some areas may be closed due to storm damage.
  • Beware of rattlesnakes.
  • Take plenty of water.

Leave No Trace:

Use established campfire rings.

Maps:

The USGS Santa Catalina and Santa Catalina North quads cover the bulk of the island.

Other Trip Options:

  • On the island, the village of Two Harbors offers restaurants, rentals, and a general store.
  • Visit Airport-in-the-Sky, one of the world's most unique airports perched 1,602 feet above the Pacific Ocean. The 3,250-foot runway was built in the early 1940s by leveling two mountaintops and filling the remaining valley with more than 200,000 truckloads of rock.
  • The Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden honors the memory of William Wrigley Jr., best known as the founder of the largest manufacturer of chewing gum in the world. The Memorial Garden is particularly concerned with eight plants which grow naturally only on the island.