A Catalina Island Weekend Getaway for Families

Perhaps the inspiration for hit 1960’s television show Gilligan’s Island, Catalina is the real offshore hideaway for Angelenos who need to get out to sea. Families looking for snorkeling and sea life adventures without the local crowds will find their magical isle just 20 miles off the coast of Long Beach.

By Land or By Sea

Start the day with the easy 30-minute road trip to Long Beach and sit down at the Potholder Cafe Too for a hearty family breakfast just steps away from the Catalina Express departure point. Take the one-hour ferry to the island and enjoy the ocean breeze. You can ride free on your birthday, so plan the trip around a special kid’s big day to save some cash. Children 11 and under get a child fare, and infants (under 2) board free. Don’t forget the Dramamine for any child-like drama queens in the bunch.

Set your feet on dry land in Avalon, the main “city” on the east side of the island. As the central hub of activity, this is where you’ll want to book the day’s adventures. Snorkeling is a must on Catalina, with ocean life straight out of Finding Nemo. Scuba diving and Snuba tours (for the inexperienced swimmer and scuba diver) are both ways to swim right with the fishes while still coming out the other side.

If your kids are a little scared of the real-live ocean, take a glass-bottomed boat tour as an alternative. You’ll see the same coral reefs, colorful fish and kelp forests without getting wet.

Take a break from the water at Metropole Marketplace, a hip market for all tastes. Eat a fresh and healthy lunch at Café Metropole, an Italian-inspired, casual spot for families complete with PB&J and grilled cheese for “kids of all ages,” as the menu boasts. Greasy spoon regulars will want to stick with Coney Island West for the more typical burgers-and-fries fare. Wash it all down with fro-yo at Catalina Coffee and Cookie.

One for the Team

Dig a little deeper into the island when you explore the world of its biggest proponent, developer, and conservationist: William Wrigley, Junior. Yes, Catalina was the chewing gum mogul’s pet project. Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden is about 30 minutes by bike, trolley, or golf cart from the center of Avalon, and showcases the natural materials of the island – quarried stone and red brick pottery tiles – on its exterior. Hike up the Garden to Sky Trail for stunning cliff-side views of the island.

Another way to enjoy aerial views of the island is by taking a parasailing tour. Brave kids will love gliding above a speedboat for a bird's-eye view. Moms will enjoy the relaxing power of a clear sky view, too.

And Evening Comes

Chow on some grub at Buffalo Nickel, where patrons get a free birthday meal to go with that free ferry ride. (Don’t worry about going cheap on your kid’s birthday – the other ferry tickets and activities will more than make up the difference!) Old standbys like burgers, nachos, grilled cheese, and fries make for happy eaters.

Seafood eaters should try local-grub hub, The Lobster Trap. While the specialties are definitely lobster, crab, and shrimp, you can still get fish and chips, salad, and other pretty straight-down-the-line options, too.

Once the plates are cleared, it’s time to get back on that ferry and return to the mainland. Island living isn’t quite as relaxing as it’s made out to be. . .

Are you planning a day trip to Catalina? What’s on the top of your list? Share ‘em with us in the comments below!

Tags : travel   Catalina Island   California   

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