By Leon Thompson
Photos by Miriam Raftery
June 13, 2016 (26 miles across the sea) – Catalina is the perfect romantic getaway. The beautiful shores of Catalina Island “The Island of Romance” is an easy boat ride from San Pedro to a whole different world. A world of Mediterranean charm where you can picnic, stroll the beach, watch whales the dolphins play and discover a secluded cove. Put away your watch because you will be on “island time.” So how did this unique place come to be?
Following the death of William Wrigley, Jr. in 1932, his son, Philip K. Wrigley, took over the Santa Catalina Island Company. Philip continued his father's work in the improvement of the infrastructure of the City of Avalon. During World War II, the island was closed to tourists and used for military training facilities. Catalina's steamships were expropriated for use as troop transports and a number of military camps were established. The U.S. Maritime Service set up a training facility in Avalon, the Coast Guard had training at Two Harbors, the Army Signal Corp maintained a radar station in the interior, the Office of Strategic Services did training at Toyon Bay, and the Navy did underwater demolition training at Emerald Bay.
In September 1972, 26 members of the Brown Berets, a group of Chicano activists, traveled to Catalina and planted a Mexican flag, claiming the island for all Chicanos. They asserted that the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty between Mexico and the United States did not specifically mention the Channel Islands. The group camped above the Chimes Tower on the point above the casino near Avalon and was viewed as a new tourist attraction. Local Mexican-Americans provided them with food after they used up their own supplies. After 24 days a municipal judge visited the camp to ask them to leave. They departed peaceably on the tourist boat, just as they had arrived.
On February 15, 1975, Philip Wrigley deeded 42,135 acres of the island from the Santa Catalina Island Company to the Catalina Island Conservancy that he had helped to establish in 1972. This gave the Conservancy control of nearly 90 percent of the island. Even a herd of buffalo roam the interior of the island imported a hundred year ago for a movie.
The balance of the Santa Catalina Island Company that was not deeded to the Conservancy maintains control of much of its resort properties and operations on the island. It still owns and operates many of the main tourist attractions in Avalon, including the Catalina Visitors Country Club, Catalina Island Golf Course, Descanso Beach Club and the Casino Ballroom.
The island’s main town of Avalon offers a unique romantic setting with a distinctive. Everything from beachfront hotels to cozy bed and breakfasts, well-appointed condos, charming cottages, and even a four-star country inn.
Private balconies and ocean views make your stay a passionate paradise. Relax in sumptuous surroundings overlook the boats bobbing in the harbor or stroll along the moonlit shore and enjoy a quiet intimate dinner for two.
Here are a few activities recommended by the Catalina Chamber of Commerce:
- Ride on a bicycle built for two and explore ocean front roadways and lush canyon drives
- Go parasailing or kayaking or enjoy a round of golf
- Watch for whales and dolphins on an ocean rafting adventure
- Take in the sights on one of the island’s many scenic city tours
- Discover the wild side of Catalina’s interior on an inland motor tour or jeep eco-tour
- Spend time alone in the interior – one of the most stunning locations to go hiking or comfort camping surrounded by the beauty of the Pacific ocean
- Plan a picnic lunch and discover a secluded cove
- Dine at one of the many harbor-side restaurants
- Take in a movie in the plush, art deco Avalon Theatre, located on the lower level of the legendary Casino Building