26 Miles Across the Sea, Santa Catalina...
Trip Start May 01, 2013
151Trip End May 01, 2014
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We decided to take a bus tour of the interior of the island and it was the right thing to do. We didn't need to start until 11:30, so we walked around the town of Avalon for the time before the bus ride and just enjoyed looking in the shop windows, getting a coffee (well, I had to have the ice cream) and enjoying the harbor and all the scenery and of course, people watching
There are two towns on Catalina - the largest and most populated is Avalon and the other is on the other side of the island and that is Two Harbors.
Back in the day of the Hollywood Royalty, Catalina was a get-a-way for them and they came frequently and some had homes here. There is a reference to Zane Grey, the author, John Wayne and Errol Flynn, Marilyn Monroe, Bing Crosby, Mickey Rooney, Laurel and hardy, Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard, Humphrey Bogart and of course, the sad story of Natalie Wood's tragic death more than 30 years ago! I cannot believe it was that long ago. But the family that put Santa Catalina Island on the map were the Wrigley Family - that's right baseball and chewing gum! They owned most and still own some of this island. In fact, the 3rd generation is putting a winery in where they once had a horse farm.
Catalina being that it is built on the hillside makes the most of the land facing the sea. Many homes are built on top of the hills and others are "stepped" into the hills and up they go to the top. All can be had for a million or more. The most expensive is now for sale for a cool $7.5M...any takers? The most popular form of transportation is the golf cart
Our tour took us up to the airport at 1300'. They had to scrape off 3 hilltops to have enough for a 3,000' runway. As luck would have it, there was an air show coming the next day for the weekend. Although, when we got up to the airport, some of the stunt planes were already there and a local TV crew were interviewing one of the pilots. We actually saw one or two land. After a short stop, we sat and watched a herd of buffalo below us. There are 1500 on the Island, left by a movie crew in 1924! Other than the bison there are fox and shrew, squirrels, and snakes! Once there were pigs and goats roaming the island, but through great diligence, they have been eradicated! Both were extremely destructive to the landscape. Our other stop was at Middle Ranch and Little Harbor Overlook
Some history of Catalina (admit it, you HAVE missed this):
1989 - The Tuna Club - the first big game sport fishing club in the world was established in Avalon and is still active today.
1919 - The first regularly scheduled commercial airline service in American History, Chaplin Air (brother of Charlie) makes its debut. *currently no commercial airlines services Catalina. Mostly privately owned planes and helicopters. But think about it, if you fly IN you have to drive DOWN!!!
1920 - The largest cafeteria in the world, seating 1,500 people at one time opens in the Atwater Hotel. (Just shows you how popular a place this was back in the day).
1921 - California's largest diesel-powerred generator fires up in Catalina
1921 - 1951 - Chicago Cubs (owned by Wrigley) comes to Catalina for Spring Training.
1929 - The Avalon Theatre - the world's first theatre offering sound and silent movies opens.
Also in 1929 - Catalina's Bird Park is built and becomes the largest aviary in the world.
Still standing in all it's glory (though sadly not used at this time) is the former Casino and Dance Hall. Apparently they do open it for special occasions, but generally the only way to see it is by tour or they still operate a Museum on the basement level and movies on the first.
So, now you can decide if this is the get-a-way for you!!