My husband Mike and I were liveaboard cruising sailors for about 5 years. 2 of those years we spent cruising the California coast — and Catalina Island was the destination where we spent most of our time during those 2 years.
The island occupies an area of about 76 square miles. It’s about 22 miles offshore from the mainland. Catalina Island is included in Los Angeles County, California.
Catalina Island is an absolutely magical place. If you haven’t been there yet, I’d highly recommend researching it to see if it’s a place that you’d enjoy visiting. There are soooooo many fun things to see and do on the island. My opinion: You’re really missing out if you don’t go and check it out!
How to Get to Catalina Island
Most people reach Catalina Island by boat — but that isn’t the only possible method of transportation you can use for visiting the island.
Catalina island is a boater’s paradise. Everything about the island is set up to be boater friendly. The island is also hospitable to visitors who don’t own boats, including those who arrive by helicopter, ferry or cruise ship. There’s even an airport that accommodates private airplane pilots.
Helicopters also frequently make the trip back and forth between the island and the mainland. It’s about a 15 minute trip from Long Beach, California to Avalon via helicopter.
Points of Interest on Catalina Island
Catalina Island’s major city, known as Avalon, is a complete anomaly. There’s no other city on earth quite like it.
If you’re curious about what life is like in Avalon, and the things that stand out most in my mind about this city, I invite you to check out my Avalon, California travel guide (with pictures!).
- It’s a rockin’ campground.
- It’s one of the most scenic and rigorous hikes on Catalina Island.
- It’s a lovely spot to anchor (sometimes. but not always.)
- It’s an amazing spot to go birding or watch wildlife.
Two Harbors, California is another must-see point of interest on Catalina Island — and its one of my two favorite sailing destinations in the entire state of California.
During the summer months, Two Harbors is a popular destination for boaters, boy scouts, hikers, campers and bunches of dogs. If you want to take your dog with you on vacation, Two Harbors is a destination that should be at the top of your consideration list.
Mike and I spent 2 incredible, magical winters in Two Harbors. We love it there.
If you spend a winter aboard a boat in Two Harbors, Cat Harbor is usually the safest spot to go (but do be sure to keep an eye on the weather forecast and be ready to beat it around to the other side of the island if weather conditions warrant it).
We usually pay for a mooring in Cat Harbor, behind Ballast Point, during the winter months. The mooring prices are reasonably affordable and totally worth it during the winter months. But, if you’re short on cash, and the weather report seems favorable, there are spots in the harbor where you can legally anchor on a short-term basis for free.
If you’d like more insights about life in Two Harbors, we invite you to visit our Two Harbors, California Travel Guide (with pictures).
Little Harbor is different things to different people who visit Catalina Island:
Want more details about everything there is to see and do in Little Harbor? Plus some precautions for cruising sailors who are thinking of anchoring in the habor? If so, you’re invited to check out my Little Harbor Travel Guide.
Willow Cove is both a boat-in campsite and a fantastic fishing spot. If you want to really “rough it”, this is a good spot to go. Mike and I never actually camped ashore there. However, we spent a lot of time aboard our boat, anchored in the cove. Willow Cove was our go-to spot when our other favorite harbors and anchorages on the island would get too crowded for our liking.
Those are a few of the places we’ve traveled on Catalina Island. We hope this Catalina Island travel guide is helpful to you as you plan your own travels on the island.
This page was last updated on 4-27-2019.