Catalina Island has been “discovered” several times. It was inhabited by native islanders for thousands of years – those intrepid explorers had discovered that life on the island was much more intriguing than life on the mainland and created an island culture that lasted hundreds of generations.
The first European to explore the Channel Islands was Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo, who came across Catalina in 1542 while exploring what would become California’s coast. Cabrillo didn’t give the island its current name, that was Sebastian Viscaino, who named it in honor of Saint Catherine. Cabrillo’s visit to the island is, however, commemorated in the name of a small beach just past Long Point on the lee side of the island. There’s no way of knowing if Cabrillo Beach was where Cabrillo’s galleon first anchored, but the cove’s name honors that long-ago explorer.
Today Cabrillo Beach is home to a primitive campsite and is an occasionally stopping point for those kayaking or boating between Avalon and Two Harbors. The campsite can be reserved; access to the beach is by boat only.