Catalina Island sparkles like a jewel, beckoning vacationers from their everyday lives. For more than a century, this Southern California island resort has been a magnet for travelers. Dramatic natural beauty, unique flora and fauna and the siren call of the Pacific Ocean have been irresistible for millions of travelers and Catalina continues to provide an unparalleled backdrop for myriad California vacations.
The unspoiled natural wilderness of the interior, the crystal clear waters just offshore and the array of adventures and activities offer a wealth of vacation choices and many families choose to visit for generations. At Two Harbors, at Catalina’s West End, travelers will find a remote outpost, while Avalon, California, with its quaint shops, delicious dining and picturesque harbor, is frequently compared to Mediterranean towns and villages.
Catalina Island weather is nearly always mild, with temperatures rarely dropping below 60 or soaring above 85. Transportation from the mainland is convenient; Catalina Island ferry service is available from four ports and helicopter service is available from two heliports.
Catalina Island history is as compelling to explore as the Catalina present. The island has been inhabited for nearly 10,000 years and each culture has left its mark on the island.
- Native Islanders
- Spanish explorers and smugglers
- Southern California vacation destination
Long before the island became Santa Catalina, it was Pimu, home to generations of native islanders, who forged an elaborate culture and a prosperous trade relationship with their neighbors on the mainland. For more than 8,000 years, the native islanders fished, hunted and gathered the island’s bounty, carved jewelry, crafted utilitarian items and developed a profitable soapstone quarry operation.
Santa Catalina Island got its current name in 1602, when Sebastian Viscaino, the second Spanish explorer to visit the island, sighted it on the eve of the feast day of Saint Catherine. During the heyday of the missions, the island’s native inhabitants suffered the same fate as many California native tribes and Catalina spent the next centuries as home to sheep herders, miners and missionaries. Its secluded coves and sheltered bays were popular haunts for smugglers, who found this Southern California island was an ideal locale to avoid detection.
Ownership of Catalina was transferred several times in the 19th century, but it was George Shatto, who bought the island in 1887, who saw its future. Along with the Banning family, he began Catalina’s transformation into the Southern California vacation paradise it is today. In 1919, the island was purchased by William Wrigley, Jr. The visionary businessman – along with his descendants – crafted the Catalina Island vacation paradise that we know today.