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CIVR Blog: Catalina live music

7:07 pm
The Castaway concerts bring all new live music to Catalina Island.

The Castaway concerts bring all new live music to Catalina Island.

Each summer for the last several years, Avalon Harbor has echoed with the toe-tappin’, singalong, gotta-get-up-and-dance sounds of the Xceptional Catalina Summer Concert Series. With nearly a dozen concerts scattered through the summer, the series brings together families for dancing in the streets to the sounds of both tribute bands and original musicians.

With an array of talented musicians, Xceptional Music Company is now bringing a new concert series to Descanso Beach on Catalina Island. The Castaway Catalina Island Concerts will bring a series of three tribute concerts to Avalon’s popular Descanso Beach. With swaying palm trees, food and cocktail service on the sand and the soothing susurrus of the sea, Descanso Beach is one of the most popular destinations on the island and the Castaway Catalina Island Concerts will be an irresistible Catalina live music addition.

The first concert takes the stage on July 31 and will bring the Red Not Chili Peppers, a tribute band to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. On August 14, Zac, Jack and the Jimmys will honor Zac Brown Band, Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews Band and Jimmy Buffet. And on August 28, Mick Adams and the Stones are one of the country’s top Rolling Stones tribute bands. Concerts begin at 7 p.m. and tickets are available here.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island ferry

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Transportation to Catalina has changed dramatically over the years. Photo courtesy of the Permanent Collection of the Catalina Island Museum.

Transportation to Catalina has changed dramatically over the years. Photo courtesy of the Permanent Collection of the Catalina Island Museum.

For thousands of years, transportation to Catalina Island – then known as Pimu – involved a hand-crafted dugout canoe and paddle power. Generations of native islanders traveled back and forth to trade with the mainland using these canoes and a comprehensive understanding of the ocean and its moods.

Once the island began to be developed as a resort, Catalina transportation took on a whole new look. Steamers and seaplanes were the way to get to Catalina Island for decades with hundreds of thousands of travelers crossing the channel to visit the island.

These days, riding the ferry to Catalina Island takes just about an hour – and while the ferry captains have a deep understanding of the ocean, you don’t have to. Regular Catalina ferries are available from two companies who between them operate four ports in two counties. Catalina Express operates several daily round trips year round from San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point. Catalina Passenger Services operates seasonally from Newport Beach with their large Catalina Island ferry, the Catalina Flyer.

For Catalina summer campers, there’s another option for Catalina ferry service. Catalina Classic Cruises, which provides charter transportation services to a number of summer camps located on the front side of the island, also operates from Long Beach.

CIVR Blog: Pleasure Pier Catalina

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A stroll on the Pleasure Pier is a must while on Catalina Island

A stroll on the Pleasure Pier is a must while on Catalina Island

Avalon’s green Pleasure Pier on Catalina Island is one of its most distinctive landmarks. The bright green color, affectionately known as Pier Green by locals, draws the eye, promising summer fun with a unique island flair. Home to several businesses, ticket offices and government agencies, the pier is also a favorite spot for a stroll, both when bustling with business in the afternoon or calm and relaxing in the early morning hours.

The Pleasure Pier was not always the only pier in Avalon. For decades, the shorter, wider Steamer Pier hosted the steamships that brought thousands of visitors to Avalon for generations. Visitors would leave the ship, often after tossing a coin for the young men – and women – who would dive to the bottom of Avalon Harbor to thrill the tourists and make plenty of pocket change in the process. Located to the left of Antonio’s Cabaret, the Steamer Pier was torn down after falling into disuse and disrepair.

Today, a walk down the green Pleasure Pier is must for nearly every visitor to Catalina Island. In the summer months, an extension provides a home for the Avalon Harbor Patrol’s fleet of patrol boats as well as Island Navigation’s water taxis. Fishing from the pier is a popular activity with visitors both young and old angling for kelp bass, perch and more. Parasailing, scuba diving and water tours can all be arranged from the pier as can the rental of a fleet of small vessels. The Avalon Harbor Department office is located at the end of the pier, Baywatch Avalon’s paramedics have their office in the middle of the pier and the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce operates its visitors’ services center at the base of the pier. Shopping and dining are also available at various spots on this iconic landmark.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island transportation

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Avalon is where most Catalina visitors arrive.

Avalon is where most Catalina visitors arrive.

Transportation to Catalina Island comes in many forms. For most travelers, getting to the island involves a ride with one of two Catalina Island ferry companies. With an array of daily round trips from San Pedro, Long Beach or Dana Point, Catalina Express brings most travelers to the island. Catalina Passenger Services, which operates from Newport Beach, offers a daily trip in the summer season aboard the Newport Flyer. While Catalina ferries are the most popular mode of transportation, they are far from the only way to get to the island. Island Express operates scheduled helicopter service to Catalina from San Pedro and Long Beach and their services can be chartered from other area airports. Private planes offer an option for flights to Catalina Island and hundreds of thousands arrive on the island via private boat.

For tens of thousands of Catalina Island travelers their first visit to Catalina Island is aboard a cruise ship. Each week, Carnival Cruise Lines visits Avalon on Mondays and Tuesdays, bringing more than 2,000 visitors each day. In the spring and fall, additional lines bring their passengers to the island as part of repositioning cruises. For many of those passengers, their Catalina port visit becomes love at first site and marks the first of many Catalina Island vacations.

CIVR Blog: Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island

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Avalon Harbor's clear waters attract humans and marine species alike

Avalon Harbor’s clear waters attract humans and marine species alike

With its crystal clear waters, gently lapping shore and peacefully bobbing boats, Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island is a magnet for sightseers and adventurers alike. From dinghies to megayachts, in the summer, nearly every vessel imaginable can be found in the harbor. Also floating atop are kayaks and paddleboards as well as rowboats and pedal boats. Swimmers and waders take the plunge, finding Avalon Harbor’s waters irresistible. Generations of kids have laid claim to the swim float off South Beach and, this year, water polo is a new attraction.

Beneath the surface, Catalina Island’s most popular harbor is home to a wide variety of marine species. Nearly everyone sees the distinctive orange garibaldi that are almost always visible near the boat terminal, but dozens of other species can be found as well. Bat rays, thornback rays and guitarfish can been seen in the shallows. Kelp bass, opaleye and sheepshead hang out beneath the pier. And octopus and spider crabs forage on the harbor’s sandy bottom. Attracted by the bounty, sea lions hunt the midwater, periodically popping up to announce their presence with raucous barks.

This confluence of humans and nature invites discovery, just one more reason to take the plunge and experience all that Avalon Harbor has to offer.

CIVR Blog: Santa Catalina icon

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Packy Offield's influence on Catalina Island is immeasurable.

Packy Offield’s influence on Catalina Island is immeasurable.

Over the last century, several individuals have forged an enduring impact on Santa Catalina Island. William, Joseph & Hancock Banning. William Wrigley, Jr. Malcolm Renton. PK Wrigley. Another man whose impact on the island will last for generations is Paxson “Packy” Offield. For decades, Packy’s influence and love of the island permeated not only the Santa Catalina Island Company and the Catalina Island Conservancy, but also the very fabric of the island community itself. With a generous spirit and faith in others, Packy led both SCICo and the Conservancy through three decades.

Packy’s great grandfather was William Wrigley, Jr., so his love of the island was part of his genes. While he quietly and generously supported dozens of island organizations and initiatives, he also supported international conservation organizations, including the Peregrine Fund, the International Gamefish Association and the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies. The ocean, particularly billfish, was his passion and thanks to his generosity and dedication our understanding of these ocean denizens is much greater.

After a valiant battle with leukemia, Packy passed away on June 14. His impact on the natural world, Santa Catalina Island and those who knew and loved him will be eternal.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island summer naturalist

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Wrigley Memorial on Catalina Island

Wrigley Memorial on Catalina Island

Each summer, Catalina Island offers a wealth of opportunities to explore. Warm waters beckon, restaurants offer tempting menus and Avalon’s beaches provide endless opportunities for fun. Summer also offers a great chance to learn more about everyone’s favorite island with the Catalina Island Conservancy’s popular summer naturalist program.

Responsible for protecting Santa Catalina in perpetuity, the Catalina Island Conservancy’s mission also includes recreation and education. They combine the two each Tuesday and Saturday for a naturalist-led Garden to the Sky hike, which takes hikers from the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden up to the ridge line that saddles the island and provides spectacular views of the windward side of the island. The hikes leave at 10:30 a.m. and are free for Conservancy members. Non-member hikers will pay $12 for adults and $8 for kids.

Island fans who are not up for hikes can also learn more about the native flora and fauna at the free tours of the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden, which are held every Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.  Originally developed by Ada Wrigley, the garden’s 35 acres include plants from all of Southern California’s Channel Islands as well as succulents from around the world.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island Museum

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The Catalina Island Museum is currently located in the Casino Building.

The Catalina Island Museum is currently located in the Casino Building.

One of Catalina Island’s most ambitious construction projects has recently entered its final phase. The Catalina Island Museum is currently building a new facility on Metropole Avenue, one of the largest construction projects in the island’s history. The Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building will include expansive exhibit and event space and is on track to open to the public later this year.

With Spanish tiles, colonnades and white stucco, the building is designed to fit in with some of the island’s most iconic architecture. Museum staff take the island’s needs seriously during construction, barging containers of water to the island to meet to the construction’s needs. With state-of-the-art exhibit space, a 100-seat amphitheater and a range of galleries for both permanent and visiting exhibits, the new museum is designed to meet to communities needs for generations to come.

Currently, the Catalina Island Museum operates in a small space located in the bottom floor of the Casino Building. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors. Children under 15 are free. Visitors and residents who would like to support the museum and its efforts to preserve Catalina Island’s fascinating history can become members; memberships are available starting at $45 per year and include free admission.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island volunteers

4:52 pm
Removing non-native plants is a key element in preserving the island's native ecology

Removing non-native plants is a key element in preserving the island’s native ecology

Catalina Island has intrigued generations of travelers. Unique wildlife, breath-taking natural beauty and an unspoiled wilderness found nowhere else make the island a destination that resonates, calling vacationers back again and again. While Avalon’s quaint charms and Two Harbors remote attraction provide plenty of temptations for travelers, for many people it’s the interior of the island that truly calls to them.

Thanks to the Catalina Island Conservancy and the vision of the Wrigley family, nearly 90 percent of the island is protected in perpetuity from development. Santa Catalina’s remote canyons, windswept promontories and native flora and fauna will never face the urban sprawl that characterizes the mainland. This non-profit organization was founded in 1972 and continues in its mission today, thanks to the generosity of its founders and others who love the island.

One of the best ways to learn more about the Catalina Island Conservancy and its role on the island is by volunteering. Regular opportunities include Thursdays at the Nursery and the monthly Windward Beaches Cleanup. Catalina Island Vacation Rentals has also worked with the Catalina Island Conservancy to develop Volunteer Vacations, giving travelers an even more in-depth way to give back and make their time on Catalina Island make a difference.

Volunteer Vacation Information

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island Fourth of July

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4th of July in Avalon

Fourth of July on Catalina Island is a family tradition for thousands. With a Fourth of July parade featuring festively decorated golf carts and a fireworks over Avalon Harbor, the small town charm of Avalon seems ideally suited for America’s most patriotic celebration.

Each year, thanks to the dedicated fundraising of alumni and other supporters, including the Avalon Rotary Club, the highlight of the Fourth of July Parade is the University of Southern California Marching Band in full regalia. The parade also features floats and golf carts festooned with bunting, streamers and every variation of the Red, White and Blue imaginable. After the parade, the USC Marching Band will head to the Casino Building for a special concert to accompany a barbecue dinner. The night’s culmination will be one of the most memorable fireworks shows imaginable. Although other fireworks extravaganzas may have more pyrotechnics, there’s no way to beat sitting on the beach, watching the fireworks reflected in Avalon Harbor while listening to their explosions echo up Avalon Canyon.

Avalon isn’t the only Catalina Island Fourth of July celebration. Two Harbors, at the island’s remote West End, also gets in the patriotic festivities. Two Harbors Fourth of July activities include a children’s festival, dinghy parade and fireworks on Saturday, July 5.