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CIVR Blog: Descanso Beach Ocean Sports

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Descanso Beach Ocean Sports offers a great way to explore the island.

Descanso Beach Ocean Sports offers a great way to explore the island.

Exploring Catalina Island is something that takes a lifetime. Hidden coves, dramatic vistas and unique flora and fauna are just waiting to be discovered. Adventurers can take many routes to find the hidden side of Santa Catalina and one route is aboard an ocean kayak.  Catalina Island’s leeward side is ideal for exploring from an ocean kayak – calm waters beckon and marine life abounds.

Descanso Beach Ocean Sports, located just past the Catalina Island Casino at Descanso Beach, offers a menu of experiences sure to please everyone from the novice paddler to the experienced kayaker. Single and double kayaks are available for rent by the hour or the full day. Gear, including paddle pants and jackets for cooler weather, is available as well, as is snorkel gear and accessories like dry bags and personal floatation devices. Looking to try something different? Descanso Beach Ocean Sports also offers “glass” bottom kayaks to give you a view beneath the surface, as well as stand-up paddleboards.

Want to learn more about Catalina Island while you’re paddling? Descanso Beach Ocean Sports offers a number of guided kayak tours, including natural history experiences, astronomy tours and kids kayaking trips. For more information, call (310) 510-1226 or visit their website.

CIVR Blog: Land’s End Catalina

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Land's End on Catalina Island

Land’s End on Catalina Island

Catalina Island’s coastline is a study in contrasts. The island’s 54 miles of coastline represent everything from gently sloping sand beaches to vivid cliffs that plunge precipitously into the sea.

One of the most dramatic stretches of Santa Catalina’s coastline is located at the island’s far northwestern tip. Christened, appropriately enough, Land’s End, this area is home to steep cliffs, rocky promontories and drifting kelp forests. This stark landscape rises from a sea churned by waves and currents and the high cliffs are frequently lashed by swirling winds.

This area is consistently one of the most difficult stretches for boaters and kayakers who set out to circumnavigate the island. The finger of land is nearly always awash in heavy surf and Pacific currents that signify the abrupt transition from the lee to the windward side of the island.

The high cliffs are the realm of one of Land’s End’s – and Catalina’s – most dramatic residents. Bald eagles have called this forbidding habitat home for decades. The West End aerie has been a nursery to dozens of eagle chicks, several of which have matured to claim their own territory in Catalina’s ever changing skies.

CIVR Blog: Middle Ranch Catalina Island

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Middle Ranch includes an equestrian center.

Middle Ranch includes an equestrian center.

One of the most frequent questions visitors to Santa Catalina Island ask is “What’s on the rest of the island?” For the most part, the answer to that question is wild lands and wild places, but there are a few spots other than Avalon that host human habitation and history.

One of those spots is Middle Ranch on Catalina Island. Located just about in the, well, middle of the island, Middle Ranch has long been a center of livestock operations on the island. A classic red barn pays homage to that history and is now the center of the island’s equestrian facility. The Catalina Island Saddle Club offers residents – both full and part-time – the opportunity to board their horses cooperatively and take advantage of the island’s trails.

Middle Ranch is also a center of activity for the Catalina Island Conservancy.  The James Ackerman Native Plant Nursery propagates – and sells – a wide variety of native plants. Volunteers spend countless hours here ensuring the survival of Catalina’s flora, which includes several species that grow nowhere else on earth. The Conservancy also houses much of its facility maintenance operation here as well as several laboratories for studying life on the island. A number of families also live at Middle Ranch, in housing the Conservancy provides for its employees.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island races

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Photo courtesy of Spectrum Sports

Photo courtesy of Spectrum Sports

Catalina Island has become a magnet for athletes. Throughout the year, tests of speed, endurance and will take place on the island’s roads, waters and trails. Catalina Island races are famous for their natural beauty and the challenges they present for even the most accomplished athletes.

Several athletic challenges take place in November, starting with the Catalina Island Triathlon on Nov. 1. This world-class event begins with a half-mile swim in the waters of Avalon Harbor. Competitors will then head straight for their bicycles and race 15 miles out to Pebbly Beach and over Mt. Ada. Once the bike portion is complete, triathletes will take on the final portion, a 3.1-mile run out to the Casino Building and through the hills of Avalon. Hundreds of athletes from around the country take part in the Catalina Triathlon.

The following weekend, on Nov. 8, the Catalina Eco-marathon and Half Marathon will bring hundreds of long-distance runners eager to take on the challenge of Catalina Island’s hills and roads. Starting and finishing in Avalon, this marathon pushes its competitors to the limits, with grueling elevation changes and dramatic hills.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Fall Festival

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Catalina Fall Festival

Catalina Fall Festival

Like other communities around the country, Catalina Island comes together for holidays and special events. For the most part, the similarities between Catalina’s celebrations outweigh the differences, but in a few areas, those differences come into sharp contrast.

Catalina’s Fall Festival is one celebration that includes a few things found only on an island. Rather than a farmer’s field or a corner lot, island residents pick their pumpkins from a pumpkin patch on the beach. Dozens of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes scattered around Avalon’s beach are just one of the many features of the Fall Festival. This five-year-old event is open to residents and visitors and includes a cornucopia of tempting foods, delicious sweets and warm drinks. Hay rides and live music will both be available, as well as several family friendly games.

Two competitions are part of the fun at the Fall Festival. Prizes and bragging rights alike will be awarded to the winners of the Fried Chicken Competition and the Apple Pie Bake-Off Contest.

Scheduled for Oct. 16 from 5 to 9 p.m., the Catalina Fall Festival will be held on Crescent Avenue, which is also known as Front Street. It is hosted by the City of Avalon and benefits a number of Catalina Island charities. For more information, call the City of Avalon at (310) 510-0220.

CIVR Blog: Halloween on Catalina Island

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Rotary's Halloween Bash on Catalina Island will add some fun for adults.

Rotary’s Halloween Bash on Catalina Island will add some fun for adults.

Catalina Island has long been a popular destination for Halloween. Avalon’s school kids take part in a annual parade that attracts visitors and locals alike before scattering to fill their bags with Halloween loot. After dark, the town’s watering holes attract plenty of older party goers, eager to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve.

This year, a new party is coming to town. The Avalon Rotary will be hosting a Halloween Bash on Catalina Island, complete with adult costume contest, pumpkin carving competion and a live and silent auction. Music and magic will be the entertainment and appetizers and a no-host bar will be available. The Halloween Bash and Auction are a fundraiser for Avalon Rotary, which provides funds for locals needs, such as transportation for those needing medical care on the mainland, as well as Rotary International’s worldwide projects, including eradicating polio. Scheduled for Friday, Oct. 31, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the M Restaurant, the Halloween Bash is sure to be a spooktacular good time. Tickets are available at the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce office on the green Pleasure Pier or by calling (310) 510-1520.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island Museum

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The Catalina Island Museum uses water totes to bring fresh water to the island. Photo courtesy Catalina Island Museum

The Catalina Island Museum uses water totes to bring fresh water to the island. Photo courtesy Catalina Island Museum

Catalina Island has been bustling with construction projects over the last several years. New restaurants, a new spa and renovated hotels are all in the works or completed, as is an expanded golf course, new activities and a new grocery store. One of the most widely anticipated projects is also one of the largest. The Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building of the Catalina Island Museum will dramatically increase the amount of space dedicated to the art, history and culture of Catalina Island.

Thanks to the dedication of the museum’s staff and supporters as well as the innovation of its general contractor, this expansive construction project will have very little impact on the island’s rapidly dwindling water supplies. Catalina Island is in the midst of a historic drought that has forced residents and visitors alike to decrease the amount of water used. Rather than contribute to the problem, the museum has chosen to be part of the solution. Large plastic totes are filled with water purchased on the mainland and barged to the island. Each tote contains 275 gallons of water and with 120 totes available; the contractor estimates that by the end of the project they will have saved 33,000 gallons of water that would otherwise have come from the island’s water supplies.

The Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building of the Catalina Island Museum will open in 2015 and include space for permanent and traveling exhibits as well as an atrium, digital theater and sculpture garden.

 

CIVR Blog: Santa Catalina Island Company

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Photo courtesy Santa Catalina Island Company

Photo courtesy Santa Catalina Island Company

Catalina Island’s potential as a resort destination is something that has been recognized for more than century. Back in 1894, the Santa Catalina Island Company was formed to help maximize that potential. Over the intervening 120 years, SCICo was the entity responsible for bringing a wide array of services and facilities to Catalina Island.

Today, the Santa Catalina Island Company is Avalon’s largest landowner as well as its premier resort services company. Several dramatic new improvements are due to investment by the company, starting with the zipline in Descanso Canyon, which opened to rave reviews about five years ago and has been met with on-going popularity ever since. The zipline is far from SCICo’s only adventure, it also offers 25 additional adventures on both land and sea, including a semi-sub tour, dolphin quest and the Cape Canyon Expedition.

Adventure is one side of the Catalina Island coin – relaxation is another. The Santa Catalina Island Company also manages the Descanso Beach Club, the perfect spot to relax and unwind. The Catalina Casino, Catalina Visitors Golf Course, the Avalon Grille, the Catalina Country Club and the Catalina Golf Gardens are just a few more popular island destinations under SCICo’s purview.

Recently that Santa Catalina Island Company has begun a series of improvements that it hopes will lay the foundation for the next 100 years of resort services, including building a new spa, expanding the services at the Descanso Beach Club and planning for an expansion of the existing nine-hole golf course to an 18-hole course.

CIVR Blog: Stand up paddling Catalina

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Avalon Harbor's calm waters are perfect for stand-up paddling.

Avalon Harbor’s calm waters are perfect for stand-up paddling.

Stand-up paddling has become one of the more popular Pacific sports. Little known a decade ago, the sport has taken water sports by storm, with participants hitting the water on lakes, rivers and protected bays. Stand-up padding is more challenging in the open ocean, especially when wind and currents fight against you, but many paddlers are more than up for the challenge.

This new sport has become increasing popular on Catalina Island, where the leeside of the island offers many protected bays for novices to perfect their skills and paddling a few hundred yards out provides a challenge for more advanced paddlers.

For the last couple of years, one of the most challenging stand-up paddle races has been the Island to Island Waterman Relay, which takes competitors from the start at Santa Barbara Island, across 28 miles of open ocean and then finishes at Isthmus Cove at Two Harbors on Santa Catalina.

The Waterman Relay, scheduled this year for Oct. 11, also includes categories for outrigger canoes and paddleboards, which means it attracts some of the top competitors in those sports as well.

 

CIVR Blog: Catalina Air Show

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Daredevil flyers will take to the skies during the Catalina Air Show.

Daredevil flyers will take to the skies during the Catalina Air Show.

Catalina Island’s connection to aviation stretches back more than a century to when the first amphibious landing took place in Avalon Bay in 1912. Since that time, aviation played a crucial role in Catalina Island’s development as a tourist destination. Passenger service to the island was introduced in 1919 and continued to be way thousands of visitors arrived on the island for decades. Today, Catalina Flying Boats and Island Express continue the commercial aviation tradition on the island. Although they don’t carry passengers, as Catalina Island’s freight forwarder Catalina Flying Boats serves an essential role on the island, bringing freight to the island each day aboard their historic DC-3. Island Express brings thousands of passengers a year to Catalina in their fleet of helicopters.

Santa Catalina’s aviation history also comes to life each fall at the Scheyden Catalina Air Show. Featuring heart-stopping acrobatics, skydivers and awe-inspiring pilots, the air show provides hours of thrills. The airspace above Avalon Canyon and the clear blue sky above the waters off Avalon Harbor provide the perfect stage for these daredevils and great viewing can be had all along the Avalon waterfront.

The Scheyden Catalina Air Show will be held on Oct. 4. VIP packages are available, including a performers’ dinner Friday night.