The first time I went to Catalina Island was for my high school senior retreat. We sailed to the island, participated in some team building exercises and slept on the boat. I’m sure it was fun but, honestly, all I remember is I had just broken up with my boyfriend. So. Much. Drama. Remember those days? My second trip was with an ex over a decade ago. Needless to say, I was well overdue for a fresh, new experience of the island! My husband and I both celebrate June birthdays, so we decided to make an event out of it and took a day trip to Catalina with our two-year-old daughter. Her first time on a boat. My husband’s first time to Catalina. And it was a BLAST. Third time’s the charm, right?
There is plenty to do on the island for an entire weekend getaway, which we certainly plan to do soon. But, if you’re looking for a day trip, perhaps our little birthday outing can serve as inspiration.
Things to Do
Grab a coffee and breakfast from Catalina Coffee & Cookie Co. This local café features sweet treats like the “best cinnamon roll ever” and savory specialties like frittatas and breakfast burritos. We opted for the biscuit breakfast sandwich and it didn’t disappoint. There is a cute courtyard with plenty of seating to enjoy your breakfast outdoors.
Rent a golf cart and take a self-guided tour of the island. The preferred method of transportation is by golf cart. There are plenty of scenic overlooks to stop and snap a selfie throughout the drive. This was an absolute hit with our daughter, as she was able to ride along in the special toddler seat they can install upon request. She still asks to ride in the “golf club.” There are a few golf cart rental companies just a few yards from the dock.
Tour Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden, which you can access by golf cart, bike or a 30-minute walk up Avalon Canyon from town center. The monument honors William Wrigley Jr, of chewing gum fame, who had a vision to create a “playground for all” on Catalina Island. Take in the garden’s desert plant collection as you walk up the hill to the monument, which features stunning views from the top. Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden is open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and veterans and $4 for children ages 5-12 and students. Free for children under 5 and active military and their families.
Visit the galleries at the Catalina Island Museum, featuring exhibitions on the Titanic, the history of the island and more. If you’re catching the last ferry back to Long Beach on a Friday, you might have enough time to check out Catalina Island Museums’ First Friday Films, which features film screenings in their outdoor amphitheater. Catalina Island Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Tickets are $17 for adults, $15 for seniors, military, healthcare workers and students and free for children ages 15 and under.
Window shop along the scenic main street, Crescent Ave. Our daughter especially loved Wrigley Fountain, which is adorned with authentic Catalina tile. I enjoyed Catalina Island Conservancy’s Trailhead store where I got a couple of souvenirs for my daughter.
Grab lunch or relax in a private cabana at Descanso Beach Club. We’d failed to make a reservation ahead of time, so all the chaise lounges and cabanas were booked. But this just gives us an excuse to return. Located right on the water, just past the iconic Casino, this beachside restaurant and bar lets you enjoy a drink and a bite on the sand. Descanso Beach Club is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m daily.
- Make sure to buy your ferry ticket online. Double check which port you are departing from (San Pedro or Long Beach) and arriving at (Two Harbors or Avalon). We took the ferry from Long Beach to Avalon, the main town with more amenities, activities and dining options.
- When we traveled in June, there was no eating or drinking allowed on the vessel, which made for a very long ride with a toddler. As of this writing, consuming your own food and non-alcoholic beverages is once again allowed. However, masks must be worn when not eating or drinking. This could change again, so come prepared with distractions knowing animal crackers might not be one of them.
- Grab a seat inside by a window for a more relaxing journey, or a seat outside on the deck for a beautiful, albeit windy, hour-long ride to the island.
- Reserve a golf cart rental ahead of time. We were a little unprepared and didn’t reserve the cart in advance. The conveniently placed playground, just a few yards from the dock, came in handy as my husband waited for a golf cart to become available.
- If you bought a roundtrip ticket, but realize you need an earlier return ride because a certain toddler has reached her time limit, you can change your reservation for just $5 per ticket. If you can’t tell, this helped us tremendously!
For more travel ideas check out our family travel section and make some summer memories.