26 Miles Across the Sea

“26 miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a’ waiting for me” –- or at least that’s what the famous lyrics from the Four Preps would have you believe. And they promote a vision of “romance, romance, romance,” too!

Indeed, it’s true that visitors to Orange County tourist attractions would be well advised to take an extra day or two and visit Catalina Island. It’s a magical place, modern in so many respects, but also deliciously preserved so that it’s wonderful habitat remains intact. (The only reason not to visit would be the time it takes to get there and come back, but even that complaint has been met with a hydrofoil ferry that takes just over an hour to get there.)  A visit to Catalina comes highly recommended by the folks at California Tourist Guide, and for good reason.

You can get there by ferry (the best way), leaving from Long Beach on the north side of Catalina or Dana Point on the south. The ferries are modern, comfortable and fast (not the “40 kilometers in a leaky old boat” as the song says!), and they arrive in Avalon, the harbor on Santa Catalina’s southeastern shore. (Isn’t it interesting to note that a song written in 1958 would use the metric equivalent of distance in such a quintessentially American song? Could that happen today?)

The “romance” promised from the song was a personal promise, but visitors will almost certainly be enchanted by what they find in Avalon. One of the main streets, Crescent Avenue, is dotted with boutiques that present the tourist with lots of temptations for gifts to be brought back home, and the Zane Grey Pueblo hotel — built on a hillside that overlooks the town and the bay — is surely one of the most picturesque spots in all of Southern California. And you can’t walk anywhere in the town (and you will walk, since motorized transportation options are limited to golf carts, tour buses, cabs and boats) without seeing flowers everywhere — pansies, snap dragons, begonias and other flowers. It’s beautiful!

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