Explore: Catalina Island with Kids

22 miles offshore from Los Angeles lies Santa Catalina Island, a tiny island with some big sized kid-friendly charm.  Buffalo, brought over in 1924 for a cowboy film, still roam the interior, sea lions guard the bays, and the rocky beaches are perfect for exploring.

This perfect day trip or getaway destination is easily reached by ferry service from Long Beach, San Pedro or Newport Beach.  Take your pick of Catalina’s two principal towns. Avalon, on the east end of the island, is the more “urban” destination, while Two Harbors, to the west, is isolated and pristine, perfect for camping and hiking. Between the two towns lies the island’s rugged interior, protected by a nature conservancy.

Start your adventure in Avalon with breakfast at the Pancake Cottage where not only the selection is large, the portions are huge! Don’t pass up on the house-made whipped cream or the fresh fruit toppings. Tip: Two kids can easily split one entree.  Tee off tiny style at Golf Gardens, located less than 1 mile from the beach, is an all around family fun classic. In the mood for adventures in the more aquatic style? Rent a boat from Joe’s Boat and peddle or paddle your way around the harbor. Bring a picnic along and stop for a bite to eat along the way while the kiddies wade the afternoon away. It’s hard to miss, but keep your eyes peeled for the American bison that roam the island. The bison are among sixteen varieties of land mammals that inhabit the island—all of them introduced from other areas. In addition, there are eight varieties of bats, six kinds of frogs and salamanders, and ten different snakes and lizards. Even on cool or foggy days,  enjoy a family friendly excursion  on a glass-bottom boat. Not only can you see sea creatures in their natural surroundings, some even provide feeding mechanisms so that you can feed the fish while seated on the boat! One of the more recent additions to the glass bottom boat fleet in Catalina is a semi-submersible ship that resembles a “yellow submarine.”

Feeling really adventurous? Try a camping trip with the kids at Two Harbors Campground. The campground sits high atop a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean just a quarter-mile outside the village of Two Harbors.  Bring a tent or try out a cozy tent cabin. Tent cabins sleep up to six people and include cots, camp stove, lantern, picnic table, BBQ, fire ring and sunshade. Don’t feel like lugging a bag full of gear? A full selection of camping equipment is available for rental as well as firewood, charcoal and propane.

-Drea Lester