Tuesday, August 27, 2013

....26 miles across the sea, Catalina Island is a waitin' for me

The harbor at Avalon, the major village in Catalina, is a colorful place to park your boat.

California island offers restful, scenic time out-- the tune that made it famous lives on!


 "Twenty six miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is awaitin' for me, Santa Catalina, the island of romance, romance, romance, romance."
Set sail for easy-going Catalina and you won't be sorry.

    THE FOUR PREPS' hit song of 1957 was inspired by singer Bruce Belland's teenage affection for Santa Catalina and spring baseball training.
Living through a chilly Chicago winter as a kid, he was mesmerized by  newsreels of his beloved Chicago Cubs practicing under the swaying palms of a place he longed to visit.
Many years later, the song came to him.  He was recovering from a broken limb and still fantasizing about "the island of romance, romance, romance."
HIS SONG made him -- and the island -- famous, inspiring Jimmy Buffet and many other singers with its comforting, tropical tone.
Relaxation seekers board a Point Dana boat for Catalina.
The pretty little island is only 21 miles long and eight miles wide, and the principal town is the picturesque Avalon, on Catalina's southeast corner.
The smaller settlement of Two Harbors is on the other end, at Catalina's isthmus, northwest end.
IT'S ACTUALLY closer to 80 miles from San Diego, but whether you sail from Los Angeles, or farther south, be prepared for a beautiful look at the sea and a charming experience once you're there.
You can reach Catalina by sea or air and crossing time by boat ranges from an hour or 90 minutes, to eight or 10 hours, depending from where you depart, and by what mode of transportation.
You can go by sea or air and the Catalina Express is the most popular mode of transportation, departing from Dana Point, a lovely coastal town between San Diego and Los Angeles.
Catalina's town of Avalon is tucked against the hills. 
Many people take their private boats between the mainland and the island, which was likely settled about 2,500 years ago by the Gabrielino Indians. Historians believe they came there centuries ago, as early as 5000 B.C.
Europeans didn't discover it until 1542, about 50 years after Columbus, when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo found it during his quest for the mythical passage between the Atlantic and Pacific.

"Water all around it everywhere
 Tropical trees and the salty air
 But for me the thing that's a-waitin' there -- romance"

Young people from the mainland enjoy a weekend Catalina get-away.
Today,Catalina is a get-away for families and couples.  It's pace is slower than the mainland's, and it's much closer than Hawaii, with several nice hotels and B&Bs, and a half-dozen or more excellent restaurants, ranging from nautical-themed pizza and chicken joints, to cocktail lounges, to steak and seafood places, and Italian complete with homemade pesto and extensive seafood and veal entrees.
AS THE song suggests, it is romantic, with fine beaches, inviting tennis courts, and places to hike, camp, golf and deep-sea fish.
Bikes can be rented and everyone who lives there gets around in golf carts, helping maintain balance in the fragile environment.
Cars are mostly not allowed on most of Catalina,
so the locals and visitors use gold carts primarily.
There is also a variety of adventure, undersea and glass-bottom boat options developed by Catalina Adventure Tours .
IF YOU'RE a history buff and are interested in steamships, you'll enjoy the Catalina Island Museum in Avalon, with its interactive exhibit chronicling the history of steamship transportation.  And our songwriting Mr. Belland would be happy to see that his beloved Chicago Cubs are immortalized in a part of the exhibi which focuses on their spring training.
The William Wrigley family, of the chewing gum fortune, was responsible for much of the island's development as a resort and sport fishing paradise.  The Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden, two miles south of Avalon, honors Wrigley Jr., who was
It's possible to truly get away in Catalina, especially off season!
instrumental in the island's development and garden plans.  The beautiful garden features an extensive succulent collection. The Santa Catalina Island Conservancy helps preserve the island's native flora and fauna and now owns 88 per cent of the island.
IT'S NOT widely known, but it's a fact that bison inhabit Catalina, too.
The Conservancy helps keep the herd to about 200 -- optimum for best survival -- down from the 400 that once grazed here.
The bison history dates back to the 1920s when a half-dozen were brought here for a movie that was never made.  They've been in the news lately, because of a progressive birth control program introduced by the Conservancy, involving dart gun and effective birth control.

"Forty kilometers in a leaky old boat
 Any old thing that'll stay afloat
 When we arrive we'll all promote romance, romance, romance, romance."

This pretty building reflects the island's Mediterranean architecture. 
TODAY's BOATS are mostly yachts -- no leaks now -- and only tour buses and cars with permit stickers are allowed outside the Avalon area. If you want to see the bison, or go on a boat for fishing, snorkeling or pleasure, you'll need to go through Catalina Adventure Tours or Santa Catalina Island Company Discovery Tours. You can google the island for accommodations and find the range of hotels and eateries. The lovely Seacrest Inn, El Terado Terrace and Hotel Metropole caught our eyes while we were staying with friends.  The Catalina Courtyard Garden Wing has dog friendly digs in its pretty dozen
A pelican stretches in the sun of Catalina Island.
units.  Next time, we'll check that out with our Yorkies, Nick and Nora.  The Villa Portofino is on the ocean right in Avalon. And several smaller properties, including Hotel St. Lauren, MacRae and Atwater, look picturesque and welcoming, too.
Check with the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce and enjoy.
 Just remember to "stay afloat" -- which you'll need to do in your pursuit of romance, romance, romance, romance!

Next up, a two-part feature on Montana -- splendid in its summer glory.
First, on Saturday, we spotlight a popular eatery in the little town of Dean.  Montana Jack's Bar and Grill and the Stillwater Saloon draw crowds in a rural setting with an "uptown" menu and eel to it.  Then we take a look next time at the splendors under the Big Sky.  Then we're on to a bit of history on the Alberta Bair Museum, the largest performing arts complex in the northern Rockies.   Remember to explore, learn and live. And keep reading us Wednesdays and Saturdays at:

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