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Place: Santa Catalina Island California
Santa Catalina - Island of Dreams
By Tony Fenton
This beautiful island lies just 26 miles across the ocean from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. Yet it might be thousands of miles away.
As soon as you step ashore you can feel the pace of life slow perceptibly. Even the name of the main 'town' on the island is evocative - Avalon.
The 76 square mile island was originally owned by the Wrigley Family (of chewing gum fame) but over 80% is now owned by The Santa Catalina Island Conservancy. The island's interior is unspoilt and protected as a wildlife natural habitat.
There are very few cars on the island - transport is mainly by bike or electric golf cart(!). But you can easily explore Avalon on foot, and the only way to enjoy the shops, bars and restaurants along The Crescent.
Tours include a guided tour of the Casino, glass-bottomed boat trip from the pier to some kelp fields to see fish being fed from the boats and various bus tours into the interior of the island.
Tours can be purchased from the tourist office located by the pier. The problem is trying to fit everything in before your return ferry!
The Casino is a must visit. Not actually ever a gambling casino, the three-storey Art Deco style building is home to a movie theatre and the world's largest circular ballroom. At its heyday up to 6000 dancers enjoyed the Big Bands in the 1920s to 1950s.
Guided tours are available and well worth going on to see the place and learn something of its wonderful history.
Aside from the usual tee-shirt shops selling souvenirs the island is known for its coloured ceramic tiles. These can make good mementos of your visit.
There are several boat services linking Catalina to the mainland, all take approximately 1 hour 15 minutes and cost about $42 per adult or - for $132 round trip you can arrive in style by a 15 minute helicopter flight from San Pedro.
About the Author
Tony works for Strathlorn Travel, an online travel agency which specialises in travel for the independent traveller.