Weekend Getaway to Catalina Island
As my wife approaches her due date (less than a week away), I’ve enlisted the help of some fellow travel bloggers to keep up with regular postings. This first post comes from Sadie of Eclectic Trekker. You may also notice a new look to the site. I’m working on a new design so please excuse the dust as I finish off the final touches.
As I read Sadie’s post, I was reminded of my one and only trip to Catalina Island when I was five years old. While I may not have been able to join in the adult fun like Sadie did, I did have a bit of an adventure in adult language.
We were visiting my aunt and her now ex-husband. His language was rather colorful and nearly every sentence contained the f-word. This was a new, and what seemed like acceptable, word to my young brain. My parents still tell the story of me pausing on the sidewalk, putting my hands on my hips, and saying, “These f-ing golf carts are everywhere.”
Sadie’s post has inspired me to return to the California island to see if there’s still a lot of f-ing golf carts.
It’s amazing how a weekend away can make you feel like whole new person.
I had been working like a dog and was in desperate need of some R and R. My ever so loving boyfriend, Alan, saw the opportunity and decided to surprise me with a romantic getaway to Catalina Island. In 10 years of me living in LA, I still had yet to visit this mystical place, and who better to experience it with than Alan!
Getting to Catalina from LA is easily done with ferries leaving multiple times throughout the day from 3 different ports. The ride is a short 1 hour trip, and let me tell ya, that hour makes a world of difference.
Technically we were still within the boundaries of LA County, but the congested craziness of the city was nowhere to be found here. I felt like we had been whisked away to a small island somewhere in the Mediterranean. Colorful homes climbed up the lush hillside with dozens of boats anchored in the still waters below. Only 15% of Catalina is allowed to be developed in order to preserve the natural beauty of the island, so beyond that small section of housing you get miles of undisturbed nature.
Once we checked into our hotel and got settled, Alan and I were more than ready to start our weekend away. Our first order of business was to find the restaurant with the best oysters on the island. According to our concierge, that place was a hole in the wall seafood joint on the next street over called the Lobster Trap.
We started with a dozen oysters on the half shell followed by oysters rockefeller because of course you have to try both variations. The raw oysters were plump and juicy with the perfect accompaniment of cocktail sauce and fresh grated horseradish. I personally feel oysters are made by the accouterment that comes with them, and fresh horseradish is a must! The oysters rockefeller was also very tasty. Sometimes the dish can be overloaded with creamed spinach to the point that you can’t even tell if an oyster is in there, but the Lobster Trap was not guilty of this. They gave us a perfect balance of meaty oyster and baked topping.
Once filled with oysters, we decided to check out the nightlife of Catalina. As small as the town may be, there is no shortage of bars. The vibes are all different, but there is one commonality you’ll find at every establishment and that’s Catalina’s signature drink, buffalo milk (named after the island’s iconic buffalo herd). It’s a rich mixture of Vodka, Kahlua, creme de cocoa, and creme de banana blended together with half and half and ice then topped off with whipped creme and a sprinkle of nutmeg. One taste and I was hooked!
We had an early morning planned the next day, so we decided to call it a night after listening to some live music and downing a couple of daiquiris and buffalo milks at Luau Larry’s.
The next day started with diving in Catalina’s Casino Point Marine Park. I would recommend this site to any dive enthusiast. It’s easy to get to with stairs leading you right down to the water and no surf to fight. The park is full of thick kelp forests that numerous aquatic critters call home. Giant lobsters, octopuses, and fish of all different kinds can be found in the park. Some even say giant sea bass will make an appearance at certain times of the year.
After 3 dives, we were hungry and ready for a drink, so we turned in our gear and went looking for a good lunch spot. We ended up at the Bluewater Grill because not only do they have great food, but they also have one of the best views on the island. We spent the whole afternoon on their giant patio eating more oysters, sipping bloody marys, and enjoying the cool ocean breeze.
That night after dinner, Alan and I grabbed a bottle of champagne and made our way down to the end of the boardwalk where we found a cluster of vacant cabanas overlooking the old casino. During the day this area of the island is filled with people, but that night we had the whole place to ourselves. We snuggled up in our cabana and drank champagne while listening to the waves gently crash on the beach. It was so romantic and by far my favorite part of the weekend.
Our last morning on Catalina, we decided to indulge ourselves with a southern style breakfast at the Pancake Cottage. I had been told it was a must for anyone who visits the island, and now having eaten there I would agree. The chicken fried steak was the perfect crispiness, and the gravy was so rich and creamy. It reminded me of my grandma’s homemade gravy.
Alan and I also ordered the strawberry Belgian waffles to share since we needed a bit of sweetness after so much savory, and they came highly recommended. The waffles were crispy on the outside and light and buttery inside, and as if the whipped cream and strawberries weren’t enough, there were also different flavored syrups to try. We were in quite the food comma after that!
We only had a few more hours until our ferry was scheduled to depart. After walking off some of our breakfast, we stopped in the Lobster Trap for you guessed it, one more round of oysters and one last buffalo milk. We thought it was only fitting to end the weekend the same way we started it.
If you are planning a trip to Southern California, I highly recommend setting aside a couple of days to visit Catalina Island. You won’t regret it!
After living in Los Angeles for 11 years, Sadie packed up her bags and set out for the open road. She has been traveling around SE Asia and Europe working with various conservation projects and animal rescues. You can follow Sadie on her adventures through her blog Eclectic Trekker. Sadie can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.