Even though I’ve been to Catalina several times, I am always amazed at what a beautiful place it is. How lucky are we? We can hop the Catalina Express and be on the island in an hour. It’s a gift. Usually I stay on the island for a couple of days, but this time around I wanted to experience what it would be like to be a day tripper.
My family and I left Long Beach on the 9:50 a.m. Catalina Express, our return trip was scheduled for 7:30 p.m., so we would have about eight hours on the island. It sounds like a lot but the time went quickly.
Masks are required on the Catalina Express and on the island. Outdoor seating on the Express is sought after so if you want to sit outside get in line early. We sat inside because I don’t do early. The ship was full so almost all the seats were occupied, but most people followed the rules and kept their masks on. I had no problem with sitting indoors.
Being out on the water is so Zen for me. The open sky and azure water combine to provide a sense of peace and relaxation. Cares and worries seem to fade away, if only for a little while. Before I knew it the hills of Catalina appeared and we pulled into Avalon harbor for a fun-filled day.
Our first activity was a ride aboard Catalina Island Company’s Undersea Expedition to the Lover’s Cove Marine Preserve. It’s really a twofer; an underwater excursion and a harbor cruise. It’s a cool setup; go down some stairs and there are benches to sit on and all sorts of windows giving a glimpse of the underwater world. A short ride and there are the fish! The crew takes turns feeding the fish on both sides of the vessel so everybody gets a great view and plenty of chances to take photos. The ride back is on deck to enjoy the beauty of the harbor. Such fun!
All that travel can make a person hungry, luckily we had reservations at Descanso Beach Club. The walk to Descanso is just beautiful and we took our time: looking among the rocks for Garibaldi and Starfish, enjoying the murals on the Casino and looking at the boats bobbing on the water. If you’ve been to Descanso Beach Club to eat before, it’s a bit different now. You order at the bar, find a seat and a server brings your food to the table.
A tropical drink is a must; blood orange margarita for me, east end mai tai for my daughter, and an old fashioned for my husband (not tropical but delicious). Our lunch (veggie burger, cheeseburger and nachos) was served to us on the patio overlooking the sparkling water. My daughter loved her veggie burger as did my husband his burger. I had the towering nachos which were awesome but I’d share them next time. Carnitas, melted queso, cotija cheese, black beans, pico de gallo, jalapenos, sour cream and avocado puree and chipotle aioli were all stacked on crispy blue and white corn chips; so yummy.
We had plenty of time to admire the view before returning to town and grabbing one of the many golf carts that are for rent. I’ve never rented a cart but have always wanted to. Two hours is the length of time for a rental and that’s plenty. There is a route to take to see all the sites on the island that is accessible by golf cart. There are even signs informing drivers where they can’t take the carts (that was very helpful to me, I almost ended up in the wrong place a couple of times). It’s a fun two hours and a great chance to explore some of the island.
We got a bit of shopping in, including a store new to me: The Catalina Island Pottery and Tile Company. It’s located in a beautifully tiled building and features unique items for 1927 – 1937, as well as modern pieces from local artists. There were many beautiful things in that store and I wanted them all.
Our dinner reservations were at M Food.Drink, adjacent to the newly remodeled Hotel Metropole. It is open for dinner only and has an open-air patio overlooking the harbor. We had a front-row seat to azure water and bobbing boats. There are heaters for warmth, so the patio is quite cozy.
We started our meal with an appetizer; the burrata salad for me and the Manilla clams for my husband and daughter. The clams were cooked in a Pinot Grigio wine sauce with a touch of oregano and red pepper flakes. It was served with garlic ciabatta bread to soak up every bit of the delicious broth.
My burrata salad was fantastic. It included an impressive round of fresh, tender burrata and was surrounded with a color-palette of tomatoes and peppery arugula. There was more than enough to share.
The fish of the day was Arctic Char and both my daughter and husband chose that. It was accompanied by mascarpone mashed potatoes and fresh asparagus. The mild, tender Char was brightened by the delicate lemon sauce. The crispy asparagus and rich mashed potatoes complimented the mild fish.
I tried the Sanddabs. I’ve seen them many times on menus but never tried them. Now was my chance. A flat fish species, it is tender and mild. The M Restaurant lightly dusted it with Panko and sauteed it. Drizzled with a luscious lemon-caper sauce, the Sanddabs were delicious. My meal also included mashed potatoes and asparagus. A very enjoyable meal and a great way to end a daytrippin’ experience on Catalina Island.
Catalina Island Express, 320 Golden Shores, Long Beach
(800) 995-4386, www.catalinaexpress.com
Undersea Sub Expedition, Green Pier, Avalon
Descanso Beach Club, 1 Saint Catherine Way, Avalon
(310) 510-7410, www.visitcatalinaisland.com/things-to-do/descanso-beach-club
The M Restaurant and Events, 205 Crescent Ave, Avalon
(310) 510-8404, www.mrestaurantandevents.com