Just an hour boat ride from Newport Beach is the idyllic Santa Catalina Island. Reminiscent of the Italian Coast (without the hassle of flights and passports), Catalina makes for a fun and easy day-long adventure. From Newport’s harbor, hop aboard the Catalina Flyer to enjoy glorious island living. And best of all, you’ll be back to Newport for your dinner reservation!
Getting to Catalina Island
This popular island destination is just 26 miles off the coast of Newport Beach. You can get there 365 days of the year via the Catalina Flyer, a large ferry that departs from Newport Beach’s harbor. The ferry pushes off at 7:30am (there’s an 11:00am departure on weekends), and you’ll arrive on the island just 75 minutes later. The ferry then leaves Catalina at 4:00pm, getting you back to Newport by 5:15pm. As longtime locals who’ve made the trip many times, we can wholeheartedly say that the ferry is a pleasure in and of itself. It’s common to see pods of dolphins leaping and jumping as you cross the channel as well as terrific views of the SoCal coast. Food, drink, and snacks are also available for purchase.
Adults: $78 roundtrip
Kids: $61 roundtrip
Catalina’s Main Attraction: Avalon
Stepping off the ferry, you’ll find yourself nestled in a crescent-shaped harbor known as Avalon. The island’s main town, Avalon boasts a vibrant atmosphere where you can stroll along the waterfront to window-shop, grab some seafood, play golf, or savor an ice cream cone. We love it for its peaceful, small-town ambiance coupled with the dramatic views of the ocean, the casino, and boats bobbing in the harbor. And lucky for all of us, it’s the perfect size for exploring in a single day.
Top Activities to do on Catalina Island
Because Avalon is so small, most residents commute via golf carts. We suggest renting one for an hour to get the lay of the land. There are multiple shops along the main street that rent carts for comparable prices. They’ll give you an easy-to-follow map that will take you through the prettiest parts of town with tons of lookout points! Be sure to snap photos!
The island’s undeniable landmark, the Casino is a must-see. While no longer an operating casino, this historic building offers 45 minute tours all throughout the day. If you’re a history-buff, we highly suggest joining a tour!
For the outdoorsy folk, renting a boat or kayak from Joe’s Rent-a-boat and exploring the coastline of Catalina from the water is a total thrill! While you’re at it, rent a snorkel and we bet you’ll spot California’s shockingly orange State Fish, the Garibaldi. The glass bottom boat ride, zipline, and bison expedition (yes, there are bison on the island!) are other favorites.
If you’re looking for a slower pace, we love spending the afternoon at Descanso Beach Club, a resort-like beachfront just a 10 minute walk from Avalon that serves fun food and drinks. The Botanic Gardens are also a huge hit, featuring a plethora of native California flora, some of which can only be found on the Channel Islands!
Why Catalina Needs to be on Your Must-See List
No matter the group or the occasion, Catalina Island a one-size-fits-all destination. It’s romantic, picturesque, full of exciting and unique activities, and it couldn’t be easier to get to. It’s perfect for young families, multiple generations, couples, and friend groups. We always recommend our guests consider a Catalina day-trip because we know it will always provide lifelong memories.