Just off the coast of southern California lies Catalina Island, a beautiful island getaway. A popular camping destination for California locals and out-of-state tourists alike, the serene island has tons of fun activities to enjoy, from hiking and snorkeling to leisurely dining in cozy restaurants. Here’s everything you need to know for an exciting island camping adventure.
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Getting to Catalina Island
There are several ways to get to Catalina Island ranging from mundane to luxurious. The fastest way to the island is via a 15-minute helicopter ride from Long Beach. For people in less of a hurry to start their vacation, the ports in Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point offer hour-long ferry rides. A number of private boats, spanning the gamut from utilitarian to ultra-posh, are available to take you to the island as well.
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Camping on Catalina Island
Catalina Island has several campgrounds, but the two most popular are Two Harbors Campground and Hermit Gulch Campground. These two island campsites offer slightly differing experiences and accessibility. Two Harbors Campground, located on the west end of the island, is only accessible by boat. Hermit Gulch Campground, located in the island’s main town of Avalon, is only accessible by ferry or helicopter.
Two Harbors Campground
Two Harbors Campground is the more rustic of the two campsites. There is no running water, but it does have a shared restroom and showers. Located on a bluff above the beach, the campground is nestled amongst the island’s lush vegetation and offers stunning views of the natural beauty for which Catalina Island is famous. The campground offers easy access to several of the island’s hiking trails, including the Trans-Catalina Trail, which runs the length of the island.
All 42 sites of the Two Harbors Campground are first-come, first-serve, so load up your boat and hit the water early to get your spot.
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Hermit Gulch Campground
Taking “urban camping” to a whole new level is the Hermit Gulch Campground. The campground is located just a short walk from Avalon’s restaurants and shops in a densely wooded area.
Hermit Gulch has a few more amenities than Two Harbors Campground and is great for families. In addition to the common restrooms and showers, each campsite has a fire ring and picnic table. Forgetting an item is no big deal as there’s access to a camp general store. There’s also a common picnic area and a playground for kids to clamber all over. The highly desired 42 campsites do require reservations, so book yours well in advance of your trip to Catalina Island.
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The Five Best Catalina Island Camping Activities
The best part of camping on Catalina Island is experiencing all the island has to offer. These five activities are must-dos if you want to get the most from your trip.
Explore Avalon The charming town of Avalon is perfect for a leisurely visit. Stroll amongst local shops and art galleries before grabbing a bite at one of the many restaurants. Whether you’re a history buff or just someone who likes to lean into the tourist vibe, guided walking is sure to please. Catalina Island’s adventurous history – filled with pirates, smugglers, and more – and the architecture influenced by islands changing occupying countries, ensure this walking tour isn’t just another boring lecture.
Snorkeling or Scuba Diving Catalina Island is known for its clear waters, perfect for snorkeling or scuba diving. No need to be a professional diver, either. You can rent all the scuba gear you need and there are guided tours of the underwater world surrounding the island.
Take a Zipline Tour Why walk when you can zip over Catalina Island’s rugged mountains and get a bird’s eye view? Several zipline tours, ranging in skill level from beginner to advanced, offer a truly unique way to see the island.
Visit the Catalina Island Museum As stated earlier, Catalina Island has a vibrant history that’s created rich culture. It’s also home to many amazing wildlife species. Immerse yourself in everything from the island’s Native American cultural and historical roots to its more recent entry into pop culture and Hollywood at the Catalina Island Museum.
Take a Wildlife Tour You can spot anything from bison and foxes to eagles at Catalina Island. Guided wildlife tours let you safely observe these animals in their natural habitat and how conservation efforts can preserve them.