Avalon, Catalina Island, CA // It all Started with a Groupon
Isn't it so rewarding when you actually use a Groupon you purchased? This one was extra sweet - we went camping in Catalina!
My friend Katy found a 2-for-1 deal on the Catalina Flyer ferry to Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island. A bunch of us jumped on it immediately and actually booked a weekend! If you ever see this Groupon GRAB IT you will not be sad, even if you just take a fun day trip from LA. Then you can pre-book your Ferry (highly recommend doing this) and it's a good peace of mind! So after about a month of planning and figuring this stuff out (thank you Katy for the plan and Judy for your amazing packing list) we were ready to go.
So let me preface - it is a tad bit complicated to get onto the Flyer. Here's all the info we used that works pretty well, but give yourself a bit of extra time to park because we epically failed there. It's where the purple star is on the map below (website here) and it's valet, $20 a day (but you can knock that down to $52 for the weekend by getting a validation from the boat ticket counter). When you return from the weekend you'll have to wait for them to individually pull out every car. It doesn't take too long but if you want to grab a drink or ride the ferris wheel instead you'd probably get your car right away.
We left around 6:30AM to get down there, which buffering time to get coffee & a quick bite was perfect timing (we went to Mermaid Coffee). You need to check in around 8am to check in for Catalina Flyer ($6pp extra). MAKE SURE YOU PRINT YOUR GROUPON & CATALINA FLYER CONFIRMATION. After you check in you'll get in another line to wait and board the boat. They don't check ID so I would recommend dropping someone off to check in with everyone's paperwork, someone (or two) with all the gear to stand in line and then the rest to go park.
They board you around 8:30am and then it departs around 9:00am - we got this amazing spot on top of all the life vests on the very top deck. It was pretty smooth and non-queasy-inducing at all. The only kind of bummer thing about the boat is they want you to put all your luggage in this one area so you have to make sure yours is visible and separated from the rest of the pack. Obviously we had some snapchat fun on the hour 15 minute jaunt over to Catalina Island.
After the nice boat ride we were stoked to arrive in Catalina! The taxi line tends to be very long so we decided to walk - BAD DECISION!! It's almost a 2 mile walk to Hermit Gulch Campground where we stayed. Rahim and I totally powered up the hill to the campground but it was ROUGH carrying all that gear! The silver lining is that this made every walk from there forward seem like nothing, so we got in a ton of exercise the whole weekend :).
Checking into Hermit Gulch was great on several levels because we were so happy to not be walking anymore and the campground is great. The bathrooms were some of the cleanest on the island (not kidding - some of the restaurant bathrooms were disgusting) and the tents are adorable. Each tent comes with a camping stove and light, a picnic table and an adorable porch. We had two for the 7 of us which was perfect. The cots leave a little to be desired so definitely bring a comfy warm sleeping bag and pillow. We walked into town to have lunch at a great Mexican restaurant Maggie's Blue Rose and get some supplies (i.e. booze). Most of the rest of Friday was walking unpacking and napping, with an awesome short rib dinner cooked by Julia! We settled into our campgrounds and got ready for another day in paradise. Warning though - you cannot leave any food out that is not in a zipped closed case ever - someone will eat it! There are lockers at the campground you can use.
Julia also had breakfast prepared and I looove to sleep in - so I woke up to delicious food again! After breakfast we did my favorite thing of the whole weekend which was the Garden to Sky hike. It starts right in Hermit Gulch Campground which made it extra easy. It was about a 1.9 mile hike up and 1.7 back down and it's very very steep! Once you get to the top you can see the harbor and the other side of the Island which was breathtaking and made the hike totally worth it. Once you're at the top you have the option to go even higher and see more of the island, but we were pretty pooped. Bring lots of sunscreen & water!
After the hike we were starving and went to the Sand Trap for $1 tacos and margs/beers which was halfway in between town and the campground - so much appreciated after a long hike. We sat there for a really long time really enjoying conversation and apparently getting burnt in the process, oops! Fun times leading to a beautiful sunset.
Dinner was interesting. We walked back into town for the Avalon Grille which was supposed to be "good for the selection on the island." We waited over an hour to sit and it was a bit lackluster, but I agree it was decent for the other selection on the island. While we waiting we drank beers at the Catalina Brewery next door which was interesting and got to continue enjoying the lovely evening. Avalon is a tiny cute little town but there's definitely not a ton of variety abound!
Sunday was an easy pack up and explore the town day. We laid on the beach and did a little shopping. We had an feast of a brunch at Pancake Cottage. It was a pretty leisurely fun last day. My dreams were shattered when I realized the ice cream I had been jonesing for all trip was actually just Dreyer's, but I'd still call this Catalina trip a big win :).
I sure hope to see you again soon, Catalina. Probably the next time a Groupon is available ;).