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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Maher

My Year Living on Catalina Island!

Avalon, a small town where big things happen! My year living in Catalina Island has been unforgettable! I feel blessed to have lived an entire year on Catalina. Now for the final month that my husband and I are here, we are enjoying every minute of this beautiful island. Many people have asked me, “Why is it called the enchanted isle?” or “Why the isle of romance and magic? What is so special about Santa Catalina?” Basically, everything about Santa Catalina is unique and stunning, and it is worth every penny to visit just once and learn a little bit about its history and culture, or experience life under its oceans!

When Chad and I arrived in Catalina last year Aug 2020, we did not know where we were going to live long term, or where we were going to work. We were skeptical if we were going to find a place to live because we were moving 5 months after the Covid-19 pandemic had hit the world! But we were determined to move to Avalon after we married because it is where we first met 8 years ago! Thankfully we were lucky to find something with a nice view behind the Catalina Island Museum. It has been fun living behind the Museum because sometimes they show outdoor movies such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the Princess Bride in their Ackerman Family Amphitheatre. The museum also shows educational films about important figures living in Avalon and films relating to exhibits featured at the museum. It is romantic to be outside and enjoying a movie under the stars with the backdrop of Catalina’s precipitous mountains. Outdoor movies such as WW84 and Aladdin have been showing at Descanso Beach Club, which is also a romantic spot.

August is one of the busiest times of the year because of the perfect summer weather. I jump in the cool waters and going for nature walks almost every day. For the entire year that Chad and I have lived here, I have been enchanted by the town and the scenery of Avalon. The boats and yachts that line Avalon Bay against the backdrop of the quaint colorful little houses, creates a picturesque scenery that has been painted by hundreds of artists. It is no wonder the Plein Air Painter of America was birthed on Catalina in the 80s.

My mornings usually consist of overlooking the beautiful town of Avalon as the sun rises. Almost every day I have been snorkel/swimming at Casino Point Dive Park this past month. I call it snorkel/swimming because I vigorously swim the length of the dive park with my snorkel every time, I go out there. It takes me about 25-30 minutes to swim the length of the dive park 5 or 6 times. The length of the dive park is .14 miles and in total it is 2.5 acres.

When I go in the water, I wear a 3-mm sleeveless wetsuit, rash-guard and hooded vest with gloves and booties, along with my fins and of course mask and snorkel. I like to cover up when I am in the water to reduce the risk of jelly fish stings and putting on sunscreen. However, wetsuits are not required during the summer because the water temperature ranges mid to high 60's. Lots of people jump in the water minimal coverage this time of year.

There are sharks that swim in the channel waters, but Casino Point Dive Park is a safe place to go snorkeling or diving! There is an emergency call button near the entrance. Big sharks are pelagic, which means they usually like to swim in the open ocean. The dive park is too shallow and close to the kelp beds for big sharks to swim. However small horn sharks can be seen in the dive park along with small schools of little barracuda. The giant black sea bass can also be seen hiding in the kelp beds.

There was a day in August when I snorkeled at Casino Point Dive Park, and it felt like there was a party under the ocean because there were millions, (no exaggeration) millions of Pyrozomes evenly spaced every square inch of the water! It looked like confetti suspended in the air after someone had thrown handfuls of them everywhere. The water was so clear, about 40 ft visibility. The Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) reached up to the surface like 1000 swaying green birthday streamers. The fish hide among the swaying kelp like the bright orange Garibaldi and small little baby fish that swim together by the 100s. The water was so calm and flat and warm enough to be like the temperature of a lukewarm bathtub!

Lover’s Cove, Descanso Beach and Steps Beach are also great places to jump in the water when visiting Avalon. Lover’s Cove is nearest to the Cabrillo Mole Ferry Terminal, and Steps Beach is situated just to the right of the Tuna Club along Crescent Avenue. Descanso Beach is just past the Casino Building, and it is a rocky beach. Nearer to the Descanso Beach Club there is a layer of soft sand to walk along barefoot.

Two Harbors and Little Harbor are also great areas to hike, camp and snorkel. Little Harbor is located on the west side of the island and Two Harbors is located at the isthmus. Chad and I camped at Two Harbors for our anniversary. We had an amazing time because there was a great snorkel spot near our campsite! There is also a little general store near the main dock where the Cyclone drops off passengers coming from Avalon. It has everything you need for a great camping trip. Near the general store is a restaurant, public restrooms with showers and changing areas. We camped nearby the general store, so we did not have to pack any food and we ate great breakfast burritos in the morning at the restaurant. The interior is vast with gorgeous camping spots with running potable water. Diving and snorkeling around Catalina must be on your to do list because of the abundance of sea life that inhabit the coastline.

During the summer, Avalon is drenched in sunlight, and reaching up to 80 degrees during the day and mid 60s at night with an intermitted cool breeze, coming in from the northeast. Since it is an island with a Mediterranean climate, the temperature stays about the same all year, neither getting too cold or too hot. Sometimes, there is an occasional marine layer that lingers in the morning but usually burns off in the afternoon. During the weekends, Casino Point Dive Park gets busy during the summer. It has been nice enjoying this type of aquatic environment this past year, but I am looking forward our next adventure! We are going to be living in the Caribbean!

Chad and I love island living because of the simplicity of it, and the carefree culture of island life. Avalon embraces this culture and the “life at sea.” You can see it in the artwork and tiles along Crescent Avenue, which hugs Avalon Bay and extends to Descanso Beach, just past the circular Casino Building. Crescent Avenue is where you will find most of the gift shops, bars, and restaurants. It is where most of the activity in Avalon takes place. There must be hundreds of images of galleons, mermaids, and fish all over Avalon, depicted in the tiles, buildings, and even in the residential areas. There is even a galleon depicted on the door to our apartment!

If you are looking for some cute treasures fit for a pirate, I suggest visiting the Bay of Seven Moons, it is one of my favorite stores on Catalina! I have bought many eye-catching necklaces there. It is situated within the Metropole Square, nearby the Catalina Cookie Company and the Metropole Café, both of which serve great breakfast foods! The Bay of Seven Moons carry stunning pieces of jewelry with an esoteric taste; exotic pendants and rings, crystals, and sage for cleansing your living room space. It is one of my favorite stores on Catalina. Almost every shop along Crescent Avenue is unique and offer great quality gifts and souvenirs. The same goes for the restaurants on Catalina, almost every restaurant is fantastic. My favorite restaurants list: Lua Larry’s for their burgers, Pete’s for the breakfast burritos, NDMK for its sushi, Sand Trap for its Skinny Margaritas and Steve’s Steakhouse for its steaks, I could just go on and on.

After my usual snorkel I walk up to Chimes Tower Road, to the viewpoint that overlooks the Casino Building's orange tiles. I walk past the Chimes Tower to the ledge covered in eucalyptus trees. I can just sit up there for hours looking at the palm trees sway around the building and gaze out at the wide-open ocean, just watching the sailboats crisscrossing over the sparkling water in the distance. When I am up there, I am sometimes joined by ravens and deer looking for food. I see many types of birds fly by such as egrets, falcons, ground doves, hummingbirds and pelicans. It is a gift to be able to enjoy a view like that! I feel like my words and pictures will never entirely express the enchantment that Avalon has given me.

Avalon is a simple town where big things happen, especially during the summer. Aspiring artists, musicians and speakers launch their creative talents here, which eventually reaches out to the world. People come to Catalina to become inspired, and to me that is magical! Lots of parties and events have taken place on the island such as live music, beach parties, concerts, and outside movies! Go to to look at the upcoming events. There is never a dull moment and there is always something you can do in this little town where everybody knows everybody.

Last Saturday night I sat gazing out into the distant horizon over the ocean as the sun was setting at my favorite viewpoint overlooking the Casino, I could hear the Rock concert playing inside the ballroom of the Casino and the music from the DJ at Descanso Beach and I realized that Chad and I are going to miss Catalina very much! We will look back at our time here with much joy. It is priceless to be able to experience living in a little town like Avalon. We feel lucky to be able to live in Avalon because it is a lifestyle not found anywhere else in the world! You must visit Avalon to experience the magic, and romance. It is a small place where big things happen, and I guarantee your visit will change your life as it did mine!

I am going to end my blog with the quote on a memorial plaque of Danny Lee Quick Sr. 1949-2006 at my favorite viewpoint that overlooks the Casino. “Life is not a journey from cradle to grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to come skidding in sideways, bruised, battered, totally worn-out yelling ‘Wow! What a Ride!’”

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