One Good Life in Los Angeles

Roslyn's observations about places and events around Southern California

All the way to Santa Catalina Island for Bubble Gum ice cream

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santa catalina island

The Catalina Casino has to be one of the most photographed and iconic buildings in the world. I never get tired of taking pictures of it, just as I never tire of visiting it.

On Saturday several of my explorer friends and I headed for Santa Catalina Island for a day trip.

Santa Catalina Island

Catalina is approximately 26 miles from San Pedro, the Los Angeles port we chose to travel from. I use that distance because it is the title of a 50s song by the Four Preps. I never heard the song before I Googled the words “Catalina song.”

At the end of the post I’ve included two versions of the song by the Four Preps, one from long ago and one more recently. It’s a peppy song and now I can’t get it out of my head… but certainly matches the Catalina feeling!

And yup, that’s our catamaran above, the Starship Express! Not quite the Enterprise, but close enough!

Santa Catalina Island

The photo above is our first sighting of the island after leaving port. A little hazy… and I was shooting through a window…

Santa Catalina Island

As we neared Avalon we were hit in the face by this crazy condo complex cut into the side of the formerly pristine mountainside. Hamilton Cove just keeps on growing… okay, moving on…

Santa Catalina Island

This was our next, more pleasant view from the boat. Just as I remembered it.

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Santa Catalina Island

Avalon has a very small beach but it is popular. As it was past noon by now our first thought was food so we made a bee line for the restaurant.

It’s been several years since I last visited and since then The Busy Bee, my favorite water-side restaurant, morphed into the more upscale Bluewater Grill.

Santa Catalina Island

After a rather long wait for just the right table (able to accomodate six people) we were happy to sit down and admire that perfect view.

I ordered the sand dabs with summer squash and scalloped potatoes, one of the better meals I have ever eaten. I accompanied it with one of the best Bloody Mary’s I have ever tasted. It included a large, juicy shrimp, two huge stuffed olives and a string bean. I could have ordered two of those and called it lunch!

Santa Catalina Island

The Bluewater Grille hanging out over the water on the right. Pier on the left. At the top of the hill to the right is the Wrigley Mansion (now The Inn on Mt Ada).  At one time William Wrigley, Jr. (Wrigley’s Chewing Gum) owned the entire island.

Santa Catalina Island

After lunch we walked up to the Casino and I stopped to take some snapshots of people enjoying themselves on this glorious day. Not just people, of course. This dog was obviously captain of his ship.

Santa Catalina Island

The row of buoys designates a swimming area where boats are not allowed.

santa catalina island

A little paragliding, anyone?

Santa Catalina Island

And I had to take the opportunity for my selfie. Look at how clear that water is… if I wasn’t covered from head to toe to protect myself from the sun, I would have jumped in! Fortunately, I had many years of frolicking in the ocean so I still remember what it feels like… I have always loved being in, on and around water.

Santa Catalina Island

Cars are not generally allowed on Catalina but there are plenty of golf carts for hire. I also noticed quite a few two-person smart cars. According to the Chamber of Commerce there is currently a 14-year wait to own a car on the island, so why bother?

Santa Catalina Island

Tiles are everywhere. I could have filled this post with them but I had to restrain myself. Wrigley founded Catalina Clay Products in the 1920s which produced pottery and tiles. Forget about the pottery, I adore Catalina-style tiles which are prized by collectors and imitated by contemporary tile artists (myself included).

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Santa Catalina Island

This tile piece illustrates the bison that have been roaming the hills of Catalina for a hundred years. I can tell you a few stories of my bison encounters when you have some time. Just recently (end of August) the CEO of a conservation group, engaged in mapping for a new hiking trail, was gored by a bison. Fortunately he survived, but they are wild animals and you don’t want to piss them off.

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Santa Catalina Island

The Catalina Island Yacht Club sports a fancy weathervane of a galleon.

Santa Catalina Island

Sailboats come from Los Angeles and around the world to drop anchor at Avalon Bay. In my sailing days I remember not being able to sleep because of the clanging of the rigging from the boats that surrounded us. I suppose old salts get used to it, but I was merely a weekend sailor so I didn’t.

Like many things in my life, I’m glad I tried it, but after years of dreaming about learning to sail, the reality wasn’t as glamorous as the expectations! Now I’m happy just to look at the boats from afar.

Santa Catalina Island

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Santa Catalina Island

The Casino is now a movie theater downstairs. The old ballroom is still open upstairs and many events are hosted here. There are also tours available of the building which I highly recommend… takes you back to days gone by.

The entryway murals were created in 1929. After John Gabriel Beckman completed the murals for Grauman’s Chinese Theater (in Hollywood), Wrigley invited the artist to adorn the Casino.

santa catalina island

Walkway to Descanso Beach Club, north of downtown Avalon. The place was hopping with loud music and twenty-somethings. A sign stated for $2 members of the public could access the property. But we decided it was time to return to Avalon for our ice cream dessert. I treated myself to a double cone with Bubble Gum on the top and Vanilla Bean on the bottom. The only time I go for Bubble Gum ice cream is at Big Olaf’s on Catalina. It’s a tradition I started for myself many years ago and I can’t give it up now!

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santa catalina island

After sitting for a while to people watch as we finished our ice cream, we sauntered on down to Lover’s Cove just past the boat dock. This is a popular place for birds to hang out so they can watch the snorkelers.

It was almost time to board the Catalina Express to head back to the mainland. It was a short trip due to circumstances beyond my control. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful afternoon and I wouldn’t have missed it.

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santa catalina island

We are already thinking about coming back next year when we can spend more time. I’m also thinking about making an overnight trip on my own. Just me and my camera.

There is SO much more to see on the island within walking distance of Avalon Beach… I have such great memories of hiking and biking all over.

santa catalina island

On the return trip we were able to snag seats on the outside deck. We had a fellow traveler for a while. But it turns out he was a stowaway without a paid ticket so as soon as we were out on the high seas he flew back to Avalon.

santa catalina island

Bye bye until next year, sweet Catalina!

Don’t leave just yet.  The Four Preps want to sing that song about the island that I promised you. But a warning, you will be humming it for the rest of the day!

The first video is from the 50s with the four original members:

The second video is a more recent version with two of the original members. (And one extra song.)

All photos and content copyright roslyn m wilkins unless otherwise noted. Please feel free to pass along this post via email or social media, but if you wish to use some of our images or text outside of the context of this blog, either give full credit to myself and link to One Good Life in Los Angeles, or contact us for proper usage. Thanks!

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Author: RMW

I am an explorer and creative person. I've had many jobs, careers and interests... everything in life and the universe fascinates me. Born in Brighton, England, I've lived my entire adult life in Los Angeles. Recently I rediscovered photography and I am busy learning everything I can about it. It's a great excuse for getting outside, wandering around and stopping to look at things.

25 thoughts on “All the way to Santa Catalina Island for Bubble Gum ice cream

  1. Really nice

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  2. Looks so beautiful. Do people really live there? That song was he only song one of my first boyfriends could play on a guitar. Reminds me of him.

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  3. You do live a charmed life, Roslyn. 🙂 These photos are fantastic! I love the first sighting of the island shot. The water looks like the Caribbean. Aw…I like the name “The Busy Bee”…they should have kept it the same.
    Great post!

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  4. Oh, now I want to really see Catalina as I have only seen it from a distance. My father and a lady friend saw it years ago and flew in to Catalina. I knew about the bison. Thanks for the lovely tour via photos!

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    • To me, half the fun is that Catamaran ride, sneaking up on the island. If you are into hiking, walking or bike riding there is so much to see in the interior. Or you can rent one of those golf carts!

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  5. Thanks for a great tour, Roslyn! Beautiful views, and I loved the tile work!

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  6. You always travel me pleasantly,dear Roslyn,but your day trip to this wonderful resort was fascinating in every way!If I start praising what I really liked,I’ll end up writing a post on your post.The architectural style of the Casino inside and outside is glorious and with a nice vintage feeling..I don’t want to say anything about the delicacies you enjoyed,simply,you whetted my apetite.I’m still playing the song while admiring the elabote patterns of the Tiles and affectionately gazing at the “white” stowaway.Btw,is “Nervous” in the second video?I can’t tell,who the 2 original members are.Thank you so much for your most enjoyable and entertaining post 🙂

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    • Thank you for your comments. I did a little research but it isn’t clear to me which are the original members, or who “nervous” is. He could be Bruce Belland, in which case he is now the only original member… but I don’t have a definitive answer. I only just heard of this group and the song yesterday when I was writing the post! I have photos of the Casino from the tour I took some years ago. I really need to go back and spend a couple of days with my camera!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Before leaving Santa Catalina island,I also want to say how much I enjoyed the prominent position of the “fur-captain” on the boat and the characters involved in Lover’s Cove place 🙂

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  8. What a lovely place, and some gorgeous photos from you. Loved the tiles once more! And the dog of course.

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  9. Great photos!

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  10. I’ve never been to Catalina, but I’ve heard good things – perhaps next time I am out that way, I will put it on the itinerary!

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  12. What a fun trip this was! I so enjoyed the beautiful weather, clear water, boats, all the fun activities and activity-seekers on Catalina Island, Rosyln. I visited here, even camped for a weekend, many years ago and your photos wonderfully express the sparkling adventure qualities of the island. The bison are formidable, sorry to see the conservation CEO got gored, but I am glad they have kept these beasts here. All of your photos are gorgeous, including the unique tiles. Loved the ice cream tradition! 🙂

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    • Thanks, Jet. I’ve camped over there a couple of times… my camping days are far in the past though!!! Yes, the bison are still a big tourist attraction with the occasional encounter gone wrong… you just have to remember to keep your distance! Looking forward to another trip there next year!

      Liked by 1 person

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