I have actually been to Catalina twice before–once for a weekend and once for just a day trip. However, both trips were work-sponsored trips with coworkers. I always thought it would be a fun place to go for a day with a date. And back in April, I finally got my chance.
I felt a little hesistant about posting about my Catalina trip here, because it wasn’t just any date, it was for a first date. What kind of crazy person traps themselves on an island for 10+ hours on a first date? This girl. In hindsight, besides the lack of wisdom in not providing an exit strategy (if I didn’t like the guy, I was stuck with him for 10 hours instead of 1 or 2 for the traditional coffee or lunch date), it was also unwise for safety reasons. I “met” him through an online dating service, so technically we had never met in person. He was a stranger. And ladies, we should all know that hopping on a boat to go off to an island with a complete stranger is not a good idea. However, we had been communicating for about 3 weeks at that point. Two solid weeks of daily, lengthy emails followed by a solid week of daily, multi-hour talks on the phone. After so many emails and 3-4+ hours of talking on the phone per day, he didn’t feel like a stranger to me at all. Basically, and I know this is crazy, I was already falling pretty hard for the guy so my thought process was that a long day date would be perfect, so I could see if we could actually put up with each other before I fell any further 😉
So alas, there I was on the morning of Saturday, April 30th, exhausted from our late night chat, excited at the possibility of spending a fun day out on Catalina, and a nervous wreck at the thought of finally meeting this guy. For some reason it did not dawn on me until that morning that maybe he wouldn’t like me or maybe I wouldn’t like him or maybe he would be super shy in person and how awkward that would be to be stuck together all day (However, still not worried about the safety issue). I couldn’t stand to eat, but I grabbed some fresh cut mango slices to bring with me just in case I gained my appetite back.
As soon as we found each other at the dock, I felt totally comfortable and normal. He didn’t feel like a stranger at all, and it didn’t feel like a first date at all. I instantly felt hungry, and opened up the mangos. I remember offering him some, and he claims I ate most of them and only let him have a couple. I WAS HUNGRY PEOPLE. So anyway, all was well.
We took the Catalina Express out of Long Beach around 9:30am. It takes around an hour, and I think costs about $35 each way. But it’s TOTALLY worth it. It really feels like you are getting away for an island vacation, even if just for a day. I don’t think it’s possible to pull up to the harbor and not feel excited. Oh, and on the way over we saw a huge pod of dolphins swimming along the side of the boat. I’ve never seen so many dolphins at once.
Since I had been to Catalina before, I ended up being the tour guide for the day. We started with lunch at Steve’s Steakhouse. I had been there twice before, and loved it because it overlooks the harbor, has a nice, laidback atmosphere, and has great, reasonably priced food. (The photo above was from our table).
Afterward, we walked off our lunch by walking down the boardwalk all the way past the casino and to the beach at the far end. By the way, do not be led astray Vegas fans, the casino in Catalina features a movie theater, not gambling. But the town of Avalon is just so quaint and cute! And walking down the boardwalk just reminds you that there is SO much to do! You can lay out on the beach, play in the water, go kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, you can go out on boat tours of the water, bus tours of the island, hiking, backpacking, and most recently they have added an awesome zipline. I definitely want to go back for a weekend sometime and do more of the active stuff. I am trying to work up the nerve to try the zipline. It’s ok mom 😉
Anyway, after our walk it was time to head back to the main pier to board a bus for our tour. When I came as a summer associate, we went on a tour on a bus that was AWESOME. It takes you way up into the mountains and to Catalina’s “Airport in the Sky.” The tour guide tells you all kinds of interesting facts and history about the island and the views are AMAZING. Also, the cookies at the airport gift shop = HEAVEN. AND, you get to see buffalo! Since I loved the tour so much the first time, and my date was (still is) a pilot, I bought us tickets to the tour as a little surprise. It was just as great the second time around.
Once we got back from the tour, we strolled around the town of Avalon for a little while (off the boardwalk area), and checked out the beach houses.
Then found a place to sit down for a drink and relax for awhile. I can’t remember the name of the place but it had outdoor seating overlooking the water. I am always a fan of water views 🙂
For dinner we picked a place that ended up being a bit of a bummer: The Lobster Trap. It has great reviews online, and the food was pretty good, but something was just off. I don’t know if it was just an off night in terms of the ambiance or what. Maybe later at night it gets really lively or something, I don’t know. But honestly, to me it just felt like a hole-in-the-wall bar with white-table-cloth prices. If I’m eating at a “hole in the wall” place, the point is that the food is supposed to be delicious and cheap. But there, while the seating and general ambiance reminded me of a bingo hall, our dinners were somewhere around $25 each. Maybe that is cheap for dinner in Catalina.. I don’t know. Anyway, I was not a fan. On the bright side, we both still had fun.
After dinner it was pretty much time to head back to the dock and take the boat home. It was SO cold on the ride back. Note to self: if you are taking a night shuttle back, bring a hoodie or coat. Despite the coldness, the ride back is nice too because you can watch the sunset as you ride back to the mainland. I highly recommend picking the sunset ride back 😉
When we finally made it back and dethawed, neither of us were quite ready to go our separate ways yet. So we looked up a local wine bar in Long Beach, and we drove over there together in my car to have a glass of wine and chat a little more. We closed the wine bar down. They didn’t kick us out but I eventually noticed they were closing down around us. When I drove him back to his car at the pier, everything had been locked down, including the parking garage. Luckily, we were able to track down an on-call security guard to get his car out, and we parted ways. But lesson learned–don’t go gallivanting off to Long Beach with your car at the Long Beach landing.
NOTE: All pictures (except for first one) were actually taken on a prior trip to Catalina.