ABOVE: Coastal Vineyards
Amid the expanses of ocean, mountains, and valleys lies something surprising—a vineyard that sprang to life as a labor of love. Given that Alison Wrigley-Rusack and husband Geoff Rusack were the first people to bring winemaking to Catalina Island, the impending release of their first vintages (2009 Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel) is nothing short of miraculous. Though Rusack's roots are in Santa Barbara County, the Rusacks' vision also involves a sea change for Catalina visitors. The ranch-house winery complex will include a wine-tasting room and horse-drawn buggy rides to picnic areas in backcountry largely unknown to even the most frequent Catalina visitors.
An eclectic array of hotels and inns strike a balance between modern amenities and the Island's rich history. Furthermore, thanks to operators like Catalina Tours, you can journey beyond the entry point of Avalon to explore the island's inland wilds or, yes, take in a memorable whale-watching cruise.
For literature and history buffs
The Zane Grey Pueblo Inn
199 Chimes Tower Rd
Avalon, CA 90704
The Native American pueblo-style hotel inspired by the popular early 20th-century novelist and Avalon resident houses 16 rooms, each named after one of namesake Zane Grey's books. In keeping with its mission to be an authentic Catalina escape, there are no phones, TVs, or clocks in the rooms.
For nature lovers
Banning House Lodge
1 Banning House Rd
Two Harbors, CA 90704
This Craftsman-style bed and breakfast located in quiet Two Harbors began its existence 100 years ago as the summer home of the Banning brothers, who were instrumental in transforming Catalina Island into a vacation destination. A century later, it is still a retreat, not only from Los Angeles, but also Avalon. The real excitement lies just outside the property, with all kinds of opportunities for hiking, biking, boating, fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking.
For luxury aficionados
The Avalon Hotel
124 Whittley Ave
TripAdvisor's top-rated Catalina hotel, The Avalon Hotel wins points for panoramic views of the town's iconic harbor and the staff's encyclopedic knowledge of the island. Boutique hotel amenities include plush bathrobes; decadent bedding; laptop rentals; a private, landscaped courtyard; and a rooftop deck.
The Aurora Hotel
137 Marilla Ave
Avalon's newest boutique hotel melds big city chic with island ease and color. The 15 standard rooms, adorned in teal and chocolate hues, feature Tempurpedic mattresses, flat-screen TVs, and hand-crafted bath amenities. Art installations, marine life photography, and other art enliven the pubic areas. Aurora's spa room provides guests with an oasis of relaxation, where couple's massages, seaweed wraps, and the signature "Mermaid's Kiss" treatment make one feel thousands of miles from the mainland's coast.