I faced the fear and zip lined down the canyons of Catalina Island!
“Zip away!” says our guide Sam through the radio back to Yafet whose job it is to hook us onto the line, unhook our safety rope and send us hurtling down the wire into oblivion.
Catalina Zip Line Eco Tours has five lines stretching over 1.2km over the canyon (we’d call it gully).
After our safety briefing and being strapped into our harness, helmet buckled on, we boarded the bus for a 5-minute ride the up the hill to Platform 1. At about 170m above sea level, the nerves were just beginning to unsettle the heart rate and despite Sam and Yafet’s banter, we were just ready to take the first plunge and get it over with.
Catalina Island pops out of the water 35km off the Los Angeles coastline and you’ve probably never heard of it. Or if you have, maybe you’ve wondered what was out there and if it was worth going over for a look?
I’d say if you’re a 3rd or 4th time visitor to LA, or more specifically, Anaheim/Orange County, and you’re sick of theme parks and shopping, you like a bit of olde worlde charm, then you’d like a day trip here from either San Pedro, Long Beach or Dana Point, south of Laguna Beach.
It’s about US$75 for a return ferry ride per adult and takes just over an hour each way. We had a really nice cruise, flat sea, and on the way back were entertained by porpoises frolicking port side.
What to do on Catalina Island
The island is small and the main village of Avalon, which is where you’ll likely spend your time, is only 1-2 sq miles.
Hire a golf cart – the main form of transport here – and tootle around. Or employ your legs and follow your nose. Everything is walkable and there are little alleys with shops lining the sides, mostly selling souvenirs and island apparel.
I got a quick neck and shoulder massage from the girl charging $1 per minute which unlocked all sorts of grief before asking for advice on where to eat and was directed to Bluewater Avalon, where I sat drinking a mojito out of a jar and nibbling on warm crab and artichoke dip as the sea washed under the deck.
You could take a kayak out from the private beach at the far end where a sun lounger is about $20. But just up from there, past the casino, is the zip lining…
A little history lesson
In the 16th Century the Pimungans were the people who lived here before Spanish explorers came upon them. In 1919 chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr bought an interest in the island, sight unseen. Then when he did finally set foot over here, he loved it and bought his partners out, installing a little airport for seaplanes to come in and out.
He also owned the Chicago Cubs and moved their training base out here where baseball legends and celebrities added to the fame of the little island.
In 1932, son Philip Wrigley took over after his father’s death and redesigned Avalon with the walkways, fountains and shopping court that are here today. In 1972 he and his family donated 88% of the island to the county ensuring it would be protected in perpetuity. They now own 11% with 1% owned by other private interests.
Don’t mention Natalie Wood. Those of a certain age will know that she went missing from a launch in these waters in 1981 while husband Robert Wagner and friend Christopher Walken were apparently sleeping off hangovers, or arguing over her…