Catalina is a rocky island off the coast of Southern California. It measures 22 miles long and 8 miles across at it’s greatest width. It has one town – Avalon which has appx. 3200 persons. The second largest “town” or should I say village is Two Harbors which is located at the isthmus of the island. It has one hotel / bed and breakfast – The Banning House and campsites. The village of Two Harbors has one general store, one restaurant, one grill for breakfast and lunch. It has a Visitor Center and the “Two Harbors Dive and Recreation Center”. They rent scuba and snorkling gear, kayaks and skiffs and mountain bikes. The kayak rentals are located right on the beach. We left out of San Pedro – which is one of the only places that goes direct to Two Harbors – and went on the Catalina Express. It takes about 1 1/2 hours to get there. There were some pretty good swells going across to Two Harbors and a few people on the Express were feeling sea sick. The Express serves snacks, beer and well drinks. Some people got on the boat with mountain bikes in tow. That would be a fun way to travel around the island as there are great paths to walk, hike and ride on. When we arrived in Two Harbors we checked in at the Visitor Center and they called up the Banning House. The Banning House Van comes down to the “arrival area” and picks you up – really nice.
The Banning House Lodge was built in 1910 as the summer home for the pioneering Banning brothers who owned Santa Catalina Island. It is now a bed and breakfast Hotel with 12 rooms, all with there own bath. There are rooms that can accomodate up to four people and the entire facility can be reserved for special occasions. There is a great patio that overlooks Two Harbors and another large patio off of the “living room” from which you can see both sides of the isthmus. There are no TV’s, alarm clocks, or telephones in your room. The living room has a fireplace, chairs, sofas, tables, and loads of books and magazines to relax with. One table had a puzzle in progress. Very relaxing. They have a nice dining room which serves a free continental breakfast each morning. We had fresh fruit, muffins, bagels, cereal, coffee, tea, hot chocolate etc… Very Good. During the summer season they serve an appetizer social time on Friday and Saturday evenings.
We got unpacked, checked around the Banning House, had a beer and relaxed a bit. We then headed down and walked to the Cat Harbor side of the isthmus. From that side we took the picture with the upside down boats in the foreground. We had a great lunch at the West End Galley and headed back to the Banning house to relax before dinner. The Galley closes at 3:00 for lunch and then there is an outside bar that opens. At any time, you can have the Visitor Center call for the van to pick you up. We found the “path” and walked most of the time, but it’s great the way they will come down and pick you up any time you call them.
We had made reservations for dinner at the Harbor Reef Restaurant for both nights we were there. We probably didn’t need to as it wasn’t the busy season, but I would still recommend it any time of the year. There are people coming over for dinner from the campsites, Banning House and boats. The food and service at the restaurant were great. There is also a large bar, pool table and darts to enjoy.
Saturday morning we enjoyed the continental breakfast and then got ready for kayak fishing. We rented two Ocean Kayak Prowlers and rigged them with our gear. They come with flush mount rod holders, a seat and paddle. We took leashes, Fish Grip, Gaff, Tackle, Dry Bag, Snacks etc… It was a bit on the cold side that day and the wind was blowing at 20 knots. We headed out to the north side of Two Harbors and stayed in close to coves and the island. We tied off to some seaweed and fished the kelp but had no luck. We then headed out to the outside of Bird Rock (you can see this big rock in the Catalina Express picture) and caught Calico Bass and a Sheepshead.
We had a nice workout paddling back in with the wind in our faces. We got in, called for the van, got cleaned up and went down to have a bite to eat to hold us over till dinner, but missed lunch by about 5 minutes. No worries, we headed over to the market for a chips and salsa lunch picked up some beer and headed back to the Banning House and enjoyed our Happy Hour on the patio. We found out you can bring your beer from the market or from home I guess, and keep it in the large walk in fridge at the Banning House. There is also beer and wine available for purchase and kept in the big fridge. We had another great dinner at the restaurant that night and then had a nice relaxing night by the fireplace in the living room at the Banning House.
We took a nice hike to Cat Harbor before checking out on Sunday – by 11:00 am. The Banning House will keep your luggage and when they see the boat come in, they bring it down for you. There was only one boat coming in at 2:00 since it is off season. We had lunch at the Grill and sat on the large patio and watched LOTS of young adults coming back from camping. The line for the boat was LONG and I never thought we would all fit… but we did
I would definately recommend going over to Two Harbors and staying at the Banning House. It is a treat and we met many people who have stayed there many, many times. Be sure to make reservations for EVERYTHING before heading over. Not only the Catalina Express and Banning house, but remember to reserve your kayaks and make dinner reservations. Here are some links:
www.VisitTwoHarbors.com – for the kayak rentals, Banning House, Restaurant, camping and much more!
(Above map from: www.npr.org)
(Above map from: www.catalinaconservancy.org )
Path down to Two Harbor’s Village from the Banning House
Path to Two Harbors Campground