Santa Catalina Island Yacht Charters
The ultimate LA getaway Santa Catalina Island is the perfect place to take a private yacht charter. Feel as though you’ve been whisked away to European waterfront town by spending a few nights in Catalina. Santa Catalina Island is a part of the eight-island archipelago along the Santa Barbara Channel and is the only island with a notable year round civilian population. Most private charters out of southern California locations can reach Catalina in two to three hours, depending on the conditions and departure location.
Santa Catalina boat rental highlights
The heart of Santa Catalina is Avalon. This seaside resort is an urban escape that is just a short private charter away from Los Angeles. Avalon received its name from Etta Whitney, the sister-in-law of the town's original city visionary and founder George Shatto.
She was inspired from the Lord Alfred Tennyson´s poem 'Idylls of the king'. They originally thought to try and name the city after Shatto, with names like “Shattoville” and “Shatto-town,” but concern over the unknown future vibe of the city potentially tarnishing the Shatto name made them reconsider.
This recognizable cove stands out to all who approach the island with its private Mediterranean-style condominiums. The first one sold in 1985 and it continues to be privately owned accommodation for those who like to reside on the island regularly.
While it's not clear where its name comes from, it could be because it looks like a resting frog or the fact the adventurous types like to climb this giant rock and jump into the sea below like little froggies. It is also a popular point for kayakers venturing from Avalon.
Gallagher Canyon is leased to the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA by the Catalina Island Conservancy, which uses it as their Campus by the Sea. The camp was founded in 1951 by Mel Friesen and can host around 250 people in their permanent campground setup. The camp is only accessible to via boat and is enjoyed year round by youth.
Toyon Bay was first developed in 1931 by Keith Vosburg who built the Toyon School For Boys, a Private boys boarding school. The school was interrupted during World War II when the Office of Strategic Services used the space as a training camp. It came back temporarily, but was eventually sold and became a resort in the 1950’s. The resort wasn’t a success and the property was left abandoned for 2 decades until the Catalina Island Marine Institute (CIMI) purchased the property in 1979. It continues to be a hub of STEM learning and camps for young children.
A popular beach for locals looking to lay out in the sun away from the tourists Willow cove is a beautiful hidden beach only reachable via hiking trails or boat. It is also the closest boat-in designated beach campsite to Avalon.
Today Moonstone Beach is privately operated by the Newport Harbor Yacht Club. The beach name is a reference to a time when it used to be a favorite tourist destination to come and search for stones that were washed up onto the shore. In the late 19th century guests would come for the day and look for a variety of stones such as moonstones, agates, water opals and other forms of semi-precious stones. They would then return to Avalon where jewelers would polish them into their beautiful forms and guests could pick jewelry settings right then and there.
At the beginning of the White cove is the San Diego Yacht Club outpost locally known as Buffalo Beach. Named of course after the famous Catalina buffalo that can be seen grazing here.
White's landing Pier
This new pier was built in 2015, after the 2014 Hurricane Marie aftermath waves destroyed the original. Together the state, Connelly Pacific, and the Catalina Conservancy were able to remove the debris and rebuilt it quickly.
White's Landing used to be called Swains, a misspelling of, the first name of, the famous “island hermit” Sven Larsen. The Norwegian immigrant came to the island in 1855 and lived isolated in his own paradise herding cattle and operating a small sailboat. It was eventually renamed White's Landing and is known for having the largest strip of sandy beach, making it one of the best places to lay out on the island. Flanked by two yacht club outposts and home to many education organizations throughout the years.
Whites Landing Station
The top of Whites Cove is called Whites Landing Station. Since 1957 It has also been home to the Balboa yacht club outpost, whose members built the facilities over the years.
One of the best snorkeling and dive spots on the island, Hen Rock is surrounded by underwater reefs and large underwater rocks that a plethora of sea life call home. Good for divers of all skill sets, due to its large majority of not too deep water, and consistent conditions thanks to the protection of Long Point. Divers here can often be seen swimming under and through schools of blacksmith fish, jack mackerel and even barracuda.
Button Shell Beach
Home to Camp Fox, the famous YMCA summer camp, where more than 200 Los Angelian children flock over the summer. Button Shell Beach is leased by Guided Discoveries, who focuses on helping children have immersive interactive experience in science.
In 1867, long point was first dictated onto a map, named clearly for being the widest geographical point on the island at 7 and a half miles. This long rock wall stands above the long point beach, which houses a boat in camping spot. Towards the end of the point is also a popular diving spot called pirates cove.
If guests are lucky, they may see the national bird of The United States, the bald eagle, soaring the skies above their private charter here. Twin Rocks is an active bald eagle hatching spot, thanks to the Institute for Wildlife Studies (IWS), who came to Catalina Island In the 1980s, to reintroduce the threatened eagles to the Channel Islands habitat.
In the 1800’s the Spanish brought goats to Santa Catalina island. When they left the goats stayed and continued to flourish and become wild. This harbor received its name as it used to be a local hangout for wild goat hunters. There are still wild goats on the island today, but they are closely monitored since they are not native and can be detrimental to the fragile ecosystem, where they have no native predators.
Named after the Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who was the first European to visit the island in 1542. Cabrillo is protected from the North West swells making it a great spot for snorkeling, swimming, fun in the sun, and staying over for the night.
Here beneath the sea lies a pair of underwater pinnacles, making Little Gibraltar a favorite diving spot. These small seamounts are pillars for a rich wildlife ecosystem.
Blue Cavern Point
This site is part of the Blue Cavern State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) and a beautiful point that is popular because of its many caves and caverns. With a rocky reef and a drop off full of gorgonians it's great for diving.
This small 1.3 acre island, a half mile off Fisherman’s Cove and looks like another great extension of the Catalina wildlife preserve, but it has been privately owned since the 1920’s. It was purchased in 1925 and caused an upset as the Wrigley’s believed it was a part of the Santa Catalina. After a long drawn out court battle the USA government decided it was not a part of the island and the new owners began plans to build a casino to compete with the Wrigley’s Avalon casino. However, the great recession prevented the build and it was sold. It is currently owned by TV director Michael Caffey, who has attempted to list it on the market 3 times, starting at two million dollars and most recently at $875,000.
The white rock is a massively popular dive site and has been used for film shoots. However, whoever ends up with the property can expect that to continue as the California Coastal Commission regulations strictly monitor its use and as a safe space for many bird species it will essentially need to remain as is.
USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies
In 1965 the Wrigley family donated this 5.5 acres of land, on the Fisherman's cove, and the Philip K. Wrigley Marine Science Center to USC. Over the years the following generations of the Wrigley family have continued to support the university in their efforts to educate about the environment, with building updates and financial support to expand the environmental studies programs.
Fisherman’s cove is an important hub for the rich pacific wildlife. In the 1980’s, California government, as a marine protected area, meaning fish can grow to full size and reproduce in a safe area. This Marine life refuge is the reason we have such great wildlife interactions on private Catalina yacht charters.
Since 1974 the cove has also been home to the USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber, which is an emergency medical facility for treatment of scuba diving accidents. The chamber is an extension of the Department of Emergency Medicine of the LA County/USC Medical Center.
Two Harbors “the Isthmus”
The other city on Catalina Island, Two Harbors, which is also known as “the Isthmus,” was started when the Banning family started to develop the area in 1899. They had hoped to build a town that would rival Avalon, but alas it continues to be more of a sleepy town with only one restaurant, one hotel, one general store and about 150 permanent residents who live on the isthmus year-round.
Fourth of July Cove
This quaint inlet is leased by the Fourth of July Yacht Club. The cove was named by the Bannings who were fond of this part of the island, and of hosting their family fourth of July picnic here.
Cherry cove has been a joyous spot for educational activities since 1923, when it first became a private camp of the Boy Scouts of America. Today it is enjoyed by scouts and camps organized by The Catalina Island Marine Institute.
Jutting out into the sea Lion’s head not only stands guard protecting cherry cove from the winds, but it is the starting point of the marine protected areas adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission. This area is constantly being monitored by environmental scientists to track the effectiveness of the protection and learn more about ocean health.
From the charter we can see small secluded beaches like Sullivan's, which is only accessible via hiking trails or boat. The beach is in pristine condition and surrounded by hills of wildflowers.
Located off the emerald bay Indian Rock is a great spot snorkeling. Surrounded by a rock garden which you can see peeking above the surface. There are extensive reefs that stretch around from rock .
The Emerald Bay used to serve as a ranch for John and Charles Johnson, who grazed cattle and sheep in the area. In 1925, the Crescent Bay Area Council founded the Boy Scout facility, which operated successfully for 15 years. Until WWII began and the Navy took over the property to train for underwater demolition training. By 1946 the camp was returned to the boy scouts and today 5,000 campers and The Corsair Yacht Club utilize the bay.
The western third of Catalina Island is commonly referred to as the “West End” and is the location of the island’s oldest known shipwreck, the Manila galleon San Pedro, which sank in 1598.
This remote and secluded beach is one of the last or first beaches on this side of the island. Named after Parson brothers, who were some of the first squatters on the island. Nathaniel and Theophilus 'Thof' Parsons, were twin brothers who used to have a small stone house on the beach. They raised cattle and sheep and light farming to survive. Today there is a campsite which is only accessible by boat or hike.
A beach surrounded by large rocks in the cliffs and sea to some, but the end of a bucket list hike for some. Starlight Beach is the end of the 38.5 mile Trans-Catalina Trail.
The Catalina Island ¨west end¨ doesn’t refer to a place to see a live theater show, like the popular London area does. It was however home to many of the wild and non native species such as goats that almost destroyed the island's natural vegetation, until 1990 when they started the conservation efforts. Today, it's a great place to see native species thrive. The west end area refers to the far western portion of the island. Howland's Landing, Parson's Landing, Emerald Bay and Lobster Bay are the areas most associated with the west end.
As we cruise along the coast on the private Catalina island charter we will come upon large rock formations that rise from the sea. The most impressive rock is referred to as Eagle Rock. It's also not uncommon to see the recovering Bald Eagle species soaring here, likely the namesake for this popular diving and lobster fishing spot.
A favorite dive spot along this side of the island due to the offshore kelp beds and rich marine life. kelp beds are a small area of anchored kelp and one of the most productive and dynamic ecosystems on Earth.
Catalina Harbor ¨Cat Harbor¨
Cat harbor is one side of two harbors, the other being the Isthmus. There is a half-mile of land between the two sides. Cat Harbor stands out though since it has the deepest cove on the island, which provides excellent protection for boats anchored or moored there.
Below the surface at Ballast point is the famous sunken Chinese pirate ship ´The Ningpo´. Built in 1753, the boat was originally named Kin Tai Foong, which translates to the Golden Typhoon. The boat spent 159 years in the Yellow Seas engaging in crimes such as smuggling, slave trading, mutiny, and piracy. The chinese eventually captured the ship and turned it into a prison, during this time it is rumored that 158 prisoners were beheaded.
In the 1860´s the ship was captured by the British who renamed it ´The Ningpo,’ meaning peaceful wave. The ship then started its tourism career sailing around entertaining the world. She came to Catalina in the 1900´s and served as a restaurant and museum. By the 20´s she was mainly a tourist attraction on the island, until the filming of a movie, when a film crew accidentally lit her on fire. While the underdecks burned the rest of the ship remained safe under the water, however over the years it continues to deteriorate and become one with the sea.
Little Harbor has been an important location throughout the history of Catalina Island. Archaeologists have found evidence of increasingly complex material cultures about the native tribe who once called the island home. It was also once home to The Little Harbor Inn, which was built by O. T. Fellows, as a stagecoach stop on the way to the Banning´s. Today it continues to be a hotspot for its great beach and campsite on land and for boating. Sunset Magazine rated it "One of the Best Campgrounds in the West."
Affectionately called the ¨whale Tail” this rock looks like a whales tail from above. It separates Little Harbor and Shark Harbor, making it an excellent place to take photos of the two beaches.
Unprotected from Whale Rock shark harbor can is one of the few surf spots on the island.
Cottonwood Canyon Beach is beautiful to see because it has a creek that pools up behind it and sometimes flows through it. There can even be a small waterfall when there is water in the canyon. The beach is named after the canyon that leads to it, which is lined with cottonwood trees that play an essential part of the riparian habitat in that canyon.
Ben Weston Beach
This beautiful and isolated beach is a hidden gem of catalina. For those who venture to reach it there is a beautiful place to lay out and the second best place to surf on the island. The beach was named after a sailor who fell in love with the island and then immediately returned after he bought the sheep herding rights for this area from James Lick for $20 worth of gold.
During World War II the military utilised this spot to protect the coast and today there are still remains of a military bunker and gun foundation.
In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, stopping Chinese from entering the country, but the country still needed laborers, so smugglers would illegally bring chinese into the country. China Point was a common camp where Chinese immigrants would wait until they were brought to Los Angeles.
As the name states this rock area is a favorite location for seals to reside. Attracting guests to come and admire these California locals since as early as the 1900s.
Named after a favorite island protein, the Jewfish, more commonly known as grouper. In the past this has been a favorite location of the fish and those who love to fish them.
Home to not only lovers, but also the island’s famous marine gardens. It is approximately 500 yards long and is a protected marine preserve, with only snorkeling allowed.
Things to do around Santa Catalina charter locations
Private Santa Catalina charters whisk guests away to an enchanted island full of possibilities. Tour the island, explore the hidden canyons and caves only accessible from the sea, or use the hub of the Island as a starting point for unique catalina experiences.
Around the entire island of Catalina are amazing spots to go snorkeling. Your captain can take you to the best kelp forests in the pacific.
Tour the island interior by golf cart
If you want to explore the island quickly on your own this is your best bet! See cliff top views and feel like a local exploring the streets of Avalon. Just off the pier you can miss the place to pick one up.
Make your own Catalina tile
Catalina tiles are a quintessential part of California design. William Wrigle discovered upon closer inspection that the dirt in Catalina was rich in red clay. He started the Catalina Tile Company utilizing the red clay to manufacture ceramic building materials for the island, but it developed into one of the most prestigious tile factories in Southern California. The tiles became icons of California in the 20's and 30's and today you can make a replica of your own.
Fly over the Descanso Canyon by booking a zip line tour. This trip takes guests 600 feet above sea level for more than 1,100 feet of wires. It's the ultimate yacht charter addition for adventure junkies.
Santa Catalina eateries nearby charter pickups
Sit in the heart of the city right on the beach at the Avalon Grille. In a beautiful setting enjoy an elevated casual dining experience. Offering upscale california classics there is plenty to enjoy. It's also one of only two places in California (both on the island) where you can get the famous Wrigley Martini.
Original Jack's Country Kitchen
Cosy into this homie dinner to grab some avalon grub. Order some delicious and hardy american soul food that won't leave you disappointed. Sitting in a nostalgic setting there is a large selection that has a favorite from everyone.
Enjoy delicious seafood from a California favorite. All the seafood is sustainably sourced and they have something for every diet type. Overlooking the water, you can beat the amazing view.
History of Santa Catalina Island
Inhabited since 7000 BC by the Tongva people, and claimed by the Spanish, the Island was renamed after it was re-discovered on Saint Catherine’s name day. The Spanish then proceeded to transfer natives to the mainland to work on the missions. With limited militia the Spanish were unable to monitor the island and it became frequented by riff raff from around the world, including trappers and pirates.
By 1846 Mexico granted the Island to Thomas M. Robbins for ranching, but it was short lived and the island was sold, going through many hands afterwards. Some of the most impactful being at the end of the 19th century. In 1887, real estate developer George Shatto was the first to attempt building a resort on the island and establish the first settlement which we would come to know as Avalon.
Unfortunately, he defaulted on the loan and it was then sold to the famous banning family 1891. The banning brother’s completed the first resort and it was a great success until a majority of the property (including six hotels and several clubs) was burned down in 1915. The cost to rebuild in combination with the lack of tourism due to WWI forced the family to sell their majority ownership to the Wrigley Family.
William Wrigley, Jr. took Catalina to the next level. Building an island infrastructure in addition to tourist attractions such as the iconic casino. In 1972, Philip Wrigley, established the Catalina Island Conservancy to protect and restore Santa Catalina Island. By 1975, The Wrigleys had deeded 88% of the island to the conservancy. The Wrigley families firm, the Santa Catalina Island Company continues to maintain control over the island’s properties and operations to this day.
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