13 Aug 2012 / by Pilot Michael / in Pilot Michael
Flightseeing Catalina Island
Catalina island is one of the best destinations for pilots in Southern California. First, it is very close to the mainland making it available to even the smallest of aircraft. Second, when you land at Catalina you feel a world away from the hustle and bustle typical of Southern California. Finally, flying to Catalina take a few minutes and the Catalina Express takes about an hour.
Santa Catalina Island airport is atop the island at an elevation of 1,602 feet. It is over 3,000 feet long and landing there can appear challenging at first, but if you fly as you were taught it is no big deal. If you have reservations about landing at Catalina, hire a local flight instructor and go take a few landings with him/her. Currently the fee to land at Catalina is $25 but you can perform as many landings as you like during the day for a single fee.
Once you land at the airport in the sky, you have a several entertainment options. There is a cafe at the airport so you can grab a bite to eat, do a little shopping in their gift shop and some sightseeing around the airport. You can take a bus into Avalon, where the food and entertainment opportunities are plentiful, or you can purchase a hiking permit and hike the island. It is a 30 minute ride into Avalon and the fee is $26 roundtrip per person. There are a couple really nice restaurants in Avalon and a slew of decent ones. Every time I go to Catalina I end up eating at Antonio’s Pizzeria and Cabaret. Antonio’s is a great spot (not a Wingster sponsor) where you can eat peanuts (throwing the shells on the floor), have a cold drink and order off their extensive menu. I enjoy the pizza and I have been told their homemade lasagna is amazing. Around Avalon there is plenty to keep you entertained for the day, there is a zip-line (a line that zips), glass bottom boat, submersible, parasailing, scuba diving, snorkeling and equipment rental galore.
One thing I really enjoy on Catalina is people watching. There are very few cars allowed in Avalon so everyone drives around in golf carts, it is quite entertaining to sit and watch people zip around in their custom golf carts. If people watching is not for you, get a permit and hike around the island, there are several camping areas and hiking permits are simple to acquire. I would suggest pre-booking any camping accommodations it would be a bummer to show up and not have a place to stay. Also, when you book your spot you might have the option of having firewood delivered to your campsite.
When you leave Catalina, make sure to fly around the backside of the island, very few boats go back there and there is almost no access for people from the front side. It is a great experience to see such an incredible island oasis, within 50 miles of Santa Monica pier, that is completely vacant of people.