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Kid-friendly Catalina Island | 10 Things to do on Catalina with Kids

After at least five trips to Catalina Island, including two with a baby, I thought I could share a few of the parts of the island that are very kid-friendly.

For starters - take the ferry! Honestly, most people are going to take the ferry because helicopter and airplane flights to the island are expensive and most people don't have a sailboat, power boat, or cruise ship to get them there.

(You can check out other baby carrier Stuff Sacks at my Red Charlotte Etsy page.)

Kids love going across on the ferry. You will often sea dolphins playing in the wake of the boat as it powers across to the island. Cora walked around and around the boat and loved bouncing up and down with the waves. 

Pro-tip: An hour before you depart, take some Bonine. We find it far superior to Dramamine in curbing seasickness. A lot of people think they won't get sick because the ferry to the island is so big, but trust me, tons of people do. One Bonine lasts 24 hours and is worth it. Remember that kids love to walk around the ferry and especially to head out to the bow (front of the boat). The bow, however, is the bounciest part and can make you the most sick. They also have Bonine for kids. Trust me!

(Click to enlarge)1. Number one on this map is where the ferry lands. Keep in mind that you can walk from the ferry landing along the water all the way to the Casino (number 2 on the map) in about 30 minutes. So skip taking taxis (there aren't that many anyway in Avalon), pack light, and walk. Kids will love to walk along the water and will immediately scope out the beach. 

2. Number two - walk over to the old Casino. It is now a museum showcasing Avalon's glory days and has tons of fun memorabilia to look at. The tile work is stunning. It also shows one movie a night starting at 7:00pm The theatre is absolutely stunning. Go, go, go. Bring the kids.

3. Hit the beach. Avalon's water is crystal clear and they actively work to keep the bay very clean. There is an adorable public dock, great public restrooms and tons of sand to play in all morning. The beach is a close walk from all the hotels in Avalon (have I mentioned that everything is a close walk in Avalon?)

4. Go to the Arcade! As the link says, older kids will love the skee ball, bowling, video games and rides. Right in the heart of things.

5. Play at the park

Head right up Sumner Ave and visit Avalon's kids' park. There are swings, slides, and a mini-covered stage with picnic tables so your kids can throw an impromptu performance. 

6. Take a tour

Number 6 on the map above is right next to the Catalina Island Company office. It is well worth it to look at their options for tours of the entire island. The price ranges vary as do the trip times and sights that you could see. I love the tour that takes you up to to top of the island. You get to stop at the airport and you wind around the tall canyons as the guide tells you the history of Catalina. Lots of bison to see up close too.

7. There's always mini-golf

Seriously. And it's a block from beach. Again, everything is a block from the beach. Avalon is like walking around your own personal resort town.)

8. Try the classics, like candy stores and ice cream parlors

Lloyd's of Avalon is a long-standing favorite for candy. There are ice cream shops everywhere. Hey, you're on vacation. Live it up!

9. Don't forget the water!

While we have had the good fortune of taking our sailboat to Catalina, there also options of renting sailboats, kayaks, or going out in a submarine or a glass bottom boat tour. I mentioned before that the visibility is incredible, so kids will LOVE taking a tour on a fun boat in Avalon's harbor. 

Ryan and Eric biking with Calypso the Schkipperkee on Avalon in 2005.

10. Ride a bike

If your kids are older than you can easily rent bikes for the day and really explore Avalon. This would be a great way to head up to the Botanical Gardens (which are about a 30-40 minute walk outside of Avalon, a bit too long for little kids to trek both ways on foot.)

And for my last, unofficial, entry: Go grocery shopping!

The Vons and Vons Express in Avalon are so tiny that the store will seem like a novelty to most kids. Cora couldn't keep her hands off of things while I shopped and I frequently had to turn to friendly strangers and ask them to hand me the jar of mustard or packet of Sweet N' Low she had grabbed from her perch on my back.

All in all, Avalon is a wonderful place to visit with kids. For breakfast, we suggest Sally's Waffle Shop or the Casino Dock Cafe (just call to make sure it is open before you walk over.)

Do you have any additions for this list? Let me know! And have fun on Catalina Island.

Reader Comments (2)

This is a great, comprehensive list! I've been to Avalon at least a dozen times - here are some of my tips:

Great tip for heading to Avalon, especially with children who WILL want to go to the beach: there are no natural sand beaches in Catalina (the sand on the shore is brought from the Mainland). That means that wading in the water is painful on the feet because it is rocky and there are lots of shells. BRING WATER SHOES! Totally worth the investment!

Kids love feeding the fish at Lover's Cove (peas, bread crumbs, etc.) - and bring the water shoes mentioned above.
As far as tours:
*For the very young kids I would choose the glass bottom boat or submarine tour.
*The Inland Motor Tour is too hot and long for little ones (although they'll probably nap on the bus on the way back, which could be a bonus), but for the horse lover, the stop at the BlackJack ranch will be worth it.
*Age 6+ will be amazed on the Flying Fish Boat (my personal favorite).
When walking on the pier, be sure to combine it with lunch by getting the Fish & Chips at the end of the pier - my kids still talk about it to this day (6 years later) and vow that is the first place they're going when we're there again this summer.

Another great tip: If you'll be staying for a few days with young children, it may be worth it to send some of your "cargo" ahead of you on the barge. When we travelled with 3 kids age 3 & under, we filled our wagon with kid essentials like the pack n play, portable high chair, and a box of their favorite toys/books from home. You do have to drive it to San Pedro I believe to get it on the barge, and upon arrival in Avalon, you'll have to hoof it out to where the barges dock to pick up your stuff, but for extended stays, you'll be glad you made the extra effort. I think it only cost us about $10, but even at $20 or $30 it would be worth it!

Can't wait to get back to Avalon this summer!

February 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commentershannon

Any good hotels ideas for the island with kids?

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJames M.

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