A Lay Week In Avalon, California’s Italian Amalfi Coast

(October 9th – 15th, 2017)

Avalon is a town that I’ve heard about many times in my life but had never visited.  I’ve only even seen a couple of photos of the place, which of course features boats on moorings near the Casino, which I always assumed was an actual casino, something I felt would detract from the character of the town.  This feeling no doubt fueled by living in the Pacific Northwest near tribal casinos.   I’m just not a fan of casinos.

Anyway, the cruising and sailing community makes no secret of their love of Catalina Island, the southeastern portion of which houses the city of Avalon, and cruising guides also espouse the benefits of a visit to Catalina and Avalon either for a weekend or as part of a coastal passage up or down the west coast of California.

All this to say, I wanted to visit Avalon, but didn’t really know what to expect.  When we finally arrived in Avalon harbor and got tied up to our mooring I surveyed the town from our boat and then we went ashore for lunch.   What I found, as I stood on the wharf, was a seaside village that seemingly came from Italy’s Amalfi Coast.  Something very much like Capri, with small pangas moored near shore, large yachts and other boats moored on the other side of the wharf, lots of colors, people, and very clean and clear water to snorkel in, filled with brightly colored fish.

Walking ashore revealed a small city, with small streets, made for small cars and in fact the primarily land transportation in Avalon is by golf cart, the same as on Capri.

Capri, Italy (Taken on our vacation in 2012)
Avalon, Catalina Island, California (2017)

We spent the first day in Avalon exploring with Dani, playing in the two playgrounds near the harbor, eating, and getting a good game night going before she left the next day.   In the morning we woke up early so we could have breakfast before Dani’s 7:30am ferry departure back to Long Beach.  The timing worked out well, allowing all of us to eat with plenty of time for Dani to get to her ferry and us to get back to our boat.

I found out from some frequent visitors that Avalon harbor has long stay discounts.  Before mid-October, if you pay for 4 consecutive nights, you get 3 more nights for free..  Basically 7 for the price of 4.   After mid-October 7 for the price of 2.   We originally planned to stay for 3 nights or so, but with the discount we decided to stay for the whole week.   Had we not had anywhere else to go, we might have stayed longer.

The girls did some school work, and we did some Internet catching up, and chatted with The Answer who was moored nearby.  The two Dougs on Penquin also came in, mooring nearby.  The Dougs decided we should get the three Coho Ho Ho boats in Avalon together for a mini-golf tournament so we all met at the mini golf a couple blocks from shore in the afternoon and played 18 holes.   We unofficially dubbed it the 1st annual “7 Cs” Golf Invitational. (Coho Cool Cruisers Chronic Catalina Cup Classic).  I suspect that there will be a similar golf tournament for future Coho boats who make it to Catalina on their way south.   After golf the three boat crews met for happy hour and good discussion.  The girls had a bunch of fun socializing with the teen girls on The Answer.  After that it was late enough to get the kids back to the boat for bedtime.

The next day it was beautiful as usual, but a weather forecast projected the Santa Anas to kick up again.   The harbor patrol had warned us about this for several days, with each day passing with nothing but a whisper of wind.   PredictWind reliably showed the Santa Ana’s hitting the northern Channel Islands but not getting as far south as Catalina.  The heavy wind never came to pass in Avalon while we were there.

I started to work on repair projects here and there, including mounting the underwater LED lights on the swim ladder, and finding an adapter at Chet’s Hardware to install the new hose for our cockpit shower.  Devon worked on a few blog posts as well.   Chet’s Hardware is in the Atwater Arcade, an old building associated with the Atwater Hotel, which also houses the Avalon post office.  Chet’s has just about everything.   The girls dropped postcards in the mail at the post office window.  It’s a very beautiful looking space inside where the post office boxes are, similar in style to an old train station (ie: Grand Central Station) maybe.

We found out that if we walked a few blocks up the hill, there was a Mexican restaurant with $1 tacos and cheap margaritas near the golf course.   So we trekked up there, through yet another park and playground to find a cool, very Mexico-style, place with an outdoor patio, a kitchen at one end, a bar at the other end.   The children of the employees hang out there and watch movies, eat lunch, etc while the patrons enjoy their own food.   A pitcher of Margarita is $19.   The girls got a few tacos and watched Moana for a bit with the other kids, while Devon and I handled eighteen “dollar” tacos and our margaritas.  If we had no self-control we probably would have eaten another 18 tacos and another pitcher, but alas, we thought that was too much and eventually left the little Mexican oasis.   The girls played in the playground for a while on our way back and they checked out the toy store for a while, buying a few Shopkins for themselves.

In the process of all that we noticed a newcomer to the harbor, a Grand Banks 42 named Iron Genny that had two kids aboard.   We first noticed this boat because of the name, we though Iron Genny must be a play on sailing vs. power vessels, possibly that the owners were once sailors and have moved to power.   We found out later that the prior owner’s wife was Jenny or Genevieve (I can’t remember now) but the boat was named after her.  Oh well.   We spent an evening with Peter and Brooke and their kids on their boat which was great and Morgan even kayaked to their boat a few times for fun.   Peter and Brooke even gave us some old wetsuits they didn’t need that fit our girls perfectly.

Avalon harbor has a really nice little public beach that is great for jumping in the water.  The kids played at the beach a few times while we stayed there, then rinsed the sand off at the little beachside shower, followed by a stop or two for coffee and ice cream at one of several places that hawk the stuff.

As the weekend approached, the harbor started to fill up for the JazzTrax festival.  We departed Avalon on Saturday, headed for Mission Bay.   All in all I really loved Avalon.  I could easily see us living there and either running a small business or working in some capacity for the Catalina Island Company (who owns much of the town’s tourism related businesses as well as the harbor patrol).  It turns out there are plenty of jobs on Catalina Island, but there is absolutely no housing available unless you are ready to drop $5 million on a house/condo.  There is a 35 year wait list to bring a car to the island, however every household is allowed a golf cart.

Oh, incidentally, the Catalina Casino is beautiful.  And it’s not a casino, not anymore anyway.   It houses a ballroom and a theater, which was playing IT, while we were there.  We never took the time to do a tour but I wish we had.


2 thoughts on “A Lay Week In Avalon, California’s Italian Amalfi Coast

  • November 14, 2017 at 10:07 am

    I lov your Avalon post. Jeff is as born there, but I’ve never been!

    • November 14, 2017 at 10:10 am

      Thanks! We loved it there, definitely would go back.



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