Cuisine, Cocktails, and Cruising on Catalina Island
Enjoying Boats, Bikes, Bites, Booze, and the Bellanca Hotel
On a mission to seek out a new food-and-drink adventure, my wife and I recently traveled to Santa Catalina Island to explore the island’s culinary and cocktail scene. To cross the mere 22 miles from the mainland, we boarded the Catalina Express in Long Beach — even though it’s only about an hour, be sure to upgrade to the Commodores Lounge for priority boarding, a comfier seat, and a complimentary cocktail, the perfect combo to begin your island journey.
Disembarking in Avalon, we checked into the Bellanca Hotel. Newly reopened after a $4 million refit, Bellanca has that Instagrammable vibe with a rooftop terrace overlooking the harbor, cruiser bikes to explore the town, and the hip Naughty Fox Restaurant. Our ground-floor suite had a concertina door that opened wide to welcome in the hustle and bustle of Avalon, just steps from the clear blue water of the bay.
We spent the afternoon exploring with a glass-bottom-boat tour to Lovers’ Cove before coffee from Lloyd’s of Avalon energized our meander through downtown. For dinner, we headed to M, where classy service and sophisticated ambiance make it arguably the finest dining in Avalon. Seated on their ocean-front patio, we scoured the menu of Italian fare and signature cocktails, opting for the burrata, fried calamari, and large Cadillac margaritas as appetizers before entrées of lobster, shrimp, and clam linguine and panko-dusted sand dabs.
A new day dawned with breakfast at The Naughty Fox. Hailing from the famed Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, executive chef Russel Hayden’s menu of elevated café options includes a to-die-for lobster eggs Benedict as well as muffins, smashed avocado toast, and baked French toast. With a trendy vibe and outdoor seats that overlook the hubbub of island life, it’s an ideal spot for breakfast, lunch, or simply cocktails.
Fueled up, we ambled down to Brown’s Bikes to pick up our electric bike rentals. After a brief introduction to the bikes and their functions, we zipped off along the coastal roads of Catalina before ascending Mount Ada. Our electric assist and a “boost” mode made hill climbing a breeze. Freewheeling downhill, we zig-zagged through the back streets of Avalon, observing the steep tapestry of hillside housing before heading inland toward the Botanical Gardens and the Wrigley Memorial. Motivated to burn our breakfast calories, a three-mile hike beyond the memorial took us to the Garden to Sky Summit and its rewarding views of both sides of the island.
Returning our bikes, we hightailed it to an early dinner at The Lobster Trap, a bustling island favorite frequented by locals and visitors alike. With stiff Moscow Mules in hand, we opted for a bursting lobster roll and fries, and the halibut with veg and rice pilaf. Neither dish lasted as long as the smiles on our faces.
Our final morning saw us back at The Naughty Fox for another delicious breakfast: a cheesy bacon popover, smashed avocado toast, and a couple of mimosas.
Sans luggage and with lunchtime upon us, we snuck down a side street to NDMK Fish House for a final gorge on fresh ahi tacos with sautéed veggies, enjoyed with our feet in the sand. Then we were prepared to style into comfy Commodores Lounge seats back aboard the Catalina Express — with just one final round of Bloody Marys before we declared mission accomplished.
See bellancahotel.com, catalinaexpress.com, and visitcatalinaisland.com.
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