In the 1950s and ‘60s, the popular song lyric “Twenty six miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a’waiting for me,” capitalized on the popularity of Santa Catalina as a tourist destination. Since the 1920s, hundreds of thousands of the famous (and not-so-famous) sailed to Avalon on the SS Catalina (The Great White Steamer) for a weekend, week, or summer to experience water sports and night life.

There is a rugged extension of Avalon called Two Harbors, or the Isthmus. It is the site of a small settlement including an old hunting lodge (The Banning House), the inevitable bar/restaurant, and a general store for the mostly seasonal visitors. The Wrigley Marine Science Center (University of Southern California) is located nearby in Big Fisherman’s Cove. Over the years, scenes from several films and TV series have been filmed in the Isthmus area, including Gilligan’s Island and MacArthur.

We arrived at Two Harbors in misty and grey conditions, which soon developed into a calm and sunny day.  Morning activities included leisurely hikes to observe wildlife and stunning vistas. Zodiac cruises were highlighted by “gangs” of young lions burning off excess energy and one large male that held court from his “throne” on a navigation buoy. Cormorants and a few pelicans were densely packed on the appropriately named Bird Rock.

After lunch, several guests used kayaks and paddle boards to explore the shoreline. A special experience for those on Zodiac cruises was to get up close to a pod of Risso’s dolphins and watch their lively acrobatics as they pursued a school of bait fish. Interspersed with the dolphins were many sea lions, and of course, the ever-watchful gulls looking for scraps. The day was a photographer’s dream with rays of sun streaming through misty canyons, lending a magical veneer to a magical day.