Itching for that tropical experience but have a baby or toddler to consider? Take a short boat ride from the California coast to Catalina Island’s Avalon Harbor for a family-friendly island vacation. In this secluded and beautiful setting, you’ll be able to relax in safety and cleanliness. Small waves and easy shopping make Catalina Island a top stop for a beach trip with a baby.
Atmosphere: The only incorporated city in the Channel Islands, Avalon caters to families, singles and couples looking for a romantic rendezvous close to home. The island is popular for scuba diving, snorkeling and exploring nature, and there are activities for all ages like glass bottom boat rides and wading in the calm harbor.
Parking and Entrance: Schedule a boat trip from Dana Point, San Pedro or Long Beach on the Catalina Express or from Newport Beach on the Catalina Flyer. It’s about an hour one-way, and you’ll probably want to reserve in advance. Check luggage policies first before you decide what stroller to bring. Catalina Express charges a few dollars for jogging strollers and beach wagons, and space is sometimes limited. Most streets are paved anyway and an umbrella stroller would be fine. The walk from the dock is long and flat and beach access varies from street level to a few stairs.
Nice Walks and Views: Walk straight from the dock to Crescent Street Pedestrian mall, not for the touristy shops but for the great beach and ocean views. If you’d like a little more exercise (and a better view), push the stroller up the hill to Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens.
Activities for Toddlers: Your toddler will be cooped up on a boat, so stop at the playground on the way from the dock to town. You can book a glass bottom boat ride for added entertainment, but your toddler will love playing in the shallow water with the little rocks near the pier. There is beach sand brought in on platforms, so haul a few sand toys for the day or borrow from your hotel. Make sure to check water quality since this is a harbor.
Bathrooms: The main bathrooms are on the green pier, but there are also some right as you exit the boat on the dock and at Descanso Beach Resort at the end of the beach walk.
Perks for Parents: Head straight to Descanso Beach Resort for a true vacation experience. Entrance is free and kids can play in the calm waves on the sandy beach or on the giant lawn. It’s a perfect spot to fly a kite, play volleyball or rent a kayak if the kids are a bit older. American food and drinks are available for purchase.
Where to Stay with Kids: Most hotels are above $200 a night and in older buildings. For just a few nights, stay beachside at the Pavilion Hotel, which has nice outdoor space, free breakfast and even iPads to borrow for your trip. If you’re staying longer or bringing a big family, choose a Catalina Island vacation rental to have access to a kitchen and sometimes your own golf cart!
Baby-friendly Restaurants: Eat at the Descanso Beach Resort for a laidback meal where baby can cry or kids can run around without bothering fine diners. You can even order food onto the sand. Be sure to stop at Big Olaf’s for a waffle cone afterward.
What Else to Do: Check out the landmark of Avalon Harbor, the Casino. Not your typical gambling casino, it’s home to a glamorous old-fashioned movie theatre and museum.