Catalina Island News

Bohemian Rhapsody

Afishinados Charters

Two Harbors has long been an alluring island destination with its own charm and unique bohemian style.  It is literally and figuratively as far away from Avalon as you can get without leaving the island.

‘Literally’, Two Harbors is about 12 miles from Avalon as the raven flies.  This is a two-hour bus ride, shorter by private van, and a 40 minute boat ride.  Not bad, but a visit to Two Harbors has always required some planning and logistics.

For many island lovers with a boat, getting to Two Harbors is a breeze, choosing to sail straight into one of the many Two Harbors area coves and setting up for a week of fun and relaxation. 

For such visitors, Two Harbors is Catalina Island with a long history of families who have been coming to Catalina for multiple generations.  Changing the destination, or messing with the character of a place of memories is taboo.

‘Figuratively’, Avalon and Two Harbors are not even distant relatives.  There is absolutely nothing about either place that is reminiscent of the other.  Avalon is a City, Two Harbors is a resort, Avalon has infrastructure, Two Harbors has ad hoc coalitions, Avalon has laws, Two Harbors has guidelines…and the beat goes on.

With all due respect to Australia, I do believe that it is fair to call Two Harbors the ‘outback’ of Catalina Island.  The residents and visitors may not be Aboriginals, but they do lean toward the Bohemian, as per Wikipedia:

Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people and with few permanent ties. It involves musical, artistic, literary or spiritual pursuits.

Pretty close, particularly when you consider the evolution of Two Harbors into an event destination with various venues ranging from the BeerFest to Buccaneer Days.

This bohemian rhapsody is something that visitors want to experience, but long time Isthmusians want to preserve, protect and prevent the loss of.  It is a classical dilemma.

When we travel to distant places, we want to see and feel the authentic lifestyle differences that make a place unique and worthy of our travel dollars.  And yet, when we arrive whether in our tour busses or our backpacks, our presence changes the place.

Two Harbors has successfully navigated this balancing act for decades, dating back to 1900 when the Banning Brothers finally abandoned efforts to develop the area into a resort dubbed Cabrillo.

One hundred seventeen years later, the Santa Catalina Island Company decided to update the Two Harbors facilities by adding palapas, an outdoor cafe and a beautiful sand beach.  The horrors!

Many long time visitors vowed to boycott this upgrade, others decried the gutting of the Two Harbors mystique.  I decided to take a visit with my family. 

In short, it was a very pleasant (and yes more expensive) way to spend some island time.

We chose to take our own boat (the Cyclone was an inexpensive option) to better manage the timing of our departure from Avalon since there is no rushing a two-year-old grand-daughter and her pregnant mother. 

We arrived at noon and quickly settled in to a very comfortable beachside palapa with comfortable chairs, a huge lounge, sun, wind and privacy screens and food service.  Nice.

There was not a thing we could find to complain about.  The service was excellent, the scenery divine and the ease of it all made for a very relaxing way to spend some family beach time.  We truly enjoyed the feeling of being in a far-away place all the while knowing we were a short boat ride from home.

Of course, the conversation with other visitors and servers circled around the topic of this new bourgeois development.  Some love it, some hate it, but nearly everyone felt it was done with taste. 

The biggest complaint was that no one wanted to pay for something that they had long-enjoyed for free.  I get the resistance to change particularly when it adds cost to an otherwise cheap date, but paradise has a price, and this one is not out of line for what you get in return.

It seems a little known fact that the Two Harbors area is and has forever been private property.  From that perspective we should send a thank you note to the Island Company and maybe a small donation for the use fees over the years.

For those who only know Catalina through visits to Avalon, I suggest a private boat charter aboard one of our boats and/or an interior tour to see what an amazing island this is.  Adding a piece of paradise with food and drinks as a mid-tour stop just makes the whole idea that much better.

By Capt. John King
Afishinados Charters and Catallac tours – 888-613-7770 –