For adventurous skippers in Southern California, Catalina Island is one of the most convenient and enjoyable cruising destination. Sure, if you’re financially independent or just quit your job, you could set sail for La Paz or the Sea of Cortez. But for the rest of us, we’re more than happy to cross the channel and drop anchor off beautiful Catalina Island.
I live down in San Diego and dock my Newport 30 sailboat in Mission Bay, so the Catalina journey is a pretty long haul for me. It’s 73 nautical miles from the Mission Bay jetty till I reach a mooring ball in Avalon. I need to leave San Diego at 4 a.m. if I want to arrive in Avalon around sunset. For other boaters in Southern California, the crossing is much shorter.
For skippers considering making this trip for the first time, I’ve put together a list of distances from harbors in San Diego and Los Angeles out to either of the two main harbors on the leeward side of Catalina: Avalon and Two Harbors.
LA to Catalina Island
Dana Point to Avalon: 33 miles (38 nautical miles)
Dana Point to Two Harbors: 38 miles (44 nautical miles)
Newport Beach to Avalon: 26 miles (30 nautical miles)
Newport Beach to Two Harbors: 32 miles (37 nautical miles)
Huntington Harbor to Avalon: 25 miles (29 nautical miles)
Huntington Harbor to Two Harbors: 27 miles (31 nautical miles)
LA Harbor to Avalon: 25 miles (29 nautical miles)
LA Harbor to Two Harbors: 22 miles (25 nautical miles)
Marina del Rey to Avalon: 38 miles (44 nautical miles)
Marina del Rey to Two Harbors: 31 miles (36 nautical miles)
If you’d like more information on the LA to Catalina journey, I’ve written up a more detailed page discussing the logistics of Boating to Catalina.
San Diego to Catalina Island
Mission Bay to Oceanside: 31 miles (27 nautical miles)
Oceanside to Dana Point: 25 miles (22 nautical miles)
Dana Point to Avalon: 38 miles (33 nautical miles)
Dana Point to Two Harbors: 44 miles (38 nautical miles)
Mission Bay to Avalon: 73 miles (63 nautical miles)
Mission Bay to Two Harbors: 87 miles (76 nautical miles)
Oceanside to Avalon: 52 miles (45 nautical miles)
If you’d like more information on this journey, I wrote up another page discussing more details about Sailing from San Diego to Catalina.
Once you arrive on the island, you can either stay in Avalon or Two Harbors or venture out and drop anchor in one of the many bays along the leeward coast. If the swell and weather is calm to moderate, you’ll do fine out on anchor. If the Pacific Ocean stacks up a bit, you will probably want flatter waters for the evening. In this case, I recommend you stay moored in Avalon or Two Harbors. Two Harbors has an online reservation system you can access, this allows you to reserve a mooring ball one week in advance. At this time, Avalon has no such online reservation system; they remain first come, first served.
I hope all this information puts you in the frame of mind of making this trip happen. Catalina is truly the gem of the California coastline. Untie your dock lines and point your bow west. You won’t regret it.
- Two Harbors