There are two main companies which offer Catalina Island ferry service from mainland California. It takes about an hour to get there, depending on which port you leave from, and if you're lucky, you may see a school of dolphins playing in the water. Definitely not guaranteed, but it is awesome when it happens.
Catalina Express offers service from Dana Point, Long Beach and San Pedro.
Long Beach has 2 ports, one at the Queen Mary and the other at the downtown Catalina Landing. The one at the Queen Mary is for camps and charters only.
The Catalina Express ferry leaves from Catalina Landing in downtown Long Beach on the waterfront near Shoreline Village and the Aquarium of the Pacific. Parking is $17 for 24 hours. You can find this ferry landing at 320 Golden Shore.
In San Pedro, ferries leave from the Catalina Sea And Air Terminal at Berth 95. Parking is $18 daily.
Prices at the time of this writing are $73.50 round trip for an adult from San Pedro or Long Beach. It's less for children and seniors. You can also purchase an upgrade to the Captain's Cabin or Commodore's Cabin on some of the ships. Call 800-613-1212 for reservations.
If you want to go to Two Harbors rather than Avalon, you can do so from San Pedro in an hour and fifteen minutes if it goes direct. That costs a little extra.
A third port that Catalina Express offers ferry service from is in Dana Point. Round trip from Dana Point costs $75.50.
The Catalina Flyer is a triple decker catamaran that leaves from near the Balboa Pavilion in Newport Beach on the peninsula to Avalon at Santa Catalina Island. It takes about 75 minutes. The ferry departs once daily at 9 a.m., gets there at 10:15 a.m. and then leaves Catalina at 4:30 p.m. and returns at 5:45 p.m. The cost at the time of this writing is $70 round trip for adults. The number to call is 800-830-7744.
Taking a Catalina Island ferry ride is a lot of fun in and of itself (especially if you're lucky enough to spot a school of dolphins tagging along). You can feel as though your vacation has begun before you've even arrived!
Please note: Times and prices may have changed since this was posted, so please call to confirm before you go.
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