When it comes to idyllic coastal scenery and activity options for fun in the sun, Two Harbors Campground on Santa Catalina Island’s west end is as good as it gets. Take a one-hour express ferry from Long Beach, San Pedro, Newport Beach, or Dana Point to reach this Southern California island 22 miles off the coast.
The campground, which includes 42 sites, 13 canvas tent structures, and three group camping areas, feels ultra-secluded and serene, thanks to its bluff-top location on the island’s sleepier side. (For a truly remote beach camping experience, check out Little Harbor Campground, about seven miles east of Two Harbors, or Parson’s Landing, a campground on a beach seven miles west of Two Harbors.) There are also inland campsites at Black Jack Campground, at the base of the 2,097-foot Mt. Orizaba on Catalina, and Avalon’s Hermit Gulch Campground, which is located within the city limits, making it great for first-timers and kids considering its proximity to grocery stores, restaurants, and the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden.
Another option is to rent a boat or kayak and head out to one of the island’s boat-in only campsites; there are nine of these primitive campgrounds with a total of 17 sites, where campers must pack out what they pack in, and bring their own equipment, including a camp stove (if cooking) and a portable restroom.
Rent all types of aquatic toys and equipment—snorkel and SCUBA gear, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, beach umbrellas, wetsuits—from Two Harbors Dive & Recreation Center and explore the island’s turquoise coves. You can also obtain hiking and biking permits (Catalina Island is home to some fantastic mountain biking and hiking routes—just keep your eyes peeled for the resident buffalo!) at Two Harbors Visitors Services, located at the foot of the pier. If you don’t want to haul in a bunch of camping equipment, this is also where you can rent a tent, sleeping pad, propane stove, and more.