For new visitors to the Island or visitors who have never explored past Avalon, the interior of the Island is like being transported to another world. A world where flora and fauna abound and wildlife roam free. The Jeep Eco Tour run by the Catalina Island Conservancy is a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and feast on what Mother Nature has to offer.
It’s a great group activity to do with friends, family and even team bonding. I had never really ventured into the interior of the Island even though I have visited Avalon many times. A group of friends and I decided it would be a very unique idea to try this tour. We hopped in our Jeep outside of the offices of the Catalina Island Conservancy on Clarissa St. for our four-hour tour. As we made our way into the interior we learned about the Island’s history with a naturalist’s twist. We learned about the conservation efforts in place to save the many native and endemic species of plants, like St. Catherine’s lace. The Island is home to more than 60 plant, animal and insect species found nowhere else in the world. The recent rain has made the tour especially beautiful, all the valleys and ridges are green and covered in wild flowers. The Conservancy has access to over 160 miles of paved and unpaved road. Our tour guide, Scott, made sure to stop so we didn’t miss any vivid photo opportunities.
The tour is not only educational but also fun, and quite the roller coaster ride. You might see a presidential looking rock formation; spotting palm trees may win you a prize and the unpaved roads offer quite the off-roading experience. Midway through the tour we made a quick stop at the Airport in the Sky. The airport is located on a 1,602-foot-tall mountaintop at the center of the Island and was created so Phillip Wrigley could land his DC-3 airplane. The DC-3 Gifts & Grill restaurant offers a great variety of food and unique souvenirs. We didn’t leave the airport without trying an island famous “Killer Cookie”. They were definitely worth the calories!
On the road towards the coastline, we spotted a lone bison bull that was grazing along the hillside. We also got a quick glimpse of a Catalina Island Fox. The stop at Little Harbor and Shark Harbor offered spectacular views of Catalina’s coastline. The view left us absolutely speechless. It was easy to picture Phillip Wrigley’s vision when he decided to make sure the interior of Catalina Island was preserved for generations to come. As we made our way back into town, we were all so happy and excited we took this tour. It even inspired one of my friends to hike the Trans-Catalina Trail.
The best part about these tours is that they are completely customizable. They have a variety of tour lengths to accommodate all schedules. I highly recommend it for your next trip to Catalina.
by Guadalupe Rodriguez