What's New on Catalina Island

Patti Sullivan Schmidt / Getty Images

Old-style Hollywood glamour lives on in this small island roughly 26 miles across the sea from Los Angeles.

Exclusive hotels, two top-tier ice cream parlors, and a recently revamped museum are just a few reasons to visit Catalina Island—a place immortalized as “the island of romance” in a catchy 1957 ballad—this summer.

Where to Stay

Hotel Metropole
French Riviera-style Hotel Metropole underwent a refresh last year, updating their rooms and common spaces with repolished floors and a fresh coat of paint. Book the hotel’s private, two-bedroom beach house (from $1,050), which reopened in June after a complete overhaul, and includes two Jacuzzis, Frette linens, and a large patio overlooking the harbor. 205 Crescent Ave.; 310-510-1884; hotel-metropole.com.

Mt. Ada
For travelers looking for a private luxury hotel experience with some of the best views on the island, Mt. Ada reopened under new management in 2015. The 1921 property, which was once the estate of William Wrigley, Jr., the founder of Wrigley’s Chewing Gum, features six rooms with harbor views that can be rented separately or together for bigger groups. 398 Wrigley Rd.; 877-778-9395; visitcatalinaisland.com.

Where to Eat

Ice Cream Two Ways
Opened last July, Scoops serves artisanal, seasonal ice cream and gelato that uses local ingredients (501 Crescent Ave.; scoopscatalina.com). Descanso Fresh, which also opened last summer, takes a less traditional approach to their menu, offering flavors like Buffalo Milk Ice Cream, made with vodka, crème de cacao, and banana (1 Descanso Ave.; visitcatalinaisland.com).

Maggie’s Blue Rose
Maggie’s Blue Rose, a Mexican restaurant that opened in 2014, was awarded a Taste of Avalon prize soon after for their pork adobo with pineapple salsa, avocado enchiladas, and mole-braised duck taquitos. Other favorites include the cucumber and jalapeño margaritas, potato tacos, and lobster enchiladas, served in a poblano sauce with cilantro crema. 417B Crescent Ave.; 310-510-3300; maggiesbluerose.com.

Avalon Grille
The island’s most upscale offering is the classic American Avalon Grille: Think wild king salmon with orange dill oil, Angus skirt steak with tomato jam, and tuna tartare. Reserve a table on the patio for the best views. 423 Crescent Ave.; 310-510-7494; visitcatalinaisland.com.

What to Do

Island Spa Catalina
This 15,000-square-foot spa opened as part of the Santa Catalina Island Company’s $40-million update to the area three years ago and has since become the island’s destination spa. The spa uses ingredients gathered on the island in a variety of treatments, including a hot sand therapy to relieve joint and muscle pain and an anti-aging facial that incorporates diamond powder or a gold anti-inflammatory collagen mask to smooth and rejuvenate skin. There’s also a café and yoga studio on the premises. 163 Crescent Ave.; 310-510-7300; visitcatalinaisland.com.

Catalina Island Museum
The Catalina Island Museum’s new building in the heart of Avalon opened last June, with galleries, a shop, a theater, and an open-air amphitheater for outdoor screenings of films, concerts, and performances. The museum focuses on preserving the history of the island (including ceramics, archaeological artifacts found on Catalina, and paintings). Through December 11, the museum is hosting a major exhibition of the works of artist David Chihuly, widely known for his large-scale glass sculptures.1 Casino Wy.; 310-510-2414; catalinamuseum.org

Wildlife Tour
Though Avalon hosts most of the island’s hotels, restaurants, and cultural venues, the rest of Catalina’s rugged terrain teems with wildlife—including seemingly out of place American bison. It’s believed that filmmakers brought them over for a shoot in the early 1900s and returned home without them, leaving a peculiar (and strictly controlled) population of bison on the island. Get a glimpse of the creatures by embarking on a Jeep Eco Tour, operated by the Catalina Island Conservatory. Tours from $70; catalinaconservancy.org.

For more on what’s new in classic American beach towns, see our complete slideshow »