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Can You Drive to Catalina Island?

Catalina Island is located 22 miles off of the coast of California. It is 76 square miles in size, including 52 miles of coastline thriving with an abundance of wildlife.

It has more to it than first meets the eye, including dive sites, a casino with a movie theatre, and spectacular views from its highest point of Mount Orizaba, with a summit of 2,097 feet!

The Island is highly praised by visitors, being full of activities and beautiful surroundings, and well worth the trip.

When planning to travel there, you’re bound to question if you can drive to the island and explore what’s on offer. 

It’s not possible to drive to Catalina Island, and on the island, visitors are banned from driving cars. To access the island, you’ll travel from one of three ferry ports located at the California points of Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point, crossing over to Avalon port.

Also, San Pedro crosses over to the Two Harbors port.

Taking a passenger ferry to Catalina Island

To cross over to Catalina Island, you’ll need to take the Catalina Express ferry from one of three ferry ports located along the coast of California, with a 1-hour crossing time.

If you choose to drive to the port, you can park your car in a lot before boarding. To park at San Pedro and Dana Point, there’s a charge of $20 daily, and Long Beach charges $22 daily. 

Ferry prices

The below prices are for Catalina Express round trips, including the island wharfage fee and tax. It’s advisable to reserve tickets online a week or so before boarding, as tickets can sell out pretty fast! 

Long Beach and San Pedro to Avalon

  • Adult (12-54 yrs) $83.50
  • Senior 55+ $76.50
  • Child 2-11 $68.00
  • Infants under 2 years $6.50

Dana Point to Avalon

  • Adult (12-54 yrs) $87.50
  • Senior 55+ $80.50
  • Child 2-11 $71.50
  • Infants under 2 years $6.50

San Pedro to Two Harbors

  • Adult (12-54 yrs) $83.00
  • Senior 55+ $76.00
  • Child 2-11 $67.50
  • Infants under 2 years $6.00

For more info on upgrades and reservations, visit the Catalina Express page.

The driving distance to the ferry ports

Let’s take a look at the driving time and distance to the three ferry ports from surrounding locations.

When considering the distance between starting locations and Long Beach port/San Pedro port, they are within a few minutes of each other. 

Long Beach & San Pedro port

  • California: 4 hours 49 minutes (289 miles)
  • Torrance, California: 23 minutes (16.9 miles)
  • Los Angeles, California: 30 minutes (25.6 miles)
  • Lancaster, California: 1 hour 31 minutes (94.9 miles)
  • Las Vegas, Nevada: 4 hours 23 minutes (285 miles)

Dana Point port

  • San Diego, California: 1 hour 2 minutes (65.6 miles)
  • Riverside, California: 59 minutes (57.8 miles)
  • San Bernardino, California: 1 hour 9 minutes (68.8 miles)
  • Pheonix, Arizona: 6 hours 16 minutes (377 miles)
  • Las Vegas, Nevada: 4 hours 23 minutes (285 miles)

A helicopter from Long Beach to Avalon

If you want to avoid seasickness or want to travel to the island in style, then a helicopter ride is available, traveling from Long Beach, at IEX Helicopters Queen Mary Terminal, to Avalon, with a journey time of 15 minutes.

This is a great way to witness aerial views of the coastline and the island, providing a fuller perspective before you arrive. 

Prices are $159 per person. Children over 2 years are charged full price, and children under 2 travel free. 

How to travel around the island

Avalon, Santa Catalina Island

Avalon City is Catalina Island’s central area, thriving with restaurants, hotels, and tourists. The good news is that it’s only 2 square miles in size, with many businesses located close to the ferry port.

In contrast, Two Harbors is a village that is much quieter than Avalon, with fewer tourist amenities. 

Both Avalon and Two Harbors are comfortably traveled on foot. Yet, vehicles can allow you to access further out points of interest, and it’s good news that there are plenty of rental options available. 

Golf carts

Golf carts are the most used method of travel on the island by both locals and visitors, and hiring one is a great way to explore the mountain terrain around the town.

Four or six-person carts are available, and it’s easy to hire one once you arrive on the island, on an hourly rate starting at $50, or a daily basis. 

Bike rentals

An array of bikes are available for rental all year round on the island.

These include electric bikes, tandems, mountain bikes, and more.

Full-day rentals start at $50. They’re available hourly or daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and must be returned the same day.

For reservations and additional info, click here.

Public bus

There is a public bus on the island named “The Garibaldi” that travels the Avalon Loop (17 stops), from Pebbly Beach Road at Cabrillo Mole (near the ferry port) to Avalon Canyon Road at Botanical Gardens and back.

The bus operates daily from 8 am to 5:15 pm, and has a 45-minute travel time to complete all stops. Prices are $2 per person, and children under 5 travel free of charge. 

Private shuttle service

Another option to travel around the island is to take a private interior shuttle service (Toyota Sienna minivans), which runs from Avalon.

It offers a one-way service to explore popular locations on the island, suiting different needs.

For instance, hikers can travel into the interior of Avalon to walk the famous hills and then back to town. Or, if you fancy some kayaking or snorkeling, then why not visit Two Harbors?

For more info about this service, visit here.

Sightseeing tours

There are options to travel around the island via guided tours, letting someone else take control, ensuring you’ll never be lost, and that your day is full of activities to make the most of your time. 

This includes private golf cart tours of Avalon, guided electric bike tours, and a Catalina eco-tour that explores the outskirts of the island.

Other options include exploring the surrounding waters, with the Glass Bottom Boat Voyage, where you’ll board a boat and take to the sea, viewing the undersea gardens from the glass bottom. 

The best time of year to visit the island

Throughout the year, there will be varying weather conditions and activities on offer throughout the island.

Summer days are the busiest, thriving with tourists, and if you enjoy the hustle and bustle of life around you, then this is the time to go.

Weather-wise, summer days can peak at 72°F (22°C) but also often experience thick clouds from morning until early afternoon. 

During the winter months, you’ll experience a more serene environment, and temperatures reach around 48°F (9°C). Also, the ferry journey to the island can be bumpy at times, depending on weather conditions.  

The spring and autumn have great weather from early mornings to evenings. Locals have remarked that autumn is the best time to visit, as with fewer visitors, there will be less waiting around.

Not only this, but almost all of the summer events and activities are still active, so you can experience the best of both worlds. 


Driving to Catalina island isn’t possible, as there are no land connections or car ferries running from the mainland US to the island.

Travel options include an express passenger ferry from one of three ports in California, or a luxurious helicopter ride.

Visitors are also banned from driving cars on the island, but once you’re there, it’s possible to rent golf carts and various types of bikes to maneuver around. 

Alternatively, sightseeing tours, public buses, and private shuttles are available. They serve as a great way to visit locations and venture to the outskirts of the island for a fuller experience.