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  • Writer's pictureNicole Leonetti

Catalina Island - Two Harbors Guide

An isthmus is a narrow strip of land with sea on either side, forming a link between two larger areas of land…

After 14 years of visiting Catalina and only staying in Avalon (you can find my Avalon guide HERE) we finally made the leap and checked out Two Harbors – lovingly referred to as “The Isthmus”.  Instead of just visiting Two Harbors for the day we decided to fully experience the area and stayed a few nights.  It is a vastly different experience from Avalon, but one that I wholeheartedly enjoyed.  Two Harbors has one hotel, one store, and pretty much one restaurant.  The only thing it has two of is harbors (ha!).  I found Two Harbors to be beautiful, relaxing, and even though it isn’t the type of trip I normally take – I found it the perfect place to unplug… even as a person who is perpetually plugged!  Highlights included seeing a buffalo just hanging out while walking back to the hotel from dinner, having a fox visit us on the hotel patio each night, and seeing the sun rise and set each day (one of the many benefits of the two harbors)!

Here is a helpful guide of how to navigate a trip to Two Harbors:



Catalina Express:  This is the ferry that will take you on your journey to Two Harbors!  You can leave from San Pedro to get to your destination – make sure to check the schedules since there are fewer trips to Two Harbors than to Avalon.  But don’t worry – you can still order sparkling wine on the way over to toast to your adventure. The journey is just a little over an hour and you may even catch a glimpse of dolphins along the way. *TIP: Bring a jacket on the boat if you want to walk around outside – it gets chilly on the water.

Cyclone: If you are already in Avalon, the Cyclone is available seasonally (summer to early fall) to transport you between Avalon and Two Harbors and the trip takes less than 40 minutes.

Own a boat?  First of all – I’m jealous!  Second of all, Two Harbors is the perfect place to bring your boat.  They have a range of mooring sites and everything you need to have a fun, yet safe, time.


Banning House Lodge:  I am obsessed with this hotel!  They only have 12 rooms so make sure to book ahead of time.  Banning House is a short, albeit uphill, walk from the pier and it is simply perfect!  They offer comfortable rooms, complimentary breakfast, a nightly cheese & wine reception, and the most hospitable staff.  They have relaxing patios where you can take in the wraparound views along with a common area where you can spend the day reading, playing games, or just staring at the fire.  I’m told the property is haunted so that could be fun (or terrifying) depending on how you look at it.  Banning House also has two beautiful rental properties that are perfect if you are traveling with a larger group. 

Camp?! Although I cannot speak from experience…from what I hear, the camping at Two Harbors is incredible!  They have multiple location options, clean facilities, and gorgeous views.  There are also amazing stargazing opportunities!


Harbor Reef Restaurant: This is what I consider the hub of Two Harbors!  Harbor Reef is the main restaurant with full-service dinner along with bars offering both indoor & outdoor options.  Menu favorites include their Harbor Reef Burger, Teriyaki Pulled Pork Sandwich, and their Swordfish Sandwich.  They also have a full bar menu where you can try their famous Buffalo Milk (vodka, crème de cacao, crème de banana, coffee liquor with whipped cream and nutmeg).  Or, you can be like me and order a slew of Middle Ranch Waters (blanco tequila, lime juice, club soda, with a tajin rimmed glass).

West End Galley: Casual counter service spot where you can order breakfast, lunch, snacks, and beverages.

Buffalo Milk


General Store:  A great place to stop for snacks or anything you may need during your time in Two Harbors.  They also have merch and really anything you can think of needing for your time away from civilization.  I, personally, was pleased with their Cheez-it selection.

Harbor Sands:  My favorite kind of outdoor activity, you can rent a palapa* or a lounge chair and relax beachside while ordering drinks and snacks from Harbor Beach Restaurant.  Make sure to book early if visiting during the busy season.   *A palapa is basically the Two Harbors version of a cabana.

Take a Hike: So many hiking options!  From short hikes to day-long hikes, up to the multi-day Trans-Catalina Trail, Two Harbors has you covered for any type of hike you would like.

Water Activities:  If you are up for a little adventure, you have plenty to choose from in Two Harbors.  They have kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, and a few more activities I have never heard of before! 


I am clearly a big fan of Two Harbors and I hope you fall in love with it as well!  While it is a much slower pace than what I am used to – it is a pace I can easily get used to.  I am certainly looking forward to my next trip.

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