Over labor day weekend my fiance and I took off to the beautiful Catalina Island. Once there we rented kayaks for two days and paddled just over 6 miles to Gibraltar Beach to camp. Along the way, we saw beautiful sea caves, massive cliffs, and a whole lot of amazing sea life! If you have never been to Catalina Island its an amazing place and we have done a couple of trips there.
This trip was our second-time kayak camping on Catalina, the first trip linked above we left from Avalon instead of Two Harbors. After having rented kayaks from both Avalon and Two Harbors for Kayaking I would leave from the Town of Two Harbors every time.
Logistics and Planning
I recommend leaving from Two Harbors instead of Avalon because the Kayak Rental place is much closer to where you get off the ferry. In Avalon, you rent Kayaks from Descanso Beach resort and its a bit of a trek from the ferry drop off. Also, Two Harbors is just less busy and you pick up your Kayaks less than 100 meters from where you get off the ferry. Kayaking out of Two Harbors also had prettier views. All of Catalina is pretty but kayaking along the coast from To Harbors you get to see a lot of amazing sea caves!
The map of our trip above can be found on Caltopo here. I used the Caltopo Beta Android app to mark some cool locations along the way. I also marked some other cool campsites I may try to rent next time.
You can reserve a boat in campsite on Catalina at Reserve America.
Unfortunately, you cant bring Kayaks onto the Ferry over to Catalina so this is a pretty expensive trip, we had to rent two kayaks for 48 hours after already paying for the campsites and ferry ride over, and then there is parking you pay for at the ferry terminal too. In camping standards, it is a pricey camping trip but its amazing to have a beach all to yourselves to camp on!
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Depending on how long you plan on camping on one of the boats in campsites in Catalina you must plan your water accordingly because you must carry in all your water. For two of us for 48 hours I planned for 20L of water. This would be used for drinking and for cooking our dehydrated dinners. Our campsite didn't really have much shade so I was glad I brought a lot of water even though we didn't drink it all. To carry it all, I used two MSR Dromedary bags:
These fit perfectly in the kayaks and make it easy to transport a large amount of water. We also each had a couple of personal Nalgene bottles we used while we were kayaking.
Not only do the beach campsites lack any drinkable water but they also are missing toilets and bathrooms. You have to pack out your poop in "wag bags." Last year when we left from Avalon they charged us for the wag bags but when we left this year from Two Harbours they guy just gave them to us for free, so that was a nice touch.
Lastly, for planning purposes bring lots of dry bags for all your stuff! I ended up making my own large dry bag for this trip!
Kayaking to Gibraltar Beach
We had an early morning leaving from San Diego to make the 8 am Ferry out of San Pedro. When you arrive at Two Harbors walk down the ferry pier and when you get to the end you can check in to your campsite on the left, and they will give you your permit. Then right across from the permit station is the Two Harbors Dive shop and this is where you will rent your Kayaks.
We decided to pick up our Kayaks around noon, and we went and grabbed a breakfast sandwich and beer at the only restaurant in Two Harbors. The breakfast sandwich was delicious!
A little before noon we went to the beach to the right of the ferry pier and picked up our two kayaks and packed them full of all our gear and then pushed off to start paddling towards Gibraltar Beach!
Compared to our trip last year, we had much calmer seas, and we were moving pretty good with our weighed down kayaks from all our gear. Since we didn't have to carry our gear far to the Kayaks this is pretty much like car camping and you can bring some extra comforts like wine. Along the way, there were tons of beautiful cliffs and couple pretty large sea caves to explore!
The entire paddle to Gibraltar Beach took about 2 hours and 30 minutes and I clocked it in at just over 6 miles on my Garmin watch. We didn't do too much exploring or snorkeling on the way to Gibraltar beach since we had two nights booked we just wanted to get there and establish camp first.
Gibraltar Beach Campsite
Gibraltar Beach is not very sandy at all and doesn't provide any real natural shade so come prepared with some shade to set up or lots of sunscreen!
Gibraltar Beach is long and narrow with some cool boulders to climb and explorer at the very end. You cant really explore into the island because the entire beach is at the base of some very steep inclines. Since its not very sandy at all, I recomend you bring sneakers or some hardy sandals to wear while you are at the campsite and exploring the beach.
Along the beach in between the rocks you can find some really cool shells:
The picture above is taken from the boulders at the end of the beach looking back out towards where our tent is set up. This gives you some scale of the cliffs surrounding the beach.
At low tide, you can climb up onto the boulders without swimming up to them and one of them totally looks like a dinosaur head with its mouth open.
When the tide is higher you may not be able to get to the boulders without getting wet, but they make a great sport for some photography using a neutral density filter for a long exposure:
After we explored the beach and set up camp we did a little bit of snorkeling right off the beach. It always amazes me while snorkeling, seeing into the other world just below the surface. We ended up swimming from where our campsite was over to the boulders and checking out all the fish at the base of them.
As the sunset along our beach, we opened some wine up and took in all the beautiful views on our private beach campsite!
The first night we were very fortunate and were able to see a lot of stars in the night sky. It's not every day you can be in LA County and sea stars in the night sky! We also saw a couple of shooting stars too!
Exploring the Coast Above and Below
In the morning we left camp with our kayaks and snorkel gear and headed to the other side the Gibraltar Beach and continued exploring the beautiful coast of Catalina Island.
We ended up finding another cool cave but didn't go inside because you could hear a whole lot of birds lived inside, but it was cool to listen to all the noise coming out of the cave while we paddled by. We ended up going just a little further and found a nice little spot to beach our kayaks while we did some more snorkeling.
After kayaking and swimming most of the day we spent one more night at Gibraltar beach. In the morning after a quick breakfast, we packed up all our things and headed back to Two Harbours. On the way back we stopped twice to go snorkeling, so it took us a little longer but total paddle time was about the same as the way out. When we got back to Two Harbors we were starving and craving a real meal! We got two delicious sandwiches and a couple of beers! While we ate and drank we had some amazing live music to keep us entertained while we waited for the ferry!