Scenic boat rides to and from Catalina Island pass by stunning vistas of Long Beach Harbor and gamboling dolphin families—but the boat trips' main attraction is the island itself. The clear waves that lap at its shores are ideal for kayaking, scuba diving, or doing an emergency load of laundry. Meanwhile, mainland attractions range from art galleries and shops to winding hiking trails. Armed with a round trip boat ticket, visitors from four mainland California ports can explore the island for anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks.
Memories of World War II, the Korean War, and the Cold War are imbedded in the steel hull of the Battleship USS IOWA. The ship served the US Navy for 70 years of active and reserve duty before coming to rest at her current berth in San Pedro. Originally laid down in 1940, the IOWA was the most advanced battleship of the time, capable of traveling more than 40 mph, firing her 16-inch big guns 25 miles, and housing more than 1,400 sailors in specialized compartments. Now a floating museum honoring the battleship's place in 20th-century naval combat, the vessel welcomes visitors to explore her decks, strolling about the wood-covered main level or venturing into the interior. The restored ship lays seven decks open to visitors, from the hull-enclosed mess to the lofty bridge, allowing them to get an up-close look at the missile deck and imagine what it would have been like to be a sailor in the Pacific in 1944.
Captain Gary Jackson originally cut his aquatic teeth as a PADI scuba-diving training coordinator and instructor. From there, it didn't take him long to found a charter company around his dive boat, the Psalty V, and today he leads harbor tours and dive trips from its deck. His vessel and crew also takes visitors on whale-watching trips as well as harbor cruises, where guests pass by one of the world's busiest harbors, where super-cargo ships, private yachts, and sea lions abound. His dive instruction teaches the basics of deep, nitrox, and wreck diving to ensure that his clients feel comfortable graduating from diving in the bathtub to the outdoor kiddie pool and beyond.
First String Sportfishing sails the open seas off of Southern California, taking passengers on both fishing voyages and educational marine tours. Its largest boat, First String, can hold up to 147 people for its whale-watching tours. On board the 93-foot boat, you?ll find two 9-ton fish holds, two radars, a large-screen television, and a dolphin-to-English dictionary. First String Sportfishing?s other boats depart for both Californian and Mexican waters on fishing excursions. These trips typically yield shallow-water rockfish such as Sculpin and Whitefish and larger varieties including yellowtail and barracuda.
Gliding serenely along the California coast used to be for the birds. Now, though, humans have mastered the art of hovering just above the ground?and Segway Los Angeles can teach anyone how to do it. Their Segway tours all begin with a training course inside the store, during which guests learn to stand on, steer, and feed apples to their Segway. They then depart on a two-hour jaunt along the shore, traveling through parks and across different types of terrain to see how the Segway handles. Those who fall in love with the sleek machines can return to rent or buy one. In fact, the company even lends out its Segways for the entirety of Burning Man at a special rate.
The vessel, Shoreliner, is no stranger to the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Originally built in 1960s to speedily shuttle ferry passengers to and from Catalina Island, Greg Watson Sr.?a seasoned captain with 35 years of seafaring experience?purchased the vessel in 2013 and completely refurbished it to better provide a luxuriant experience for private parties as well as tour groups. The 65-foot, aluminum-hulled vessel slices through the water at a cruising speed of 14 knots, leaving the coastline behind while as many as 130 guests can enjoy the views from the indoor seating section, the upper-deck seating, or the bow or stern areas. For private parties, the Shoreliner features two flat-screen televisions and a DVD player in its main salon, as well as a fully stocked bar that can help keep spirits high throughout the cruise. The crew also offers educational cruises in the form of two-hour, whale-watching tours, which give invaluable insight into the local marine life while providing opportunities for passengers to actually see gray whales, blue whales, bottlenose dolphins, and even hitchhiking mermaids depending on the season.