Setting: Avalon faces east on the southern half of Santa Catalina Island. The town lies about 22 miles southwest of Los Angeles Harbor (San Pedro), and may be reached by regular ferry from San Pedro, Long Beach, and other points, and by helicopter service or private boat or plane.
Attractions: Avalon has a sunny, ocean-moderated climate and remains relatively free of crime, pollution, and traffic problems. Residents enjoy ready access to a singular coastal environment that includes 2,000-foot peaks and indigenous wildlife.
Drawbacks: Tiny Avalon receives most of the island's million annual visitors, which can seem like too many on a busy summer day. Limited available land and freshwater restricts development. Because it's on an island, count on paying more for everything, from groceries to construction.
Housing: Avalon's diminutive lots mean most homes are smaller than on the mainland. Homes with water views command a premium. Expect to pay at least $700,000 for a small cottage that needs work and more than $1 million for a hillside house with expansive views. Condos go for $550,000 and up. Rentals as low as $1,000 a month tend to be snatched up by locals.
Your next-door neighbors: Full-time residents range from shopkeepers and restaurant workers to artists and entrepreneurs. Island remoteness fosters a number of retirees and telecommuters. Many homeowners live here part-time, renting to vacationers in high season (summer).
How you'd spend your free time: Clear, clean waters encourage year-round boating, fishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling. Almost all of the island remains undeveloped, allowing plenty of opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and camping. The landmark Catalina Casino contains a grand ballroom and movie theater.
(published October 2007)