This was my first visit to Catalina… I'd always been intrigued, but hesitant, as I'd only heard about the main city, Avalon, and all the golf carts, crowds, and potential "spring break" atmosphere. No one ever seems to talk about the "quiet cousin" on the other end of the island.
Two Harbors is a wonderful rustic retreat, and the Banning House Lodge is THE way to experience Catalina in a way that strikes a balance between enjoying the great outdoors and still enjoying creature comforts. (No TV a plus for me!) Fantastic views. Comfortable beds. Quiet hours from 10pm-8am, which much to my surprise, the large group who took up most of the Lodge respected. (Thank you!!) The Craftsman-style architecture features many comfortable sitting spots with views that make the Lodge worth every penny (outdoor seating on main patio and large two-part indoor common room with couches, fireplace, loft, game table)
Morning breakfast (the only meal available at the Lodge) was far more ample than the advertised "continental breakfast"… bagels, cream cheese/nutella/peanut butter, toast, scones, yogurts, fresh fruit, oj, hot chocolate, cappuchino/latte machine, hard boiled eggs, slices meats and cheese. Wow. Great way to start the day! They also make their kitchen available, so it looks like large groups bring over additional food/wine for their own entertaining. What a fabulous place to consider renting out for a group. And do keep in mind, if you go, you might be the one room NOT a part of a large group. (we were fortunate to nab a last minute room because someone from a large group cancelled their single room… and we're grateful!!)
The Lodge is located up a somewhat steep hill… there is a pathway (lighted at night) that we walked frequently… takes less than 10 minutes from the Harbor. But if you have any trouble walking, then the Lodge offers a van service that will come down the hill to get you.
I'm actually not a "water person" but Two Harbors is a water lover/sailor's paradise… great cove for mooring. Fun activities… stand-up paddle boarding, sea kayaking, swimming. But I still found my favorite activities. Mountain biked (rentals available at the Harbor) out to Parsons Landing. Dirt road, modest ups and downs. Doable for anyone in some reasonable shape (I hadn't mtn biked in a decade, so it was a fun and achievable challenge) Glad I brought my own mtn biking gloves and biking shorts. Rental shop provides helmets.
Another great activity to enjoy while staying there is a day hike to Little Harbor. Buy a return trip on the Safari Bus at the Visitors Center. The hike over (steep, but again, doable for anyone who regularly hikes 5+ miles) offers spectacular views and will take 3-4 hours. Pack a picnic and enjoy the rest of your day at the beach before catching a late afternoon ride back to Two Harbors.
Indulge in a daily ice cream cone at the General Store down at the Harbor. Dinner can be enjoyed outdoors at the Harbor Reef Bar or indoors in the restaurant. VERY pleased with the quality of the food. The sesame crusted seared ahi is a big winner. Great margaritas, cold beers etc… It's a sailing harbor, so expect a sailing clientele for goodness sake, and enjoy happy hour, the occasional karaoke night, and embrace the lifestyle.
Most people who come to the area are either staying aboard their boats or camping… so for those lucky enough to enjoy the 12 rooms at the Banning House Lodge, appreciate your good fortune.
Sal and Eddie are both very welcoming and help make the Banning House very personable. It's not the Four Seasons, so don't expect that kind of experience. It has a B&B atmosphere, so enjoy getting to know the other guests, but also be respectful in sharing the experience with others. Some people are there for the peace and quiet, some people are there to party. Everyone is friendly, and it can be paradise for all.
Finally, ditto to all the good things happy reviews said. For the complaints, I noticed that most of the negative reviews are from 2010, so pretty easy to dismiss. We found our room to be VERY clean. All the employees very responsive.
A special way to enjoy a very unique location!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located at the West End of the island, the Banning House Lodge was built in 1910 as the summer home for the pioneering Banning brothers, who owned Santa Catalina Island. Now a charming, Craftsman-style bed and breakfast, the Banning House Lodge offers sweeping views of the Isthmus of Catalina and Catalina Harbor from its romantic, hilltop perch above Two Harbors A complimentary continental breakfast is served daily in the charming dining room. Van shuttle service between the lodge and Two Harbors village is included. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Banning House Hotel Two Harbors