Catalina Connection

Relax, You’re on Island Time: A History of Catalina Island’s Casual Time Zone

AVALON — Island life is certainly different from living as a Mainlander, and Catalina Island takes the relaxing island life seriously, especially when it comes to “island time.” It’s common to hear locals in Avalon, Catalina’s only municipality (and a bustling, busy city compared to Two Harbors), talking about being on island time. During City Council meetings, “island time” has also come up before – talk of island time is everywhere.

With a staff on the Mainland, The Log recently experienced the island time culture. The time on Catalina Island unofficially runs around 30 minutes behind Pacific Standard Time, which is the official time zone in California.

“‘Island time’ is definitely a thing,” says Gail Fornasiere, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Catalina Island Museum. “However, there really is no documentation about it … I think it just naturally occurs when you are on the island – or any island for that matter. The ferries and the helicopter are typically the ones that do stay on time.”

Walking around Avalon, I noticed the chimes struck noon at 12:30 p.m. Eating at a local bar and restaurant, the lunch menu wasn’t available until 11:30 a.m. – however, on island time, that actually translated to about noon. Even in the room I stayed at, while enjoying the amenities of Pavilion Hotel, I casually looked at the clock – turns out it was running 30 minutes behind.

However, before turning your watch back, it is important to know while it can be expected some restaurants and businesses may operate on a slightly slower pace, most tourist attractions and ferry departures will run as anticipated according to Pacific Standard Time.

On the Mainland, especially on California’s hectic and populous coastline, sometimes it’s hard to imagine finding an extra minute to think or relax, let alone 30. Although, that’s the point – on Catalina Island, it’s a different and magical place akin to the legendary Arthurian island that the city of Avalon shares its name, which strangely enough also translates from Welsh to “the island of apples.”

Perhaps the fruit of Catalina’s virtues could be summed up in a quote by Pericles: “Time is the wisest counselor of all.” Think of it this way: Essentially, visitors are gaining a little bit more time in the day to enjoy the sights, self-reflection or even just peacefully being in one of the most peculiar and scenic places in all of California.

The purpose, though – and, frankly, one of the best ways to enjoy the island life – is to take a deep breath, grab a refreshing beverage and to anticipate you’re about to slowdown significantly. Relish the joys of island time.

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