A Ranch Tour in Paradise

Take the reins of Catalina Island



Catalina Island vineyard


Catalina Island can feel like a manifestation of magic. From some vantage points, you take in the views of rolling hills and the sparkling Pacific, and it’s easy to imagine exactly what the island was like 100 years ago. (Or 1,000 years ago, for that matter — remember the crisp photograph of unspoiled, all-natural point of land on Apple’s wallpaper for 2019’s Catalina macOS? That was the island’s north side.)

This 74-square-mile island is so breathtaking, the sunlight so rich, it’s little wonder that Chicago Cubs owners and chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr. fell in love with the place and purchased the Catalina Island Company in 1919. His descendants have been the land’s thoughtful stewards ever since, creating a happy balance of operating hospitality enterprises while also safeguarding and honoring the natural beauty and resources. The family has a deep commitment to preserving the land: In 1972, William’s son Philip launched the Catalina Island Conservancy, the private nonprofit that protects 88 percent of the island, including 50 miles of coastline and 150 miles of hiking trails.



Now, for the first time, the family is sharing the beauty of their historic Arabian horse ranch and offering outings with El Rancho Escondido. This hidden ranch was originally built by Philip and Helen Wrigley in 1930 as a breeding ground for the island’s native wild horses, and over the years expanded to breed the family’s Arabian prizewinners. More recently, the ranch took on a new wrinkle: Alison Wrigley Rusack, Philip’s granddaughter, and her husband Geoff Rusack grow grapes for their Rusack Vineyard’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. A tour lets you explore all of it, starting with an Insta-worthy retro bus that departs Avalon and winds you up to the ranch via Stagecoach Road (keep those cameras at the ready to get snaps of the island’s famous free-roaming bison). Once at the ranch, you can check out the stables and courtyard, look on as the ranch hands show off the horses, and tour the vintage tack and memorabilia in the Wrigley family’s Saddle & Trophy Room.

The excursion continues, trading a high horse for a higher power — and a visit to the newly built Bishop’s Chapel, with its storybook-perfect proportions, and a plate-glass apse that affords expansive views of the grounds and the ocean. A little bit of magic indeed. visitcatalinaisland.com.






May 25, 2024

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