Catalina Island’s ‘Airport In The Sky’ is named as such, because it is very near the highest point on the island (it was originally named ‘Buffalo Springs Airport’). The airport is fairly centrally-located on the island, 1602 feet above sea level, and has a single runway stretching 3,250 feet, which was made by blasting away and leveling two peaks, and using the debris to fill in the spaces between.
When you think of an airport, you often think of delays, waiting, annoying security checks, and being grumpy—not a fun place to go on your vacation—but at the Airport In The Sky, it’s a bit different. For one thing, it’s a small airport, without any commercial jets. In fact, if you want to fly in you’ll probably need to own or hire a private plane.
There’s more to the airport than just landing and taking off though, and those other things are what makes the Airport In The Sky such a great place. Each month the Catalina Aero Club hosts a fly-in, which is a fun chance to see a variety of planes, including some historic ones, and talk with pilots & flying enthusiasts. DC-3 Gifts & Grill is most splendid, and more than enough reason to visit the airport. The restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating, serves breakfast and lunch daily, with a menu including buffalo tacos, and some of the very best burgers you’ll ever taste. During the summer, join them for a barbeque. At the shop you’ll find commemorative clothing, knick-knacks, books about Catalina, buffalo jerky, and DC-3’s world famous chocolate chip cookies!
You can get up to the airport by a variety of different methods: hiking, bicycling, taking a shuttle bus, or some other tour vehicle. It’s a little over nine miles to the airport from both Avalon and Twin Harbors, which would be a fairly long walk. Some people recommend taking a ride to the airport, and then hiking around up there, as you are given a spectacular view of the land from up on the highest point.
One other highlight of the airport that you mustn’t miss is the Nature Center. The exhibits there educate about the Island’s ecology and history. There is a history timeline, with life-sized cutouts of the sorts of people that have lived on the island throughout its long history, from the native Tongva people, to cowboys, and beyond. There is a giant wildlife mural by Eve Templeton, and an impressive 40′ x 28′ tile map of Catalina Island.
The Airport In The Sky is a fun place with a variety of attractions, ranging from food to airplanes, to hiking. If you like any of those things, you’ll definitely enjoy a visit.