Little did Zane Grey know, as he penned over 80 western novels in his home on Santa Catalina Island, off the coast of California, that the house he designed in 1929 would someday be a charming bed-and-breakfast inn. 

A prolific, best-selling novelist, Zane Grey created robust stories of the American West. Almost single-handedly, he made the Western a new, recognized literary genre. His books glorified the beauty of the West and the frontier character and values of its people; he was ahead of his time in his respectful portrayal of the American Indian. Zane Grey’s books had romantic titles like: Call of the Canyon, Riders of the Purple Sage, The Thundering Herd, Under the Tonto Rim, and The Vanishing American. Many of his stories were transported by Hollywood to the big screen.

This is formerly the island home of prolific, best-selling novelist Zane Grey.

This is the original living room of Zane Grey's home, now a comfortable hotel.

A sprawling pueblo in the Hopi Indian style, Zane Grey built the home when he came to the island town of Avalon in 1926.

Desert Gold bedroom and fireplace,
was previously Grey's study

A patio with chairs overlooks both
the swimming pool and the ocean.

“We’ve tried to keep it as authentic as possible,” says hotel manager Mike Shehabi.

A long hall divides bedrooms overlooking the ocean and overlooking the hills. A massive fireplace in the original living room has a log mantle. The only television in the hotel is in this guest living room, where there is also a grand piano. Heavy benches instead of chairs serve the oak dining table. The open teak beams of the ceiling were transported by Zane Grey from Tahiti on one of his fishing trips. A heavy hewn plank door opens out onto a wide covered patio overlooking the bay and town of Avalon.

The pool area was originally a dirt patio separating the Zane Grey home and that of his brother, Romer C. Grey. The grounds are stuffed with begonias, palms, succulents, potted cacti, and colorful ground cover flowers. Because the home was built into a hillside, many rooms are on different levels, adding to the charm of the place.

Michael tells us, “Tonight you will sleep in the highest bed in the ocean.” He shows us to the “Purple Sage” room. “This was originally (Zane Grey’s) wife’s bedroom.” The windows are opened wide and cool breezes accompany the expansive view of the ocean and the town of Avalon below. There is a queen-sized bed with separate shower and toilet rooms. A beautiful Indian rug with baskets is arranged on one wall; the décor is definitively Southwestern.

Each room is named after a Zane Grey
novel; this is the Purple Sage.

All of the rooms are named after Zane Grey’s novels. “Desert Gold”, a large room with a fireplace, was previously the writer’s study. There are just 16 rooms in all, seven with an ocean view and nine with mountain views. All rooms have queen beds and private baths; some rooms have a queen and two twin beds, for up to four guests. The entire inside of the hotel is non-smoking, but smoking is allowed outside.

While the Pueblo is an easy walk to downtown Avalon and beaches, it’s up and down a hillside, so a scheduled courtesy taxi to and from downtown is provided six times daily. Guests may also hire up a taxi from town anytime during the day and evening. We’d already discovered that the Pueblo provides a courtesy taxi on arrival from the boat dock in Avalon up the hill to the hotel.

A patio off the living room is
perfect for cocktails at sunset
over the town of Avalon.

As dusk settled over the bay of Avalon, and we realized there was no TV in our room, we decided this indeed is the perfect spot for reading a good book. In the manager’s office, we found a complete library of Zane Grey’s novels for guests to borrow while staying at the hotel. Outside the guest living room, on the patio, several guests had gathered to drink wine and marvel at the sunset and twinkling lights of Avalon below. What a fabulous spot for a wedding, I thought; later I learned weddings have actually been held on this patio.

World famous fisherman Zane Grey
in the Florida Keys, 1936, with a
record nurse shark.

Below: Every room comes
with a spectacular view.

Avalon, Catalina Island
800/378-3256(CA only)
Fax: 310/510-1340

During the night two cruise ships arrived at Avalon Bay ; from the height of our view they look like toy boats on a huge pond of sparkling blue water. The morning sun boldly invaded the room, urging us to participate in the day. Poolside we found a breakfast bar complete with guest refrigerator and microwave. There was a complimentary continental breakfast of hot coffee, bread and fresh apples, oranges, and bananas. While my husband made toast, I perused a wall of classic black and white photos relating to the life of Zane Grey. Along with the usual informal portraits of him with various celebrities, there are many of him with large fish.

According to Michael, Zane Grey was fond of saying, “In order to fish, I write.” The author indulged in deep-sea fishing all over the world and held records for Bluefin Tuna, Yellowtail, Tiger Shark, and Broadbill Swordfish, among others.

At 9 a.m., we heard the hour being chimed. Every fifteen minutes thereafter bells tolled. After our poolside breakfast, my husband took a walk up the road to explore the large, Spanish-style bell tower nestled among the trees.

“That bell tower was built by William Wrigley just to annoy Zane Grey,” Michael says. “Wrigley hated him.” Wrigley was the chewing-gum magnate who had purchased controlling interest in Santa Catalina Island in 1919. Apparently there was no love lost between the two, but the reasons why have been lost over the years.

Read The Santa Catalina Feature
All in all, we found the Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel to be a peaceful, relaxing and romantic environment with exceptional views. And Zane Grey? After a great life of creativity and deep-sea fishing adventure, he died in 1939 at the age of 67.

— By
Carolyn Proctor. Las Vegas Jetsetters Magazine correspondent.