Shandelle Battersby gets a Catalina welcome.
A stroll around the bars and restaurants in the pretty Mediterranean-style township of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island reveals an unusual drink on most of their menus - Buffalo Milk.
But this local delicacy has very little to do with the shaggy bovine creature - properly called a bison - that used to freely roam the North American grasslands and nearly became extinct in the 19th century thanks to hunting and disease.
Catalina - a small mountainous desert island off the coast of Orange County, Southern California - has a long and storied history, the most interesting bit of which came about when chewing gum king William Wrigley jnr bought a controlling stake of it in 1919.
Wrigley built the island's famous and fabulous art deco Catalina Casino - not a gambling house at all, rather an entertainment venue - in 1929 and over the years the island attracted many Hollywood stars to its shores, including Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe. Actress Natalie Wood drowned off its coast in 1981 at the age of 43.
Hollywood's interest in Catalina led to it being used as a film location hundreds of times, and 14 bison were shipped to the island in 1924 for the silent film version of Zane Grey's novel The Vanishing American.
The animals were left behind when filming wrapped (they didn't make the final cut) and there are thought to be at least 150 of their descendants still living on it today.
The island is a popular destination from several towns on the Orange County coast, especially for daytrippers and overnighters because it only takes about an hour by ferry to get there.
There are loads of activities on offer across its 195sq km, from zip-lining to scuba diving, and if you take one of the tours that zoom around the rugged terrain (adrenaline junkies, go for the open-air Hummer option), you might see a buffalo yourself. We met Chuck, a huge male, who was calmly chewing on some grass as we idled close by.
The giant beasts, known for their bad temper, are one of the most dangerous animals in the US: despite their size, they can reach speeds of up to 60km/h and they can be mean - two tourists have been gored near Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, in the past few weeks.
So Buffalo Milk has become a Catalina "thing", although it's not milk from a buffalo at all, rather a common cow.
The drink is actually an alcoholic milkshake made of vodka, Kahlua, creme de banana, creme de cacao and regular milk, topped with fresh whipped cream and nutmeg.
One at the Bluewater Avalon, a waterfront seafood restaurant and bar decorated with striking ye olde photographs of well-dressed men and women posing with enormous game fish, cost just under $12.
As he's serving the cocktail up in a hipster Mason jar, the barman tells me Buffalo Milk is used to welcome people to the island.
He'd been living there about six weeks, he said, and on his first day he was served about five or six of them.
That's quite an effort.
Frothy from the blender, the drink wasn't as sweet as I'd expected - the nutmeg seemed to neutralise the sugar - but it was very rich and creamy and though I contemplated making myself really at home on Catalina, one Buffalo Milk was definitely enough.
Getting there: Hawaiian Airlines flies to from Auckland to Los Angles via Honolulu. Ferries depart regularly for Catalina from several points along the Orange County coastline. Long Beach, about a 30-45 minute drive from Los Angeles Airport, is the closest port and the journey takes an hour.
The writer travelled courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines and the Anaheim Orange County Visitors Bureau.