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Washington’s Island Escape

Update on the Port's COVID-19 response Learn more.

September 11, 2020

It’s still hot and smoky outside, you’re stir crazy, and all you can think of is a cool breeze off the water on your face. Not to mention epic views, whales performing aquatic gymnastics just for you, bald eagles soaring overhead, and deer stopping to watch you. All that and native shellfish and world-renowned local wines. Luckily you’re in Washington State so it’s just another day on Whidbey and Camano Islands.

Pack the family, grab your masks, and get the Whidbey/Camano experience, whether you are visiting in person or escaping in your mind:

1.    Spot and track whales

Fall can be a good time to spot orcas. After spending most of the summer in the San Juan Islands, our Resident orca pods venture south into inland waters for the fall and early winter months, traveling down Admiralty Inlet chasing chum salmon runs into lower Puget Sound.

But sightings are possible for much of the year: 

  • Late February – early June     
    Gray whales from Langley, most beaches off South Whidbey Island, or further north in Saratoga Passage
  • October-December     
    Orcas, which are much harder to predict as they travel back and forth between Lower Puget Sound, Whidbey Island, the San Juans, the B.C. Canadian Islands, the outer coast, and even down to California!

Read about the history of whales, the best places to see them, and and how you can help track them.

2.    Explore like Vancouver  

At the northern tip of Whidbey, Deception Pass suspension bridge connects Whidbey island and the mainland. In 2020, the historic bridge celebrates its 85-year anniversary. Spot whales and adventurers floating by on the bubbling Puget Sound waters below — a passage that was first discovered by Captain George Vancouver.

Explore the seasons and characters of Washington state’s iconic and most visited state park — Deception Pass State Park with over 4,000 acres of forests, shoreline, and wildlife.
 

3.    Experience nature as art and food

Wildlife habitats include fresh and salt-water wetlands, shorelines, fields and forests and a multitude of species can be viewed in all seasons including bald eagles, herons, Canada Geese, and quail. 

Local bird photographers Craig and Joy Johnson describe the process of taking their most famous shots and the birds that can be seen in the area in this video:

There is a host of things to see and do on the islands which also showcase the local fresh organic produce. Camano Island Honey is a result of one woman's effort to re-establish bees on Camano Island. 

4.    Learn how to shuck an oyster

Naturally, oysters are readily available on the islands and tend to be the giant variety called Gigas. Chef Vincent Nattress is the owner and chef at Whidbey Island's Orchard Kitchen —  a farm to table dining experience and teaching restaurant. Find out how to shuck an oyster from the pros.

5.    Experience epic views

Explore your backyard and stay safe but still have an amazing experience. There’s beauty in every turn on Whidbey and Camano Islands. From beautiful beaches and scenic mountains to the rural ambiance and forest drives, the views are perfect for chasing away big city stress.

These three drives will make you say “Wow!” Do them in person, or experience them through 360 degree videos:

  • Ebey’s Landing
  • West Beach
  • Deception Pass

Safe travel during COVID-19

Of course it’s essential to keep your family and the community safe during COVID-19. Whidbey and Camano Islands are on Phase 3 of re-opening. Here’s what that means:

  • Washington Ferries has returned to two-boat service between Clinton and Mukilteo seven days a week
  • The Coupeville — Pt. Townsend ferry is already at one-boat service seven days a week until further notice.  Reservations a few days in advance are strongly recommended
  • A statewide mandatory facial covering order is currently in effect that applies to both indoor and outdoor activities taking place in public spaces, with certain exceptions.  Businesses must require people to comply with this order
  • Hotels, motels, B and B's, and most other lodging are open on Whidbey and Camano Islands
  • In phase 3, non-essential travel is allowed, and our innkeepers are ready to welcome you. BUT the surrounding counties  are in phase 2, which limits travel
  • Restaurants are limited to 75 percent capacity outside or 50 percent inside restaurants, with no more than 5 people at a table Indoor dining is limited to members of the same household
  • Bars are closed for indoor service and there’s no indoor family entertainment like mini golf, bowling, or arcades

    Get more detail and updates 

Physical distancing graphic

Supporting state tourism

The Port of Seattle supports Washington State tourism with several programs because it’s a vital and significant segment of King County and Washington state's economy. COVID-19 has acutely damaged employment in Washington State's travel sector.

  • Through the end of April 2020, job losses within the leisure and hospitality sector represented 42 percent of all job losses in the state
  • From March 1 through May 23, hotel room revenue declined by 72 percent
  • For the week ending June 28, 2020, traffic at SEA International Airport averaged 15,500 passengers through TSA (a 75 percent reduction over 2019)

Tourism Recovery Initiative

In July 2020, the Port Commission approved the Tourism Recovery Initiative, and a partnership with the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA), the official destination marketing organization for Washington State. Funding will kick off a multifaceted statewide marketing program to positively impact the state and the Port's travel assets, bring important travel service and hospitality jobs back, and help lift this important sector of Washington State's economy out of the doldrums. 

Tourism Marketing Support Program

Through this program, Whidbey/ Camano Islands Tourism has received matching funds awards several years in a row:

  • 2017: $10,000 in funding to create new online information in five foreign languages, participate in international travel trade shows, and host international travel writers with the goal of increasing international visitation
  • 2016:  $6,000 to attend an international tourism show to increase international tour programs to the islands. And to create new website messaging, advertising and collateral targeted toward international visitation

•    The next application cycle kicks off in December 2020. Learn more

Spotlight SEA Airport Advertising Program

Since 2017, the Port has reserved 10 percent of the available advertising space at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to advertise state destinations and events on signs throughout the airport concourses and baggage claim. The Port covers the cost of reserving the advertising, and awardees pay for production, installation, and taxes.

Photo credit for top photo: Michael Stadler 

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