A beach and water with the setting sun and mountains in the distance and colorful clouds overhead.

In the Embrace of the Salish Sea

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A beach and water with the setting sun and mountains in the distance and colorful clouds overhead.

"It is still the embrace of the Salish Sea that ties our islands together."
By Laura Hilton

For residents of Whidbey and Camano Islands, the Salish Sea is our gateway to home. Every islander knows the sigh of relief when you pass back over your bridge or ferry, calmness returning with the marine air. We crave a coastline, and feel better with the sound of waves in our ears. The embrace of the Salish Sea is what ties our neighboring islands together, and defines our communities.


"Today, these waters are still an essential part of life for islanders. "
For South Whidbey residents, that Salish gateway just got a big makeover. In late December, Washington State Ferries opened their first new terminal in 40 years, at the Mukilteo crossing point to Whidbey. The new terminal aims to accommodate the growing ridership of the route, and its eco-friendly design incorporates artwork and heritage of the original residents of this land, the Coast Salish people.

The Easy Island

The gateway to Camano is a quick bridge, making it “The Easy Island”, and means that the island community is more closely connected with their mainland neighbors in Stanwood. Because Stanwood is in a different county though, this past year has been a very hard one for the two communities who share so much, with public health guidelines sometimes different on each side of the bridge. The Salish Sea connects those neighbors too, and they are thrilled to be one society again.

Deception Pass Bridge

On the north end of Whidbey Island, the show stopping Deception Pass Bridge remains iconic as ever. With a fresh coat of paint, and a clean bill of maintenance health, it’s ready for another busy season. The surging waters of this region will soon be full of Spring life, as another whale migration begins. Happy campers will return to the shores of the State Park with the sunshine.

Shop the Stores of the Salish Sea

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Wind and Tide Bookshop

The Wind and Tide Bookshop is an independent bookstore that has been an entertaining corner of Oak Harbor since 1967.
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Aqua Gifts

Aqua Gifts offers thoughtfully curated items from the islands and more. You’ll find gifts, jewelry, shoes, bath and body and items for the home.
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Healthy Pet, The

The Healthy Pet specializes in premium quality food for dogs and cats. Come check out their self serve dog wash, for just $20.00 per dog.
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Harbor Gifts on the Wharf

Whether shopping for yourself or for friends, Harbor Gifts on the Wharf has great knick-knacks, kits, sweatshirts, hats, gifts, and more.
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Honey Bear

This toy store has fun finds and tastes for all ages.  Kids will wander for hours and parents will find things from their own childhoods.
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The Beach House

You’ll find the fun and whimsical along with the practical and useful at The Beach House.  You’ll find items for home decor and beautiful pieces of art.
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"This area is famous as one of the best places to fish for salmon in North America."
In the past year or so, our compulsion to be near the sea only intensified, as outdoor spaces became the safest place to be. Luckily for us, we’ve got no shortage of gorgeous coasts. So gather up the kids and explore a new beach, or an old favorite. Windjammer Park in Oak Harbor has many special features, including over 2000 feet of waterfront trail, perfect for pushing a stroller or wheelchair. The vast Fort Casey State Park stretches well over 400 acres and offers a dose of military history along with stunning views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
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Man in a rowboat
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Visit Whidbey & Camano Islands

Pet-Friendly Beaches

It may be our furry family members who love the beach best of all, making Double Bluff Beach in Freeland a popular choice for an off-leash destination. To avoid bringing the beach home with you, stop in at The Healthy Pet nearby and take advantage of their self-service dog wash station. Or pick up a ball chucker at Island Pet in Oak Harbor, sure to tire Fido out. If you’d like to make a weekend of it, there are several dog friendly inns available. Freeland’s Harbor Inn, the Best Western in Oak Harbor, and the Coupeville Inn are all happy to host pets, just to name a few.

One of the oldest hotels around here is the Captain Whidbey.  The main building is more than 100 years old and was made from trees growing on the property.  There are also cabins and rooms overlooking a lagoon.  New owners gently updated the property and re-emphasized fine dining featuring locally-sourced food like Penn Cove Mussels.

Does this whet your appetite for a visit? Check out these special deals on lodging.

Explore!

Shop the Stores of the Salish Sea

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Star Store

South Whidbey’s favorite market is also a gift-giver’s dream, with unique items for everyone.  The mercantile features an eclectic collection of fashionable apparel, shoes, and accessories for men, women, and children of all ages.  There are also items for the home and kitchen gadgets along with gourmet dinnerware, glassware, cars, toys and just plain old fun stuff!
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Back to the Island

Back to the Island sells clothes and novelties popular with tourists and neighbors alike.
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Critters & Co.

Critters and Co. provides healthy food, tips to care for your pet, love, pet services, (nail and wing trims), toys and more.
 

Learn more about fishing, clamming, and crabbing.

Learn more!
 

On the Water

Boats Afloat 2 offers tours from Camano Island

Kayakers the world over are drawn to these incredible shorelines. No need to invest though, you can simply rent a kayak for the afternoon at Penn Cove Outfitters, on the historic wharf in Coupeville. Or Whidbey Island Kayaking at the Langley Marina: offering rentals, instruction, and guided tours. They also host a guided beach walk, where you may discover you’ve been walking past interesting treasures for years! Right next door is the Boatyard Inn, with spectacular studios overlooking the Sound and southern tip of Camano. If you’d like to get on the water but not under your own steam, there are wonderful boat tours available on both islands. Take a scenic cruise or go on a crabbing adventure with BoatsAfloat 2 on Camano; explore the thrilling waters under the famous bridge or go whale watching with Deception Pass Tours.

Everyone knows the benefit of green spaces and how they soothe the psyche, but to islanders the blue spaces are just as important. We treasure our nearness to the sea, and are always looking for new ways to connect with our coastal environment. For more information about how you can protect this precious habitat we share, reach out to Sound Water Stewards, always looking to the future.


Sailing on Penn Cove

Everyone knows the benefit of green spaces and how they soothe the psyche, but to islanders the blue spaces are just as important. We treasure our nearness to the sea, and are always looking for new ways to connect with our coastal environment. For more information about how you can protect this precious habitat we share, reach out to Sound Water Stewards, always looking to the future.

About the Author: Laura Hilton grew up on Whidbey Island and has since worked and traveled around the world, but this special place keeps calling her back.

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