Kayaking Around the Islands

Your island wilderness experience begins just 20 feet from shore.

by Sherrye Mays

Some adventurers want wilderness when they arrive to Whidbey or Camano islands. Ask Ed Young of Whidbey Island Kayaking Co., and he’ll tell you that Island County’s wilderness begins at only 20 feet off shore. Once you’re in a kayak, you’ve got a pass to experience our islands and their wildlife in a way most people do not.

Kayakers discover gray and orca whales, sea lions and seals, eagles and osprey, crabs, starfish and herons, porpoises and herons; just to name a few animals that tend to find a kayak less intimidating than a power boat. Traveling in silence is a great way to get up close and personal with the wildlife that resides in, plays in and travels through the waters in Island County.

“It really doesn’t matter how deep the water is when you’re in a kayak,” Young said. “We get into places where no one else can get; no boats, hikers. I’ve had huge Dungeness crabs sitting only inches below our boats.”

Seals and sea lions, as shy as they are, are also really curious. They’ve been known to swim behind the kayaks for hours on end.

With waters hovering at 52 degrees Fahrenheit, having kayaking experience or traveling with a tour operator is suggested. Tides, currents and weather all play a factor in getting around Whidbey and Camano islands.

“Kayaking around Island County isn’t just an easy paddle,” Young said. “You have to be aware of the risks and manage them.”

Whidbey and Camano are on the Cascadia Marine Trail, a 150-mile water trail from Olympia to Point Roberts designated as one of only 15 National Millennium Trails by the White House. There are 60 campsites to visit along the way, with six in Island County.