Many of us are shopping local this holiday season to support businesses that are struggling because of COVID-19.
As a way to help out, Whidbey and Camano Islands Tourism has curated an easy-to-use guide for holiday shopping that showcases gifts from Whidbey and Camano islands.
The first-ever “Home for the Holidays” guide features hundreds of gift ideas, from smoked mussels and lodging deals, to handmade candles and kayaking tours.
A cartoon whale — aptly named Gail the Whale — points out tips throughout the guide. She is wearing a mask. (We’ve added her tips and some of our own throughout this feature.)
“This year, travel was abbreviated to short, distanced getaways — or for many — scrapped altogether due to COVID-19,” said Sherrye Wyatt, marketing manager for Whidbey and Camano Islands Tourism. “The artisans, producers and innkeepers of our destination have felt this economic impact in a very real way.”
Wyatt said that tourism on Whidbey and Camano islands has dropped by nearly 14% overall since COVID-19 hit. If you look at the numbers city by city, however, it’s clear that some are faring better than others. For example, Langley’s tourism is down 22%, there’s a 30% drop in Oak Harbor and a Coupeville’s tourism has been cut by 43%.
“We’re looking at a difficult winter,” she said. “Our local businesses that are so dependent on tourism haven’t seen those visitors this year.”
While you can order most of these gifts online or by phone, you’re also more than welcome to visit Whidbey or Camano Island to shop local. Island County is in Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phased reopening plan.
Island County offers free bus service through Island Transit, so you can ride your way around Whidbey and/or Camano.
All island shops are following state and local health and safety guidelines, so visitors can shop safely this holiday season.
Here’s a tip: Stop at Camano Commons as you pick up gifts on Camano Island. It’s home to the Camano Island Marketplace, as well as restaurants, a taphouse and coffee roaster.
“We’ve been scouring island businesses and retail operators to develop a comprehensive list of island makers and goods so that we can help support these folks,” said Erin Osborne, who helped with the gift guide. “It’s developed as an opportunity to get gifts for those you love, from the islands you love.”
You’ll find hundreds of holiday specials offered by bookstores, wineries, breweries, distilleries, artists and artisans, coffee roasters, bed-and-breakfasts, hotels and inns, arts and craft stores, and, of course, gift shops. As if that wasn’t enough, more businesses and deals are added to the online guide each day.
Osborne said that most of the items featured in the 2020 guide are available for U.S. shipping.
Here’s a tip: If you’re looking for a holiday staycation or a spot to host relatives, a variety of island lodgings listed in the guide are offering 20% off a three-night stay.
The following are some highlights from the Whidbey and Camano islands shopping guide.
Whidbey Island Natural: The mother-and-son operation in Freeland offers all-natural, artisanal bath and skincare products inspired by the Pacific Northwest. Featured in the guide is their line of therapeutic bubble baths for stress and strains. The Mutiny Bay bubble bath is lavender bergamot scented and meant for relaxation. Cost is $22. More at www.winatural.com.
Camano Island Coffee Roasters: This local business ethically sources its beans and invests in nonprofits. If you order coffee online, the beans are roasted and shipped in 48 hours. Any of the holiday blends — like a pound of dark roast Holiday Midnight — would make a great gift for the coffee lover in your life. Cost is $18.99. More at www.camanoislandcoffee.com.
Utopia Farm Candles: The company’s name was inspired by the owner’s childhood memories of running through her grandmothers’ garden on Utopia Road in the Skagit Valley. Choose from a variety of hand-poured soy and beeswax candles made in Oak Harbor. We recommend the pumpkin chai candle. It smells delicious! Cost is $18. More at www.utopiafarmcandles.com.
North Whidbey Farm: The farmstead’s handmade goat milk soap is made with pure ingredients you can actually pronounce. The company offers a range of skin-care products, including masks, salves and facial oils. Highlighted in the guide is the Oak Harbor farm’s clove and mint soap bar. Cost is $7. More at www.northwhidbeyfarm.com.
Penn Cove Shellfish: The company grows and harvests more than 2 million pounds of mussels per year in Penn Cove and Quilcene Bay. Featured in the guide are its petite-size smoked mussels. Whether you’re gift giving or entertaining, these mussels can be enjoyed in pasta dishes, chowders, topped on a crostini or right out of the can. Cost is $5.99. More at www.penncoveshellfish.com.
Sweet Mona’s Chocolates: Sweet Mona’s makes a variety of confections in small batches using only the finest quality ingredients. The Langley shop’s holiday special is a 12-piece gift box of chocolate-covered sea salt caramels. Cost is $24. More at www.sweetmonas.com.
Whidbey Tea Co.: The local tea merchant offers organic teas made from blending dried natural ingredients. Featured in the gift guide is Whidbey Tea’s Mango Oolong tin containing 15 tea bags. Cost is $14.95. More at www.whidbeytea.com.
Camano Island Honey Works: This local company offers a skin conditioner and repair balm made from 100% natural beeswax. Cold weather and increased handwashing due to COVID-19 are no match for Boo Boo Balm. Cost is $4.99. More at www.camanoislandhoney.com.
Mutiny Bay Blues: Take your pick of blueberry products made on Whidbey Island. Featured are the Freeland company’s organic dried blueberries. We recommend swapping in the blueberries for the raisins in oatmeal cookies. Cost is $3.25 for 2 ounces or $12.99 for 7 ounces. More at www.mutinybayblues.com.
Kristoferson Farm: The Camano Island farm recently launched an open-air farm stand offering fresh-made jams, preserves and Washington wines. You can also pick up some lavender goodies from the company’s online store. Highlighted in the gift guide is a lavender sachet to freshen up your vehicle or a favorite room in the house. Cost is $5. More at www.kristofersonfarm.com.
Madrona Supply Co.: This Clinton shop is the home of locally designed and crafted goods and apparel. The featured item — Madrona’s “I Love Whidbey” tea towels that are screen printed in-house — is just a sampling of what is available. Cost is $16. More at www.madronasupplyco.com.
Puget Sound Backyard Birds: You can pick up holiday greeting cards made by Craig Johnson at shops throughout Whidbey Island. His watercolors of birds you can find in your own back yard are a lovely way to send greetings to friends and family this season. Cost is $5.50. More at www.pugetsoundbackyardbirds.com.
Here’s a tip: Purchase one of each gift on our list and you’ll have an impressive Island County gift basket.
Island Transit, Island County Commissioners, Island County Public Health, Island County Chambers of Commerce — Camano Island, Clinton, Coupeville, Freeland, Langley and Oak Harbor — helped Whidbey and Camano Islands Tourism make the guide.
“It’s been such a challenging year for all of us, and from an economic perspective especially retail and tourism businesses,” Osborne said. “So we’re hoping to drum up local and regional awareness for some of the artists, experiences and island made foods and goods that make great gifts.”
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; email@example.com; @sarabruestle.
If you shop
Check out the “Home for the Holidays” gift guide presented by Whidbey and Camano Islands Tourism online at www.whidbeycamanoislands.com. You can download the PDF of the guide, if you’d rather browse that way.
Or pick up the printed 24-page guide at any of the six visitors centers in Island County — on Camano Island and in Clinton, Coupeville, Freeland, Langley and Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island.