Caraleigh Hernandez (left), 10, and her sister, Denelle, 14, play on the beach at Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island. (Emily Gilbert / Whidbey News-Times)

Caraleigh Hernandez (left), 10, and her sister, Denelle, 14, play on the beach at Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island. (Emily Gilbert / Whidbey News-Times)

Whidbey sees an influx of tourists — almost as many as in 2019

Ferry passenger volume indicates a rebound in the island’s popularity as a destination.

Although Whidbey Island tourism hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels, it is getting close.

Washington State Ferries reported that the Mukilteo-Clinton route carried 62,239 riders over Memorial Day weekend this year, from from May 27-31. There were 66,895 ferry riders over Memorial Day weekend in 2019, before the pandemic.

The Coupeville-Port Townsend route, which has yet to return to two-boat service, saw 11,159 riders this Memorial Day weekend. There were 17,575 riders during the same period in 2019.

Deception Pass State Park collected increased revenue from camping reservations and sales at the main gate. This year the park brought in $78,218 in revenue for the week leading up to Memorial Day, while the same week in 2019 brought in $64,731.

Deception Pass is consistently the most-visited state park in Washington and was 33% busier over Memorial Day weekend than Cape Disappointment State Park, according to park manager Jason Armstrong.

Part of that is likely due to a computer glitch that released all of the camping sites at once instead of in stages, he explained.

Now almost all of the campsites are reserved through peak season, he said.

The pandemic had a positive impact on the number of visitors at the state park last year, but Armstrong said he didn’t think numbers would go up even further.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s consistent with last year,” he said of visitor numbers. “There are only so many spaces in the park where you can put cars.”

Increases in traffic and wait times at restaurants become an issue across the island during the summer, but Langley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Inge Morascini said that tourism is a large part of the local economy.

She agreed that staffing continues to be an issue but said she thought it would balance out over the summer.

There is also an imbalance of housing on the island, Morascini said, but she didn’t think it was solely due to tourism.

Morascini noted that another impact from the pandemic is that hotels have reported guests are staying longer than usual. She suggested it is likely tied to remote work.

Sherrye Wyatt of Whidbey and Camano Islands Tourism asked for patience.

“Everyone is still processing how comfortable they are with the increased level of visitors,” she said in an email, referencing the ongoing pandemic. “It is understandable why people want to be on our beautiful islands and get quickly into nature.”

Wyatt said she is looking forward to when the island can welcome back international tourists, too, but it is likely not going to happen for a while.

“That is OK, we are still ramping up our infrastructure and it is going to take time.”

This story originally was published by the South Whidbey Record, a sibling of The Daily Herald.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

Grayson Huff, left, a 4th grader at Pinewood Elementary, peeks around his sign during the Marysville School District budget presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
State OKs Marysville plan with schools, jobs on chopping block

The revised plan would mean the loss of dozens of jobs and two schools — still to be identified — in a school district staring down a budget crunch.

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

The Trestle’s junction with I-5 is under evaluation (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Here’s your chance to give feedback on the US 2 trestle and its future

Often feel overwhelmed, vulnerable and on shaky ground? So is the trestle. A new $17 million study seeks solutions for the route east of Everett.

John Pederson lifts a flag in the air while himself and other maintenance crew set up flags for Memorial Day at Floral Hills Cemetery on Friday, May 24, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Volunteers place thousands of flags by veterans’ graves in Lynnwood

Ahead of Memorial Day, local veterans ensure fellow military service members are never forgotten.

Brian Hennessy leads a demonstration of equipment used in fire training at the Maritime Institute in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
‘Ready to go full sail’: Maritime Institute embarks at Port of Everett

The training facility offers Coast Guard-certified courses for recreational boaters and commerical vessel operators.

George Beard poses for a photo outside of the the Stanwood Library in Stanwood, Washington on Wednesday, May 8, 2024.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
From sick to the streets: How an illness left a Stanwood man homeless

Medical bills wiped out George Beard’s savings. Left to heal in his car, he got sicker. Now, he’s desperate for housing. It could take years.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Lawsuit says Snohomish County deputies not justified in Sultan shooting

Two deputies repeatedly shot an unarmed Sultan man last year, body camera video shows. An internal investigation is pending.

An airplane is parked at Gate M9 on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. (Jordan Hansen/The Herald)
Good luck to Memorial Day travelers: If you’re like me, you’ll need it

I spent a night in the Chicago airport. I wouldn’t recommend it — but with flight delays near an all-time high, you might want to pack a pillow.

toon
Editorial cartoons for Friday, May 24

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Cascade’s Mia Walker, right, cries and hugs teammate Allison Gehrig after beating Gig Harbor on Thursday, May 23, 2024 in Lacey, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Seniors Wilson, Tripp power Cascade softball past Gig Harbor

The pair combined for three homers as the Bruins won the Class 3A state softball opening-round game.

The original Mountlake Terrace City Council, Patricia Neibel bottom right, with city attorney, sign incorporation ordinance in 1954. (Photo provided by the City of Mountlake Terrace)
Patricia Neibel, last inaugural MLT council member, dies at 97

The first woman on the council lived by the motto, “Why not me?” — on the council, at a sheriff’s office in Florida, or at a leper colony in Thailand.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.