Just outside of Port Townsend is an amazing National Wildlife Refuge — Protection Island. Nearly 70 percent of the nesting seabird population of Puget Sound and the Straits nest on the island, which includes one of the largest nesting colonies of rhinoceros auklets in the world and the largest nesting colony of glaucous-winged gulls in Washington. The island contains one of the last two nesting colonies of tufted puffins in the Puget Sound area. About 1,000 harbor seals depend upon the island for a pupping and rest area.
The three-hour cruises depart from the Point Hudson Marina and include a stop at Killisut Harbor/Mystery Bay or Smith Island. Naturalists from the Port Townsend Marine Science Center serve as on-board interpreters and provide commentary on local birds, mammals, geology, history and weather. On-board refreshments are available, or you may bring a sack lunch.
As every birder knows, no guarantee can be made that they will be sighted on every outing, but chances are very good that they will be spotted especially on the south side of the island. Like rhinoceros auklets, for which Protection Island is the major nesting site, the puffin use burrows in the cliffs and uplands to raise one or sometimes two chicks. The chance to see them carrying many small fish at one time in their bills, or even swimming, flying, or diving, is exciting.