Our Bird Migration Cruises offer a unique opportunity for an idyllic natural science adventure, enabling people to gain a better understanding of the relationships between the marine and shoreline ecosystems.
Just outside of Port Townsend is an amazing National Wildlife Refuge — Protection Island — home to breeding, nesting, and flyway populations of marine bird species at different times of the year. 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, and elephant seals often haul out to molt there during the summer.
The Port Townsend Marine Science Center has been leading seasonal wildlife cruises since 1994 to view the changing community of birds and mammals using the sanctuary. Our cruises are hosted by seasoned naturalists and PTMSC interpreters, who provide excellent commentary on the natural history of the island and the wildlife sighted. We look forward to seeing you on a cruise!
Photo by David Gluckman
The three-hour cruises depart from the Point Hudson Marina. On-board refreshments are available, or you may bring a sack lunch.
PLEASE NOTE: In good weather, cruises typically go through the Protection Island Aquatic Reserve and circumnavigate Protection Island, a National Wildlife Refuge located at the mouth of Discovery Bay. If the weather is rough, the captain may head south toward Port Ludlow to remain in calmer waters. Route is at the Captain's discretion.
More about Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge and Protection Island Aquatic Reserve Protection Island’s 364-acres is covered by grass and low brush, with a small timbered area, high sandy bluffs and low sand spits on two ends of the island. This combination of bluffs and sand spits provides excellent habitat for nesting seabirds and the waters around it offer a marine buffet. Located at the start of Admiralty Inlet, Protection Island Aquatic Reserve's nutrient rich waters and areas of shallow bank are unique because of the immense tidal exchange and upwelling where Puget Sound waters meet the Pacific fed waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.