Wildlife cruises

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center has partnered with Puget Sound Express whale watching company to offer these seasonal wildlife cruises around Protection Island since 1994, providing a view to 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.

Proceeds go to support educational programs at the Marine Science Center!

Bird migration cruises

Offered in the spring and fall, the Bird Migration Cruises offer a unique opportunity for an idyllic natural science adventure, enabling people to gain a better understanding of our marine ecosystems and interrelationships which abound in these waters.

Common Murre
photo by: Wendy Feltham

2024 dates coming soon!

Saturdays, 3 – 6 p.m.

    Book your Bird Migration Cruise on the Puget Sound Express website.

    Puffin cruises

    Each summer Protection Island comes alive as thousands of seabirds arrive to breed and raise their young, including rhinoceros auklets, glaucous-winged gulls, pigeon guillemots, black oystercatchers, two kinds of cormorants, and of course the tufted puffin.  

    For 2023 Puffin tours we are changing our destination from exclusively Protection Island, to potentially Protection Island or Smith Island. In recent years more puffins have been returning to Smith Island so depending on the greater population the captain will ultimately determine which is best to visit for this tour. We will only have time to go to one or the other, not both while out on this tour. Luckily the puffin population in recent years has increased so your chances are good to view them during the summer and at either island.

    Although we can’t guarantee a sighting on every outing, the chance of spotting a puffin on our evening Puffin Cruises is very good. 

    Tufted Puffin
    photo by: David Gluckman

    2024 dates coming soon!

    Saturdays, 6 – 9 p.m.

      Book your Puffin Cruise on the Puget Sound Express website.

      Cost (2023 prices)

      Tickets are $90 per person.
      Children 2-10 years of age are $70.
      Tickets for PTMSC members are $70.
      Please note: 1 member discount per membership card.
      Become at PTMSC member!

      General information

      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. The route is at the captain’s discretion.

      The three-hour cruises depart from the Point Hudson Marina. More information about Puget Sound Express, their boats and more can be found on their website.

      Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge

      Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge’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.

      The Refuge website is a great resource for the birds and other species you could see on a Protection Island wildlife cruise.

      Protection Island Aquatic Reserve

      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.

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