Settled first by sea captains, then the Irish, and finally by immigrants from Holland, Oak Harbor takes its name from the many ancient Garry oak trees that grew here; those remaining are protected by law. The arrival of the military during World War II transformed this town, making it a busy place.
The city’s historic downtown faces the water and retains a bit of local character. But the Highway 20 arterial comes as a shock if you’ve just driven in from genteel Coupeville and Langley; this commercial area is filled with strip malls and suburban flotsam. The convenience kind of makes up for it—Oak Harbor is the cheapest place to pick up gas and groceries on the island and there are number of affordable motels here.
Getting to Oak Harbor
Catch Island Transit (360/321-6688 or 800/240-8747, www.islandtransit.org, free) Route 1 in Oak Harbor bound for parts south and Clinton. Route 5 snakes north all the way off the island to Mount Vernon.
Ride on Airporter Shuttle (360/380-8800 or 800/235-5247, www.airporter.com) between Oak Harbor and Sea-Tac Airport.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition