Hood Canal Travel Guide: Birdwatching

Itinerary #9: Winter/Spring Birdwatching Near Shelton, WA

With its wealth of shoreline, fresh- and saltwater marshes, mudflats, and of course the bountiful forest, the Olympic Peninsula is a birders’ paradise. And whereas winter and spring aren’t the most popular seasons for human tourists (meaning less competition for lodging and dining!), they happen to be the best for catching the avian crowds. From soaring birds of prey to elusive divers, birdwatching is one more reason to get to Hood Canal when there aren't hordes of RVs cruising down HWY 101.

The Audubon Society’s Great Washington State Birding Trail is a spectacular resource for locals and visitors, and even traveling exclusively within the Olympic Loop could occupy the dedicated birder for weeks. Our much shorter itinerary is doable in a day, and includes two designated Important Bird Areas (IBA).

Whether it satisfies your ornithological cravings for the season or simply whets your appetite for much more, gear up (our suggestions are below) and follow along!


Theler Wetlands | 7am

If you only make one dedicated birding stop in the Hood Canal, Theler Wetlands, with its easily navigated trails, interpretive kiosks, and educational exhibits, should be it. More than two miles of interpretive walking trails through 39 acres of protected wetlands provide an excellent introduction to birdlife in the Hood Canal. Newbies and experienced birders alike will delight in views of bald eagles, green-winged teals, horned grebes, and more. You may even be able to spot otters in the freshwater marsh!

Photo courtesy of Clint Ferarra

Photo courtesy of Clint Ferarra

Sunset Beach Deli | 10am

Whether you worked up an appetite for lunch or just need a quick coffee to fuel the next birding venture, the Sunset Beach Deli is a local favorite for gyros and Philly-style cheesesteaks. In the mornings, it’s also the go-to location for filling breakfast burritos. If you’re not quite ready to eat, have them wrap up a sandwich and take it to go.


Sunset Beach Grocery & Deli winter hours:

7am-9:30pm; 8am-9:30pm Sundays


Twanoh State Park | 1pm

Twanoh State Park is a favorite in the summer for swimming and watersports, but the quieter winter and spring months make it a great place for viewing wildlife and birds. Bring your binoculars to the shoreline for an eyeful of diving birds such as loons, mergansers, murrelets, and ruddy ducks with their distinctive upright tails. In the towering cedars and maples inland, listen for brown creepers and red crossbills.

Bonus: Between Twanoh and Potlatch, Highway 106 takes you right by the Skokomish River Delta. The overlook pull-off is a good spot to scope gulls, grebes, and goldeneyes.

Photo courtesy of Clint Ferarra

Photo courtesy of Clint Ferarra


Potlatch State Park | 4pm

Like Twanoh, Potlatch bustles with humans in the summer and birds in the winter and spring. With 5,700 feet of saltwater shoreline, it’s a great place for viewing waterfowl, particularly during high tide. In the water, look for heron, scoters and scaups, and check the trees for fox sparrows and Steller’s jays.

Photo courtesy of Clint Ferarra

Photo courtesy of Clint Ferarra


Dinner at 2 Margaritas | 6pm

Nothing works up an appetite quite like a day spent in the bracing sea air. Whether you’re celebrating new additions to your Life List or toasting to better luck next time, we recommend a margarita (or two) at the warm, colorful 2 Margaritas restaurant in Union. Generous portions in a cozy atmosphere make it the perfect cap to another beautiful day in the Hood Canal.


Sunday- Thursday 11am-10pm
Friday-Saturday 11am-11pm


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