There are two main distinctions between the San Juan Islands and Whidbey Island. First, Whidbey has a mainland bridge connection (via Deception Pass) and second, it has Oak Harbor, a modern mishmash of boxlike chain stores and recent urban development that looks rather like a Seattle suburb. Dominated by Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, completed in 1942, Oak Harbor is a military town with a distinguished Irish and Dutch heritage dating to the late 19th century. It accommodates the island's largest marina, a notable playhouse and plenty of indigenous Garry oak trees.
Keen to shake off its lackluster image, Oak Harbor has embarked upon a major charm offensive, with a redevelopment plan emphasizing its nautical heritage and waterfront amenities. The helpful Oak Harbor Visitor Center, situated on the town's main drag, can tell you about the town's not-so-obvious attractions. Holland Happenings is held during the last week in April when the tulips are still in bloom.