Best Places to Live

Oak Harbor, WA

Population: 23,035
Photo: Kathy Reed

The scenery in and around Oak Harbor, WA, attracts many new residents to this charming island town, but what keeps them here is the city's high quality of life and excellent services.

The Cascade and Olympic Mountains can be seen from nearly anywhere in the city, which gets its name from its abundance of oak trees. Aviation anchors Oak Harbor's economy, with Boeing and the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island as the top employers. Residents highly value educational opportunities and family activities, going outdoors for the many days of sunshine the area receives. Oak Harbor made our list of Awesome Water Cities because of its aquatic activities like whale watching and boating. Families flock to Windjammer Park, also known as City Beach, to swim in the lagoon, jog on the waterfront trail, picnic and play sports. The nearby Deception Pass State Park, a 4,134-acre marine and camping park, provides residents with more than 35 miles of hiking trails, boat ramps, beaches, and areas to kayak, scuba dive and sail. Gray whales are often spotted in the Puget Sound, a nearby inlet of the Pacific Ocean, during spring months while orcas frolic in the fall.

New shops and restaurants in Oak Harbor are opening in the well-preserved downtown area, where a street improvement project was recently completed. Situated on the waterfront, the historic downtown area resembles an early 1900s village. Cultural centers like the Whidbey Playhouse and the Naval Heritage Center provide entertainment and enrichment. Local foods and handmade crafts may be purchased at the Oak Harbor Farmers Market, which is open from spring to fall. Many residents take advantage of the area's bus system, Island Transit, to get to work or run errands. Two ferry runs get passengers to the mainland in less than 90 minutes.

Growth rate (2010-12): .6%

Size: 9.42 square miles

Median home value: $239,100

Average commute: 17 mins.


Check out these picks for Top 10 Best Winter Vacation Destinations.