A Trip to the Great Northwest Glass Quest

Each year in February, Stanwood and Camano Island host an epic treasure hunt known as the Great Northwest Glass Quest. Up for grabs are over 400 hand-blown glass floats — each one a unique piece of art. I joined the Quest in 2020 with my family, and after hours of searching, we walked away with one of these awesome treasures. Here’s what to expect from the Quest in 2021 and some tips on how to find your own treasure! 

The event runs for 10 days each February. In 2021, the 12th annual Glass Quest runs February 12-21. Started by Stanwood glass artist Mark Ellinger, the event has grown to attract some 10,000 participants each year. Mark and his son, Marcus Ellinger, create each limited edition glass float with unique colors so no two floats are the same. Each gorgeous glass float is stamped with the 12th-anniversary logo, signed by the artists, marked with a unique number and has a certificate of authenticity.

camano glass float

How it Works

Glass Quest is a free, family-friendly event that can be enjoyed entirely outdoors (and indoors, if you choose). Local businesses and sponsors hide plastic “clue balls” throughout Stanwood and Camano Island. These are not the actual glass floats (they are too fragile and valuable to be hidden), but 3-inch plastic balls that may be camouflaged. Clue balls can be found inside local businesses and outdoors in the parks. Download the Quester Guide Book for a map of all participating locations. If you successfully find a clue ball, congrats! Just follow the instructions inside to claim your glass float treasure. 

clue ball

Make a Plan

In 2018, my family participated in our first Glass Quest. We didn’t find anything that year, but we returned in 2020 with a plan. This is the key to success. Read the FAQ, download the Guide Book or mobile app, and decide where you want to search before setting out. With a little preparation, your chances of finding a clue ball increase greatly! Here are the steps everyone should take to ensure a fun and safe Quest.

glass floats
  1. Check-In Online. It’s not mandatory to check-in, but if you do you’ll be entered to win a free glass ball. You can check in once per day during the event (February 12-21, 2021).
  2. Get your Guide. Download the Guide Book or mobile app to plan your stops for the day. We visited on a clear day and wanted to get outdoors, so we planned to visit several parks. For updates on how many clue balls are left in the parks each day, check the updates page during the event. 
  3. Read the Rules. Before setting out, there are a few rules to follow. Be respectful of businesses and other Questers. In 2021, that means wearing a mask and following all Covid-19 guidelines
  4. Watch the 5 Myths About Glass Quest videos. These helpful videos clear up some common misconceptions about Glass Quest. For example, Myth #2 claims, “the best time to win is in the first few days.” In reality, clue balls are hidden daily throughout the Quest — so your chances of finding a clue ball on the last weekend of Quest are just as good as on the first weekend. 
cama beach ball

Finding the Treasure

After studying the Guide Book and daily updates, my family decided to hit up a few parks on Camano Island. We walked a muddy trail at Iverson Spit Preserve (bring boots!), looking high and low for clue balls with no luck. Still, it was worth the trip. The kids enjoyed exploring the enchanted forest Hobbit Trail, and we were treated to Cascade Mountain views across the bay. One of the best parts of Glass Quest is exploring the many parks and businesses that Camano Island and Stanwood have to offer. 

According to the daily parks update, Four Springs Preserve had an undiscovered clue ball so we headed there next. After walking the nature trails for awhile, we eventually discovered a well-disguised clue ball sitting right off the trail. Covered in camo tape, it blended in with its surroundings and would have been easy to miss. Inside, a piece of paper instructed us to pick up our glass float at the nearby Four Springs House. After two years of trying, it was victory at last! 

Glass Quest Studio

Want to watch glass-blowing in action? You can visit the artists (Mark & Marcus Ellinger) every day between 10am-5pm during the Quest and watch them blow glass. Stop by their Glass Quest Studio in Stanwood. You can also purchase glass balls from the artists and other participating businesses. Happy Questing!

Photos: Visual Photography

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Brandon Fralic

Brandon Fralic is the author of Urban Hikes Washington and Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest. Based in Bellingham, he writes about trails, beer, and travel for numerous regional publications. Follow Brandon at @beersatb on Instagram and at his website: beersatthebottom.com

1 Comment

  1. Lori Wentz on February 12, 2021 at 8:10 pm

    FYI…Glass Quest studio was founded in 1998 by Mark Ellinger but the first Great Northwest Glass Quest event was held in 2010.

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