Whidbey Island is one of those places that capture your heart and never lets it go. This is especially true if you originally come from a landlocked state, like me. There are two ways to gain entrance to the island from the Seattle area, by ferry, or by a gorgeous drive over Deception Pass.
The ferry always feels like an adventure. We catch it in Mukilteo, drive on, and then get out to explore. I feel like a little kid as I climb the stairs to the top of the ferry. It is always windy, but worth it to gaze at the rocky tree-lined coast and watch for sea creatures jumping in the water.
I always have a feeling of anticipation when we near Whidbey Island, whether we come by ferry or land. Adventure awaits and there is much to do. Here are my 35 favorite things to do on Whidbey Island.
Fort Ebey State Park
Fort Ebey State Park offers 25 miles of trails for walking and biking. The Bluff Trail is my favorite and looks out onto Admiralty Inlet. This hike is great at any time of the year, but spring offers some lovely rhododendrons. Enjoy views of Mount Baker and the Olympics if the cloud cover permits them.
Make your way down to the coastline and look for creatures under rocks and breathe in the salty air. Note that a parking pass is needed at the beach, but roadside parking is available as well at a nearby cemetery. Camping is also available at this park.
Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve
This historic reserve is located right next to Fort Ebey State Park and encompasses several other attractions in the area. A large part of this reserve is privately owned, so do be careful to respect private property. There are many active working farms in the reserve and a variety of trails to explore.
Crockett Lake Preserve
Crocket Lake is one of the top spots on Whidbey Island to go bird watching. Be on the lookout for a variety of waterfowl and wading birds, peregrine falcons, raptors, swallows, savannah sparrows, auklets, guillemots, and cormorants.
More than 230 species of birds can be found here at various points throughout the year. This spot is unique because there is open water, mudflats, grasslands, and marsh. My brother-in-law is an avid birder and this is a spot he never misses when he is on the island.
Whidbey Island Distillery
This family-owned business is a popular stop for whiskey and liqueurs. Stop in for a tasting and see how the distilling process works. The loganberry, blackberry, and raspberry liqueurs are so delicious. They are excellent drizzled on ice cream or used as a mixer. The property is beautiful and the staff is very friendly.
Deception Pass State Park
Be ready for some company at this park, as it is the most visited state park in Washington. There will definitely be people around, but since it is such a large park it will still feel like getting away from it all. Camping is available here. The high bridge is amazing, the sunsets are gorgeous, and the coves and rugged cliffs make it so fun to explore.
I could fill this list with several other locations within Deception Pass State Park, but I did want to at least highlight this lake. There is a roped-off swimming area here that is fun for the whole family. Fishing is also allowed in this lake and there are plenty of trails in the area.
Lone Lake offers a secluded and relaxing experience for anyone wanting to get out on the water. This is a favorite fly-fishing spot of my husband. He enjoys taking his small boat or float tube out on the lake.
There is a small parking lot where people fish from the shore as well as a boat launch. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout that grow to a considerable size and put up a fun battle for fishermen crafty enough to hook them.
South Whidbey State Park
Although camping is no longer allowed in this park, it is still a fun and beautiful place to visit during the day. Walk among huge western hemlock, Douglas-fir, western red cedar, and Sitka spruce trees. Be sure to stop and see the 500-year-old cedar. Also, be aware that beach access is currently closed because of bluff erosion, but it is still a great place to watch birds and other wildlife and take part in interpretive activities.
If you have your own kayak, there are countless opportunities to get out in the water on the island. Go out into the saltwater from one of the beaches or check out one of the many lakes on Whidbey Island.
If you do not have your own kayak, there are a variety of companies on the island that will rent them and many will even do guided tours. This is a fun way to further understand the lay of the land and learn more about local wildlife.
Island County Historical Society Museum
Learn more about the history of Whidbey Island by stopping into this museum. Go back in time to the ice age and learned how the geography of the area was formed. Peek into the lives of early indigenous people and the first settlers who called this area home.
Watch a film, go on a guided tour, and don’t miss the Native American cultural exhibits in the downstairs area. There is also a neat gift shop that offers some great mementos from your time on Whidbey Island.
Whidbey Island Center for the Arts
If your journey takes you to Whidbey Island in September, check to see if DjangoFest Northwest will be going on. This music festival that celebrates gypsy jazz starts in the center for the arts but also spills out into the streets and cafés in Langley. It is an epic week to be in Langley. In addition to this festival, this theater presents many concerts and theater performances throughout the year. Stop in for a show if you are visiting. The ticket prices are reasonable and the ambiance of the venue is very quaint.
Lavender Wind Farm
Stop by the Lavender Wind Farm during the summer to walk the fields of lavender. There are also other flowers on the farm and always plenty of butterflies. Bring a picnic along and take in the amazing views of the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan De Fuca. This is a great spot for some family photos and to grab some lavender products from the small store.
Lavender Wind Shop
Even though the farm is only open during the summer, this shop in Coupeville is open year-round. Stock up on favorite lavender items such as blueberry lavender jam, lavender bath and body products, tea, stuffed animals, and much more. There is even a patio tea room. Grab a bite to eat as well as some lavender lemonade or lavender hot chocolate.
South Whidbey Community Park
If you have kids, you should stop by this park. The playground is awesome and looks like a castle. There are lots of places to climb and play as well as large grassy spaces, baseball fields, and restrooms. There are also several miles of wooded trails. If you are a runner, consider signing up for the Chum Run in June or Elf Chase in December. These 5K fun runs are great ways to experience the island.
Callahan’s Firehouse Studio and Gallery
Located in Langley, this studio offers the chance to create your own glass blown piece. Purchase this experience for yourself, browse the selection of glass products available for purchase, and also watch the experts work. Callahan is very talented and it is truly a unique experience to watch him and his staff create beautiful glass art. The building is also very interesting, as it is a repurposed historic firehouse.
Joseph Whidbey State Park
This park faces west and offers views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Lopez Island, and Victoria, B.C. It is day use only and is a prime spot for watching storms and unbelievable sunsets. Explore the wetlands on the trail system, play on the beach, and bring along a picnic. You may also see U.S. Navy jets flying over the park. The nearby Naval Air Station Whidbey Island often uses this air space for training.
In addition to the ferry that I spoke of at the beginning of this piece that runs from Mukilteo to Clinton, there is also a ferry that runs from Coupeville to Port Townsend. Take the ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend to explore the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park.
I also enjoy just walking on the ferry, going for a ride, and coming right back. Walking on is much cheaper than taking a car on. You will have to briefly disembark the vessel, but you will be able to get right back on.
PBY-Naval Air Museum
Naval Air Station Whidbey Island has been in operation since the 1940s. It is still an active base and in 2004 the PBY-Naval Air Museum opened. There are many exhibits in the museum about the PBY aircraft, other aircraft flown from the naval base, as well as the relationship between the base and members of the civilian community on Whidbey Island. See a PBY-5A Catalina seaplane, try out a PBY nose gun turret, or experience a flight simulator.
Chocolate Flower Farm
Visit the Chocolate Flower Farm located just a few miles outside of Langley during the summer or stop into the store in Langley any time of the year. The farm specializes in rare and unusual flowers and edible flowers. The most popular plant is the chocolate cosmos, which actually smells like chocolate. Chocolate cosmos seeds are available as well. The shop offers many chocolate-themed items such as tea, jam, candles, bath salts, and much more.
Dugualla State Park
There are six interconnected trails in this park to check out. Walk along the shoreline for a little more than a mile, travel through wetlands, and an alder grove. There is even a bit of elevation gain for anyone wanting a good workout. Washington State Parks acquired this property in 1992 to prevent it from being logged. It is a nice and quiet escape that is not as busy as other parks on the island.
Whidbey Island Winery
This winery offers very good wine and a relaxing atmosphere. Consider a tasting to try out several wines. Bottles are available for purchase and the staff is very helpful and knowledgeable. The owners have been growing grapes on Whidbey Island since 1986 and would be happy to answer any questions about growing grapes and making wine. Feel free to bring your kids along, as there is a large grass area to run in and several large trees to climb in.
Anyone who enjoys a good whiskey, gin, or vodka should stop into Cadee Distillery in Clinton. The owner is Scottish, and pleasant lat to chat with. He knows his spirits and will be able to match you with something that will please your taste buds. Enjoy a tasting and then shop for your favorites to take home or for gifts.
Greenbank Farm used to be a working farm. It was once the largest grower of Loganberries and then was owned by the Chateau St. Michelle winery. When their grape growing venture did not work out, the community rallied to save the farm from development. Today, there are many neat shops inside as well as picnic areas and trails that lead to some nice views of the water. Stop in to shop for pies, cheese, art, wine, and furniture.
Marguerite Brons Memorial Park
If you bring a dog along with you to Whidbey Island, this park is a great place to stop. It is a clean, well-maintained off-leash dog park that spans 13 acres. There is a two-acre meadow where you and your dog can run and play as well as 11 acres of wooded trails to explore. Freshwater and poop bags are available and all of the friendly dog owners are great resources to gather intel on other dog-friendly spots on Whidbey Island.
Bayview Farmers Market
If you are on Whidbey Island during the summer on a Saturday, definitely stop by this market. On a typical day, there are 40 vendors. Find fresh local produce, flowers, artisan crafts, honey, jams, tea, meat, eggs, and much more. A smaller holiday market is available over the winter months. There are some other businesses within walking distance as well. There is a nursery, several cafes, a winery tasting room, a taproom, and a donut shop all nearby.
Putney Woods, Saratoga Woods, and Metcalf Trail System
The natural beauty of Whidbey Island always leaves me in awe. There are so many outdoor spaces to explore. These connecting trail systems provide many miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding. This area is very quiet, allowing those who visit the chance to feel peace and a connection with nature. Much of the area is an old-growth forest, which provides some very tall and impressive trees.
This lake is stocked with fish and good options for anglers. There are a gravel boat ramp and a parking area as well as shoreline access. Expect to catch coastal cutthroat trout, largemouth bass, and rainbow trout. Spring and fall are terrific times to come and fish, as the fish are more active in cooler temperatures. Two-pole fishing is allowed.
Although I am admittedly not a golfer, I feel that I would be doing Whidbey Island an injustice by not mentioning the available golf courses. Whidbey Golf Club (Oak Harbor), Gallery Golf Course (Naval Air Station Whidbey Island), Holmes Harbor Golf Club (Freeland), Island Greens Golf and Driving Range (Clinton), Lam’s Golf Links (Oak Harbor), and Useless Bay Golf and Country Club (Langley) all offer a great round of golf.
Blue Fox Drive-In Theater
I love drive-in movie theaters and it makes me sad that it is so difficult to find them these days. Luckily, there is still one in operation on Whidbey Island. This theater is open all year, has a snack bar, an arcade, and go-karts during the summer.
Admission prices are very reasonable. Children under 5 are free, children ages 5-10 are only $1 with cash or $1.50 with a card, and those ages 11 and over are $6.50 cash or $7 with a card. Call or check their website to find out what is playing and what time the show starts.
Oak Harbor Marina
Growing up in Colorado, I have always found marinas to be magical places. I love walking around and looking at the boats while smelling the salty air, hearing the waves crashing and the seabirds squawking. This marina is a short walk from downtown Oak Harbor. There is also a community park here that has places to have a picnic, sand volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, and restrooms with showers.
Oak Harbor Downtown and Waterfront
The historic downtown district is a great place to grab a bite to eat and do a little shopping. There are boutiques, restaurants, wine shops, coffee shops, galleries, and much more. Once your belly and shopping bags are full, head to Windjammer City Beach Park or Freund Marsh Park for a little fresh air. This is a very active community with many amenities thanks to the proximity of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
Langley Whale Center
Stop in to learn more about whales and marine mammals that call Whidbey Island home. View skulls from gray whales, sea lions, and elephant seals, the jaw bone of a gigantic blue whale, pelts from harbor seals, and much more. Chat with the docents to learn more about local sea life. It is truly amazing to see how big these creatures are.
Go Whale Watching
The water near Whidbey Island is one of the prime places on the planet to view whales and other marine species in their natural habitat. Orcas, porpoises, gray whales, sea lions, harbor seals, and many other animals can be seen. The captains are knowledgeable, tell you about the animals as you see them, and know just how to position the boat for optimal views. There are a few options for whale watching tours, but a good one is Mystic Sea Charters out of Langley.
In addition to the marinas, beaches, ferries, and mossy woods, rhododendrons always take my breath away. This garden is full of them. There are lovely trails through the garden of rhododendrons paired with ornamental and native trees. Bring a picnic and your pets, as they are welcome here. The gardens are open every day of the year, but the optimal time to view the rhododendrons is March through May.
My Favorite Thing to Do on Whidbey Island is Visit Fort Casey State Park
My husband grew up in the Seattle area and nearly every year his family would vacation on Whidbey Island. They would always visit Fort Casey and once I joined the family, I looked forward to it every year as well.
This place oozes history, which I adore since I was a history major. I love to walk around and explore the old military buildings and gun turrets. I have a fond memory of sitting upon the bluffs looking out to the sea as the sun hit my belly, pregnant with my first child. I imagined what it would be like for the soldiers keeping watch over the water in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
In addition to exploring the batteries, there are trails, beach access, and a huge grassy area. It is pretty much always windy, so bring along your kites because the field is perfect for flying them. If you do not have kites, it is fun to watch the intricate ones others are flying.
My husband and his brothers also love playing football and soccer in this big field before or after having a picnic. Do not miss visiting the lighthouse, which was built in 1903. There are an interpretive center and gift shop located in this part of the park.
There is a fee to visit Fort Casey, as with all state parks. Consider purchasing an annual Discover Pass or purchase a one-day pass from the automated pay station.
Marie lived in the Seattle area for nearly 10 years and visited Whidbey Island many times. She still has family and friends in the area and goes back to visit as often as she can.