Explore Whidbey Island For an Escape That Feels So Far Away
Whether you arrive on Whidbey Island on a ferry from Mukilteo or Port Townsend or by crossing the soaring Deception Pass Bridge from Fidalgo Island, it doesn’t take long to see what makes this such a special place: scenic towns, farms, woodlands, prairies and shorelines combined with local arts and food.
Here are some of the top things to see and do in the island’s three regions. (Check for road alerts and bridge work before you go, and call or go online to confirm the availability of specific attractions and services such as fuel, lodging, restaurants, seasonal events and gatherings.)
South Whidbey Island
Langley stands out for the city’s timeless seaside charm. Bookstores, galleries, cafes and bistros in its shingled and shiplap buildings reflect the island’s creative, artisan vibes and tap into the bounty of island farms and food producers.
Langley’s downtown is home to about a half-dozen art galleries, including the Whidbey Art Gallery (which has a sculpture garden and a staff of nearly 40 island artists) and Callahan’s Firehouse Studio & Gallery, where artist Callahan Campbell McVay sells decorative glass and offers glass-blowing classes (reservations recommended). The Seawall Park beach has views across Saratoga Passage, while Langley’s marina is popular for kayak launches.
Kayak rentals and tours are available in south Whidbey, including nighttime bioluminescence-viewing excursions. The 2-mile stretch of driftwood-covered sand at Double Bluff Beach follows the base of two massive bluffs and offers views stretching out to Mount Rainier. It is also a popular shellfish-harvesting spot (a license and gear is available in Freeland). There is also an off-leash dog area.
Central Whidbey Island
When Congress established Ebey’s Landing as the first National Historical Reserve in 1978, it ensured that the 17,500-acre area encompassing Coupeville, Penn Cove, and Fort Ebey and Fort Casey state parks would retain its historic character in perpetuity. History lives throughout the district, particularly along Coupeville’s waterfront, where false-front buildings from the late 19th century are now restaurants, cafes, galleries and gift shops.
Try hiking the Bluff Loop Trail, accessible at Ebey’s Beach. You can choose between a walk along the beach or a moderately strenuous climb up the bluff overlooking Admiralty Inlet. The two paths form a 3.5-mile loop, which you can also access from Sunnyside Cemetery via Ebey’s Prairie Ridge Trail. Fort Ebey State Park offers about 35 more miles of hiking trails (including another Bluff Trail), 51 campsites and a never-used gun battery established to help defend Puget Sound during World War II.
The attractions at Fort Casey Historical State Park include 10-inch coastal artillery guns and a 1903-built lighthouse. (Consider purchasing a Discover Pass to avoid multiple state park day-use fees.) Central Whidbey’s lodging options consist primarily of small inns.
Between Langley and Coupeville, Greenbank Farm was founded as a dairy farm in the early 1900s and later became the largest loganberry farm in the U.S. Today, it offers open spaces, trails, gardens, art galleries and food shops.
North Whidbey Island
Thanks to its proximity to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Oak Harbor is the island’s largest city, and lodging options include national brands. The roar of fighter jets is common in spring and summer. Aviation and history buffs won’t want to miss the PBY Naval Air Museum, named for the PBY-Catalina “flying boats” used during World War II.
With scenic forests, lakes and shoreline, Deception Pass State Park is North Whidbey’s most popular natural attraction. The Cranberry Lake area is a family favorite, with a sandy swimming beach and 230 campsites. Popular activities include boat rides and tree-climbing from spring through fall. Goose Rock, the highest point on Whidbey Island, is accessible via a steep-but-short trail from the south end of the Deception Pass bridge. On clear days, you’ll get a bird’s-eye perspective of Cranberry Lake and Deception Island, with views to the San Juan Islands.
–Written by Rob Bhatt, updated in September 2022
–Top photo is Deception Pass Bridge.