Everything You Need to Know Before you Visit Whidbey Island, WA

Pandemic or no, I set a distinct goal for myself a few years ago to explore my backyard just a little bit more. We've stayed closer to home the past few months and it's been helping me check a few of those areas I wanted to get out to explore, like the Tri-Cities, Camano Island, Vashon Island and Hood Canal. This midwest transplant spent nearly two decades living on this coast and I really didn't feel like I'd seen much. While we don't get as much changing leaves in the fall {hello evergreen state!}, the best time to enjoy the ones we do have are in late October or early November and they provide the perfect backdrop for exploring our area. This time, we navigated north, to Whidbey Island. I've got everything you need to know so you can plan your one-tank trip from the Seattle area too.

visiting whidbey island washington


Everything You Need to Know Before you Visit Whidbey Island, Washington

Visiting Whidbey Island, WA


I've spent years exploring the South end of Whidbey Island but I rarely spent time on the North end. There's plenty to do and everything is a relatively short drive away so you really can experience it all. I've got the perfect weekend itinerary so you can explore the whole island tip to tip!

VISTING WHIDBEY ISLAND



Whidbey Island


Whidbey Island is the longest island in the state of Washington followed by Orcas Island. In fact, it's the top four longest in the whole country. Whidbey Island is 30 miles north of Seattle. It's about 55 miles long and at its widest, 12 miles wide. 

Most people refer to Whidbey Island as Puget Sound's largest artist colony. You'll find pottery shops, painters, writers, and sculptors making their home here. It's one of the reasons why you should always make time to explore any of the local sculpture parks or artist exhibits in the area. You're sure to be impressed! And of course, pop into those shops to find many locally-made items you won't be able to find anywhere else.

You'll find plenty of birds, deer, and squirrel, but my favorite is the wild rabbits. Found mostly in Langley, legend has it that some show quality rabbits escaped from the fair awhile back and they've been hopping around the island ever since. If you're lucky, you'll also spot whales migrating in the waters as well. 

deception pass bridge


How to Get to Whidbey Island


The only bridge you'll find on Whidbey Island is the Deception Pass Bridge. It connects the north end of Whidbey Island to the mainland. You can also access the island by taking the Coupeville to Port Townsend ferry or the Clinton to Mukilteo ferry. 

whidbey island ferry



If you want the most scenic route to explore the whole island in a weekend, head north and take the Deception Pass bridge across, stopping to hike around Deception Pass State Park for a bit and head back on the ferry. 

deception pass bridge


Visiting Deception Pass


A Discover Pass is required to visit the park. If you want to walk across the bridge and explore some of the trails around, you can often find free street parking, but park at your own risk. There is a kiosk in the upper parking lot so you can purchase a day pass. 

Tides in the Pacific Northwest can catch people by surprise! There are typically two high tides and two low tides and can vary by 15 feet, so use care when hiking near the water!

One of the best ways to explore the waters of the Pacific Northwest is to visit at low tide and explore the tidepools at Rosario Beach, located inside Deception Pass State Park. 

You'll also find close to 40 miles of trails around Deception Pass State Park. You'll find plenty of great ways to explore the areas around the Salish Sea, through old-growth forests, and take in some pretty amazing views along the way!

Want to take a hike? Check out these three recommend hike options.


Explore Oak Harbor


After visiting Deception Pass, head south and make a stop at Seabolt's Smokehouse for the best local seafood around! Seabolt's has been voted Whidbey Island's best seafood, best clam chowder, and best fish and chips by the locals so you know it's good!  You can also find burgers and chicken too for the non-seafood lovers.

mural art oak harbor



Take a little detour through Oak Harbor and stop at The Allgire Project. You'll find nine fun outdoor murals, perfect for some family photos or that Instagram post! The Allgire Project is set up in a way that encourages community through pop-up events, food trucks, farmer's markets, and by offering a gathering space to come together. We didn't find it to be busy when we visited, in fact, we were the only ones around, but it was a nice place to explore for a bit and had us down in the heart of Oak Harbor. 

On the way from Oak Harbor, make sure you stop at 3 Sisters Market. 3 Sisters Market is owned locally, by, you guessed it, three sisters. It's a great place to do all that local shopping I talked about earlier. You can pick up local goods, snacks, treats, and wine. 

captain whidbey where to stay



Where to Stay on Whidbey Island

where to stay whidbey island, wa



Since 1907, Captain Whidbey Inn is the coziest bit of time travel you'll do while you're on the island. The creaking of the floorboards, the inviting lounge area, and the crackling fire pits will make you think you've been transported back in time. Captain Whidbey is rugged and wild and everything you will love about an escape to the island.

captain whidbey inn

Know before you go:

  • bring a flashlight, it's dark out there!
  • arrive before the sun sets, the property is spread out and you'll have a better chance of getting your bearings
  • dogs are welcome in one of the cabins, and in four of the lagoon rooms 
  • the rooms are tiny and hostel sized, if traveling with your teens, book a cabin or keep this a romantic getaway 
  • the complimentary morning coffee is worth waking up for
  • make reservations in the restaurant at least once and ask for Sam as your waiter, he's got tons of interesting hotel history to share
captain whidbey inn

Growing up in a historic home, I love the charm of a historic property. It's easy to let some of the history slip you by, so make sure you ask the employees to share with you some of their favorite things about the Inn.

captain whidbey lodge


For example, I learned that there is a rock that comes out of the fireplace in the lobby and people have been slipping in love notes for as long as anyone can remember. The staff has started compiling the notes into a coffee table book guests can flip through. 

You'll find the old front door {on the waterside, since the only way to access the Inn for decades was by boat} filled with holes from the old dartboard that was there. And there are rumors that the Inn is haunted, but you'll have to see for yourself! Ask the staff for some stories, they all have them.


Spend a day exploring Coupeville, WA

coupeville washington



Start your morning at the Price Sculpture Forest. A little wander through the forest is a great way to start your day. 

price sculpture forest coupeville wa


Some things to know before you visit Price Sculpture Forest:

  • it's free, but donations are welcome {there is a box by the enterance}
  • wear comfortable shoes, the trail is well marked but it isn't paved
  • no dogs allowed, so leave your furry friends behind
  • bring your smartphone so you can use the QR code to download a self-guided tour 
  • walk the path counterclockwise
  • take the whimsey path but beware of the T-Rex, he might sneak up on you!
  • give yourself about 45 minutes to an hour to enjoy the trail
eagle sculpture price sculpture garden



The sculpture forest is about 1.5 miles from downtown Coupeville, so stop by and explore the town after you enjoy the sculptures.

Coupeville, WA is Washington State's second-oldest community. If staying at Captain Whidbey Inn doesn't make you feel like you just traveled back in time, visiting Coupeville certainly will. You'll find hundred-year-old buildings that are now home to restaurants and small shops and just walking down Front Street will refresh your soul.

wharf in coupeville, wa


The wharf's iconic red building juts out into Penn Cove and is a must stop. You'll find the Island County Museum inside that will offer plenty of early island history. Plus, you'll be treated to some of the most amazing views of the waterfront from the dock. 

If Coupeville looks familiar to you, it's probably because you've seen the popular Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman movie Practical Magic. It was filmed here and many of the local residents still have stories to tell about it two decades later!

coupeville washington visitors guide


Other Coupeville spots to stop:


Toby's Taven has some of the most delicious Penn Cove mussels. It's a local hangout you aren't going to want to miss. It is a 21+ establishment. 

Visit Little Red Hen Bakery and pick up a pastry, a loaf of bread, coffee, or a sandwich at this lovely little waterfront bakery. 

Aqua Gifts has all kinds of merchandise inside from shoes to rain coats, jewelry to holiday ornaments. It's the perfect souvenir shop to pop into. 

traveling with dogs to whidbey island


Traveling with pets to Whidbey Island


If you are traveling with pets, stop into Whidbey Natural Pet where the shop cat just might make her home on your shoulders if you stop in one place for too long! 

You'll also find several off-leash dog areas. We spent time at the Patmore Pit {spoiler alert, there is no pit!} and were impressed at the size! It's a fully fenced 15-acre area that was well-maintained even on a rainy fall day.  

You can also explore Double Bluff Beach. It's an off-leash dog park on a two-mile stretch of open beach. 

Exploring Langley

exploring langley washington



On your final day, spend some time exploring Langley before hopping on the ferry to head home. Langley is the area on Whidbey Island that I've spent the most time at, though even I found places I hadn't explored just yet.

On your way into town, make a little detour stop in Greenbank for a stop at Whidbey Pies. No two pies are ever alike, but you'll find some of the most local and freshest ingredients used in them. 

On your way into town stop at Bayview Farm and Garden. Not only will you find the most incredible greenhouse, but you'll also find a beautiful living tunnel. Stop in the Flower House Cafe on-site and pick up an artisan coffee or a fresh scone. 

salt and sea provisions


If you're visiting on a weekend, {from Friday-Sunday}, make sure you stop into the Saltwater Cafe. Come early if you can to the Salt & Sea Provisions pop up {it's only open from 9-12} for some of the most delicious fresh-baked goods. I highly recommend the chocolate croissant, but the bread loaves are to die for as well. We brought a baguette home to enjoy with other local ingredients from The Star Store

flying bear gift shop flower shop langley



My favorite shop in all of downtown Langley is the Flying Bear. The Flying Bear is a full-service flower shop sourcing local flowers from their farm on the island. You'll also find unique art, tea, gifts, and more inside the shop. 

useless bay coffee


Anytime we drive onto the island, we have lunch at Useless Bay Coffee Co. Sadly, it was closed because of limitations due to COVID, but you'll find the best coffee and delicious handcrafted sandwiches here. 

langley wa butterfly mural



Sweet Mona's is one of my favorite shops to pop into. You'll find handmade chocolates, sweets, and truffles, but handmade caramels are their specialty. In the summer months, I've enjoyed the iced hot chocolate. If you have a sweet tooth, you'll find something you love here, I promise!

As you head off of the island, head to the Clinton ferry terminal. If you find yourself waiting for the next ferry {they run every half an hour}, take a few minutes to walk down to the beach. You'll often find kids sand toys scattered around for sharing. It's also one of my favorite spots to look for driftwood. 

This was the first time I gave myself at least 48 hours to explore Whidbey Island and it did not disappoint. It was the perfect glimpse into island life with something for everyone. The island is constantly changing with every season, so make sure you find the time to explore it in the summer, spring, and fall! 

whidbey island gifts


Can't make it to the islands? You can still support island makers and enjoy a wide range of items that are perfect for entertaining this holiday season or for gifting. You'll find everything from Penn Cove Mussels to handmade candles.

If you want to plan a visit, you'll find a variety of lodging deals many offering 20% off a three-night stay! 

whidbey island visitors guide



These are some of my favorites from the shop local gift guide:
 

Gourmet Goods

  • Sweet Mona's Chocolates. Ship handmade confections nationwide direct from this quaint Langley storefront mentioned above. You can also pick up locally. 
  • Smoked Penn Cove Mussels. Perfect for gift giving or entertaining, these petite sizes smoked mussels are a delightful accompaniment to pasta dishes, chowders, topped on a crostini or right out of the can. Note that fresh mussels, clams, and oysters can now be sent fresh to the doorstep. 
  • Camano Island Coffee Roasters offers direct to door shipping. Purchases offer a delicious cup of jo and support ethical farming and fair trade. 
  • Mutiny Bay Blues offers an incredible online shop dedicated to a celebration of these famous blueberries grown on Whidbey Island. Find preserves, granola, and dried blueberries!
  • Whidbey Tea Company is a distinguished tea merchant offering organic teas from Whidbey Island in the Pacific Northwest.


Handmade Self-Care Products

  • Whidbey Island Naturals, a local mother and son team create all-natural, artisanal bath and skincare products inspired by the Pacific Northwest.  
  • Utopia Farms Candle; this female-owned company’s name was inspired by childhood memories of running through her grandmother’s flower/vegetable garden on Utopia Road in Skagit Valley. The handmade candles are made in small batches with a rotating selection of scents. 
  • Camano Island HoneyWorks Skin Conditioner. Cold weather and increased handwashing are no match for this calming salve made from working honeybees at Camano Island HoneyWorks. 
  • North Whidbey Farm; offers a range of body and skincare products including masks, salves, and facial oils in the online shop. 

 

Home Goods

  • Kristoferson Farm on Camano Island recently launched an open-air farm stand with fresh-made jams, preserves, and Washington wines. The online shop also offers a handy way to ship the farm’s lavender goodies and more. 
  • Madrona Supply’s “I Love Whidbey” Tea Towels are just a small sampling of the wonderful handmade goods available at (online or at the shop near the Clinton ferry landing). 
  • Notecards by Craig Johnson, Whidbey Island notecards are ideal for gifting in a time when a thoughtful and lovely hand-written hello means more than it used to. These are available at shops throughout Whidbey Island.


SUPPORT ISLAND MAKERS WHIDBEY


 

 Don't miss the opportunity to shop these island shops and take a little piece of the island home with you!


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