Three Must Visit Islands Around Seattle

The Seattle area is surrounded by some of the most breathtaking islands, each offering a unique blend of natural beauty, culture, and adventure. Whether you're seeking a serene escape, outdoor exploration, or a cultural getaway, the islands of Camano, Vashon, and Whidbey all have their own distinct charms. They are each my favorite and all for very different reasons! I'm sure that you will see why and you'll be drawn to do your own exploration and discovery as well! Take some notes, and start jotting down all the reasons to explore a few of my favorite islands around Seattle!


Three Must Visit Islands Around Seattle


Camano Island: A Tranquil Retreat

If you want a more in-depth look at visiting Camano Island, check out this post that I did after my first visit there. 


Start here: Visiting Camano Island, WA

Camano Island is nestled in the shimmering waters of the Puget Sound and is a tranquil retreat about an hour's drive north of Seattle. It's an easy island to get to since it's accessible via the Camano Island Bridge {no ferry needed!}. You'll find a peaceful oasis with stunning coastal landscapes, pristine beaches, and a vibrant arts scene.  

Camano Island has not just one, but two state parks, Cama Beach State Park and Camano Island State Park, both of which are great places to whale watch from land. In fact, Port Susan is known for their resident and transient orca sightings! In the spring, you can also often spot grey whales!

How to Get There:

To reach Camano Island, drive north from Seattle on Interstate 5 and take Exit 212 onto State Route 532. Follow signs for Stanwood and then turn left onto East Camano Drive, which leads to the island via the Camano Gateway Bridge

Best Things to See and Do:

1. Camano Island State Park: Explore miles of hiking trails, enjoy picnicking by the beach or explore sea creatures at low tide. Keep an eye out for whales!

2. Cama Beach State Park: You have to stop at the Cama Beach Cafe, awarded one of the best brunch spots in all of Western Washington {and I concur!}. Rent a boat to explore the Sound, or check out The Center for Wooden Boats and learn the history of some sea-worthy vessels. There are plenty of trails to explore and you aren't going to want to miss visiting the tide pools at low tide.

3. Camano Commons Marketplace: Shop, eat and play local! You'll find everything from ice cream, pastries, and coffee, to a local tap house {Tapped Public House}. The Commons often hosts family-friendly events like outdoor movie nights, markets, and more! They even have an outdoor common area for kids to run and play with cornhole games and rocking chairs!

Special Events: Don't miss the Great Northwest Glass Quest where you can search the island for beautiful hand-crafted glass orbs that you can keep! It's a fun scavenger hunt for the whole family. Read more about it here.

Where to Stay: 

Lodging options are limited, but you can find plenty of vacation rentals overlooking scenic vistas of Saratoga Passage so you can have your own slice of the beach!

How Long to Stay: 

A weekend getaway {or two nights} is an ideal length of time to fully immerse yourself in the island's charm. It will give you plenty of time to explore and discover all that the island has to offer, though you might love it so much, you'll want to add a few more days!

What to Do: 

Relax on the sandy shores, indulge in some local seafood, watch for whales from the local viewpoints, explore tide pools, and savor those breathtaking sunsets over the Sound!

Vashon Island: An Artist's Retreat

Just a short ferry ride from West Seattle or Point Defiance in Tacoma, Vashon Island offers a laid-back atmosphere, rich with artistic heritage and picturesque landscapes. It's known for its thriving arts community and farm-to-table culinary scene, and has a bohemian charm that is hard to resist! You'll feel like you are in another part of the world when you visit!


How to Get There: 

You will have to catch the Washington State Ferry {or find a friend with a boat!} because this island is truly an island without any land connection. From West Seattle, you will take the Fauntleroy Ferry, or if you are in the Tacoma area, you'll take the Pt. Defiance Ferry to Vashon. You can walk on, drive, or bike, and each will cost varying amounts.

The ferry ride takes approximately 20 minutes and offers some incredible Puget Sound views. It's also the ferry I've actually spotted whales from the most, so keep your eyes peeled on the passage.

During the summer, get to the ferry early! The island is very popular with visitors and there is no reservation system.

Best Things to See and Do

1. Point Robinson Park: Admire the iconic lighthouse, stroll along the sandy beaches, create a driftwood structure, and watch for seals, eagles, and whales! You can even stay AT the lighthouse keepers' cottage for a unique lodging opportunity. 

2. Visit KVI Beach: voted the best place to build a sandcastle, pack a picnic and enjoy some time at the beach!

3. Vashon Watersports: rent a kayak, paddleboard, or an E-bike and explore the island your own way!

Special Events: Don't miss the Vashon Farmer's Market open on Saturdays from 10-2 April thru October. You can visit with local artisans, growers and producers and get a real taste of Vashon Island life.

Where to Stay:

If you want to stay in the heart of downtown, book a stay at The Lodges on Vashon.  This dog-friendly location is the perfect place to set as your home base. There are also plenty of waterfront cottages or rustic farm stays for that authentic Vashon experience.

How Long to Stay:

Plan for a weekend getaway or a few nights to fully immerse yourself in the island's laid-back vibe. That will allow you enough time to explore its artistic and culinary delights and will give you enough time to soak up some of the beautiful surroundings before headed off on your next adventure.

What to Do:

Attend a local art event or festival, embark on a scenic bike ride or kayak out to sea, and savor farm-fresh cuisine at one of Vashon's acclaimed restaurants.

Whidbey Island: A Nature Lover's Paradise

This island stretches more than 50 miles long and is the largest of the three. It offers a diverse array of landscapes ranging from rugged coastline to lush forests. There are charming seaside towns, historic sites, and abundant outdoor recreational opportunities. Whidbey Island is a nature lover's paradise and a favorite place for our whole family!


Start here: Everything You Need to Know Before You Visit Whidbey Island, WA

How to Get There: 

Access Whidbey Island via the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry route, which connects the mainland to the southern tip of the island. The ferry ride takes approximately 20 minutes and offers stunning views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.

Plan ahead for the ferry. There are often long lines in the summer months {especially on the weekends}, and no reservation system for the ferry.

You can also access the island by driving north towards Anacortes and accessing the island from the Deception Pass bridge. This is a fantastic way to access the north end of the island and then drive down in a loop, taking the ferry after exploring the southern part of the island.

Best Things to See and Do:

1. Deception Pass State Park: Hike through old-growth forests, marvel at jaw-dropping vistas from the iconic bridge and explore scenic coastal trails.

2. Coupeville Historic Waterfront: Wander through historic streets lined with charming shops, galleries, and eateries in this quaint seaside town. Don't miss a visit to Price Sculpture Park {free, but donations accepted!} for a unique walk through the woods.

3. Explore Langley: Downtown Langley is my favorite part of Whidbey Island. Listen for the bell when someone spots a whale in the local waters, and shop and eat at the local artisans. Indulge in fresh seafood and watch out for the local rabbits! They are everywhere!

You'll find a complete list of my favorite restaurants and shops on Whidbey Island at the bottom of this post.

Special Events: If you are visiting in the spring, it's worth a visit to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Where to Stay: 

We loved staying at Captain Whidbey Inn. It's such a cool unique inn by the sea with a historic lodge, cabins and lagoon rooms. It is dog-friendly, but know that the rooms are rustic, small, and old {ie, pets hear everything!}. You can also find plenty of waterfront cottages and unique housing options to rent as well depending on the area of the island you want to explore. 

Explore more! Visiting Camano and Whidbey Island!

How Long to Stay:

Plan for a weekend getaway or extend your stay to a full week to fully explore all of the island's natural beauty, historic sites, and culinary delights. Consider a two-night stay in both the north end and the south end of the island.

What to do: 

Many whale-watching excursions embark from this part of the Sound. You can also visit historic landmarks such as Fort Casey State Park, and sample local wines and farm-fresh produce all along the Whidbey Island Wine Trail!

Explore more Washington Islands!
Summer in the San Juan Islands
Fall Fun on San Juan Island


Tips for Navigating the Washington State Ferry System

You haven't truly been to Washington State until you've taken a trip on the Washington State Ferry! It's a convenient and scenic way to explore the islands around the greater Seattle area. Here are some tips for using the ferry system:

Plan Ahead

Check the ferry schedule and watch the ferry cams. When possible, make reservations, though the ferry reservations are currently only available for Coupeville/Port Townsend and the San Juan Islands from Anacortes. 

Arrive Early

Arrive at the ferry terminal early, especially on weekends and during the summer and plan on giving yourself a cushion in case the ferries are running late, or if there is a long line. 

Check the Website

Monitor the Washington State Ferry website for updates and alerts. You can also see how many spaces are currently available for each sailing. 


Parking is available at most of the ferry terminals, and you can be a walk or bike on passenger at a deeply discounted rate. However, know that each of these islands is difficult to explore on bike or foot only. You'll need to make other arrangements once you arrive on the island.

Fare Payment: 

Fares are collected at the tollbooth before boarding the ferry. Fares vary by destination. You are charged based on the length of your vehicle and how many people are in the car and their ages. The fare for both Vashon and Whidbey is similar since they are similar sailing times, however, if you explore more of the Washington islands {like San Juan Islands}, expect the fees to be much higher because of the distance! Payment can be made with cash, credit/debit cards or via the WSF mobile app.

Enjoy the Ride

Sit back and relax and enjoy the scenic views of the Puget Sound! Keep an eye out for whales and don't forget to head to the upper decks to enjoy your time on the ferry!


islands near seattle to visit

Exploring the islands in the Puget Sound is one of my favorite things to do around the Seattle area. You will find everything from the tranquil shores of Camano Island to the bohemian charm of Vashon and the natural splendor of Whidbey, with some of the most diverse experiences any traveler would love to explore. Pack your bags, hop on a ferry and embark on an unforgettable island getaway in the heart of the Pacific Northwest!

Looking for more Pacific Northwest Getaways? 

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