Glacier-formed Whidbey Island sits at the northwest corner of the U.S. mainland, surrounded by iconic Pacific Northwest geology—the Salish Sea, San Juan Islands, Skagit Bay, and the Olympic Peninsula. Roughly 60 miles long from end to end, Whidbey offers views of nearby mountains and bluffs, plus trails aplenty, boutique shopping, local libations, and famed seafood. Warmer temperatures and longer days make summertime a great time to day-trip-it-up to this Cascadian gem.
To get to Whidbey Island, grab a car, and hit I-5 headed north. If road-conditions are ideal, you’ll reach the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal in 30 minutes. From there, it’s a quick boat ride to the south-end of the island. For carless day-trippers, Community Transit’s route 417 runs between Seattle and Mukilteo, and Island Transit operates buses that serve much of Whidbey.
Here’s a south-to-north starting point for your summer getaway to Whidbey Island, whether you’ll be spending a handful of hours there or camping overnight.
With an early start out of Seattle, you might be ready for a quick recharge by the time the ferry reaches Clinton in southeast Whidbey Island. The seaside village of Langley is just six miles from the dock—head there. Stop in for a latte and a bag of roasted beans to-go at Useless Bay Coffee Co. Next, learn about local whales at the Langley Whale Center and try to spot them yourself along the waterfront at Seawall Park. Before moving on, hit First and Second streets, stopping at any little shop(s) that strike your fancy, like Edit, a small storefront filled home goods, clothing, and art, Callahan’s Firehouse, a glass-blowing studio in an old fire station, and Act II Books and Puppets, a sweet little stop for the kiddies. If you’re visiting on a Friday between May and September, you’ll get even more bang for your buck with the Second Street Market. If you’re eager to get on the water, Whidbey Island Kayaking offers hourly kayak rentals and tours for beginner and intermediate explorers.
Later, when headed back to the ferry terminal, consider stopping at Bloom’s Winery near Langley. Their whites, reds, and blushes are produced on the island from grapes harvested in eastern Washington. Tastings are $10, or $5 if you leave with a bottle. If you loop back through Langley for dinner, Spyhop Public House, Prima Bistro, and Orchard Kitchen are great options.
Twenty-six miles north of Langley is Coupeville, another stopping point in any exploration of Whidbey Island. If Fido made the trip, stop at Double Bluff Beach between Langley and Coupeville to get ‘em tuckered out. In Coupeville, hit Christopher’s on NW Coveland Street for lunch. Their Penn Cove Mussels are harvested in this community and famous around the world. Here, they’re served up in a flavorful broth—heavy on both cilantro and green onion. Another restaurant that gets high marks is The Oystercatcher, whose plates are likewise known for their fresh, local ingredients. After lunch, stroll down to the historic Coupeville Wharf—an iconic red structure built in 1905 with a coffee shop, restaurant, and gift shop. Other highlights in Coupeville include the Lavender Wind Farm Shop, a lavender lover’s dream stocked with lavender jams, linen sprays, and lip balms, Vail Wine Shop and Tasting Room, a mom-and-pop joint featuring Washington wines and water views, and the Coupeville Farmers Market held Saturdays from April through October.
A few miles from Coupeville and just south of Fort Ebey State Park is Ebey’s Landing Trail. Park near the bottom of Ebey’s Landing Road. There’s a small surface lot for folks with a Washington State Discover Pass. If you don’t have one, roadside parking is the best bet. If you’re carless, Island Transit’s route 6 will take you from downtown Coupeville to Coveland. You’ll have to hoof it from there—just over a mile. The Ebey’s Landing Trail runs along a ridge overlooking Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. There’s a relatively short but steep climb to the top of the ridge. As you make your way around the bluff, Perego’s Lagoon will come into view, too. The four-mile roundtrip trek gains an elevation of 260 feet and will take between one and three hours to complete. Toward the terminus of the trail, hikers ascend via switchbacks and end up on the rocky beach they’d seen from above.
At the northern end of the island, about 30 minutes from Fort Ebey, Deception Pass separates Whidbey from neighboring Fidalgo Island. It also connects two bodies of water, the Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Deception State Park’s 4,000-plus acres of old-growth forests, saltwater shores, freshwater lakes, campgrounds, and trails represent some of the Northwest’s most iconic landscapes. Unfortunately, it’ll be difficult to reach without a car—doable, but tedious and time-consuming on public transport. There is at least one local taxi service, though. The park is especially well-known for Deception Pass Bridge, a nearly 200-foot-high set of steel bridges built in 1934. Using its pedestrian walkway, the brave get an aerial look at the swirling, beautiful, and sometimes turbulent waters below, as well as more islands in the distance. For a bite nearby, check out Seabolt’s Smokehouse at Deception Pass for smoked salmon, fish and chips, plus rubs, marinades, and seasonings to take home.
Leaving Deception Pass, head due south along Highway 20 from whence you came. You’ll pass through Oak Harbor, the island’s largest town. If you have anything left to give, Oak Harbor is home to Joseph Whidbey State Park and the PBY Naval Air Museum. Otherwise, stop in, fill the tank, and grab any essentials for the journey back to Seattle. Driving back to the Clinton Ferry Terminal from Deception Pass should take about an hour, sans pit stops.
If you’re not in a rush, stop at roadside farm stands, wineries, or points of interest you skipped over for time’s sake on the way in. If you visit during the summer months, it’ll be light outside until around 9 p.m. Depending on when you set out, you can be back in Seattle before the sun has fully set.