Whidbey Island is one of the most beautiful and interesting places in Washington State. It has stunning beaches, epic mountain and ocean views, old growth trees, rich farmland, interesting history and plenty of outdoor adventure. There are farms, wineries, hiking trails and a network of mountain biking trails. This article is all about the best things to do on Whidbey Island to make the most of your visit, whether it’s a day trip from Seattle or a weekend or more!
Whidbey Island is not a great place to visit without a car. While it’s possible it requires careful planning and has some limitations. I recommend driving to Whidbey Island. If you’re looking for a great island experience without a car, I recommend Bainbridge Island or Vashon Island instead.
Most of the things on my list of things to do on Whidbey Island are free or very low cost (a Washington Discover Pass for example).
The island has been an important place for Coast Salish people for thousands of years. It is the homeland of the Skagit, Snohomish and Swinomish people, among others.
One of the best things to do on Whidbey Island is to go for a hike! It’s home to many miles of hiking trails featuring beaches, views, old growth trees and more. It even includes one of my all time favorite hikes in all of Washington State. There are so many wonderful hiking trails I have an entire separate article about the best hikes on Whidbey, so make sure to check that out if you’re a hiker planning a trip to the island.
It is possible to get to and around Whidbey Island without a car, but you will likely find it frustrating and slow. You can take the train (very limited schedule) to Mukilteo and then take the ferry over to Whidbey Island. Once there, you can use Island Transit to get around, though the destinations and schedules are limited. If you’re planning to go to Whidbey Island without a car, you’ll need to do some advance planning and spend some time with the various transit schedules. I also recommend bringing a bike.
If you’re driving to Whidbey Island, there are two ways to do it.
Drive to Burlington near Mt Vernon and take Highway 20 across the Deception Pass bridge to the north end of Whidbey Island
Take the ferry from Mukilteo to the south end of the island
The best option depends on where you’re going when you get to Whidbey Island and the traffic conditions. I like to make it a loop trip (described below).
If you’re going to Deception Pass State Park or Oak Harbor, driving across the bridge is likely going to be faster.
Headed to Langley or elsewhere on South Whidbey? The ferry will probably be your best bet.
Coupeville and Ebey’s Landing are somewhat in the middle and depending on the way either option might be faster than the other (this is why I like the loop).
If you’re on the Olympic Peninsula (or going to Whidbey Island and then the Olympic Peninsula after) you can also take the ferry from near Coupeville to Port Townsend.
When is the best time of year to go to Whidbey Island?
Like all of Western Washington, Whidbey Island is a very popular summer destination. It’s easy to see why with it’s relaxed island vibe, long sunny days and plenty of outdoor activities.
If you’re visiting in July and August, make sure to reserve your lodging far ahead and if you’re taking a day trip be ready for more crowds.
Whidbey makes for a wonderful destination year round and I particularly enjoy it in the spring and fall. I’ve also spent lots of wonderful winter days at Ebey’s Landing.
If you are a solitude seeker, I highly recommend a winter visit.
How do I spend a day on Whidbey Island?
Whidbey Island makes a wonderful day trip from Seattle. I have an itinerary for making a loop day trip going through the Skagit Valley to Deception Pass and then exploring the island and taking the ferry from the south end of the island to Mukilteo. Read all about what to do for that day here.
If you’re a hiker, you might want to consider making a day trip to Whidbey just for a hike. It’s also a wonderful destination for wine tasting or spending some time browsing the farmer’s market.
Lodging and Camping on Whidbey Island
Whidbey Island has a large number of vacation rentals, from small romantic places perfect for couples to huge houses perfect for family or friend groups.
There are also many small inns and hotels, as well as some chain hotels in Oak Harbor.
If you’re camping, camping is available at Fort Ebey State Park and Deception Pass State Park. Both are reservable and fill up way in advance for weekends so plan ahead if you want to camp.
An important thing to be aware of, especially if you’re staying on the north end of the island near Oak Harbor and Deception Pass, is that there is a lot of air traffic from Naval Air Station Whidbey. Especially if you’re camping at Deception Pass, you may hear quite a bit of noise at times.
Check out the epic views from Ebey’s Landing National Historical Preserve
Ebey’s Landing is one of my favorite places in Washington State and the loop hike here is one of my all time favorites!
Hikers will love the epic views across Admiralty Inlet towards the Olympic Mountains, as well as the views of the farmland and the Cascade Mountains to the east. You can even see Mt Rainier from here when it’s clear enough.
You can do the loop across the bluff and then down along the beach, or you can just walk the beach or the bluff.
There is also a historic farm here operated by the national park service with some historic buildings that are interesting to check out.
I’ve almost always seen eagles here in the trees along the bluff, and often seals in the water along the beach.
This is also a fantastic place to watch the sunset.
Hug an old growth tree at South Whidbey State Park
Lightly visited South Whidbey State Park is a wonderful place to see enormous old growth cedar and douglas fir trees. This classic deep temperate rainforest is a relatively short and not steep hike from the parking area. The loop I like is about 2.5 miles with about 200 feet of elevation gain.
Go to one of Whidbey Island’s amazing dog parks
One of the best things to do on Whidbey Island is to bring your dog! This is especially true if your dog loves to run all out in wide open spaces (like mine!). In addition to some great dog friendly (on leash) hikes and many wineries and breweries that welcome dogs, Whidbey has two fantastic off leash areas for dogs.
Double Bluff Beach off leash area
Two miles of beach await you here for your dog to run and play in the sand and waves! You can even get a four mile flat hike in here if you go all the way to the end of the beach and back. It might be hard to make progress though as your dog is going to be absolutely loving every minute.
Greenbank Farm off leash area
This huge meadow is just perfect for a dog who loves to run (like mine!). Dogs must be on leash until you get to the official off leash area, and dogs are not allowed in the shops and eateries at the farm.
However, this area is so big your dog will love it. You’ll love it too as you can get a couple miles of hiking in while checking out views of the water on both the west and east sides of Whidbey Island. You’ll also have views of the mountains including Mt Rainier.
Wander around charming historic Coupeville
Historic Coupeville is small but has some interesting shops and restaurants and is very photogenic! Make sure to check out the pier and grab a meal from one of the excellent restaurants.
There are a couple of art galleries and a shop full of all things from the Netherlands. You can also rent or go on a kayak tour here.
Fort Casey State Park
Fort Casey has always been one of my favorite places in Washington. I loved it as a kid and especially as a teenager! There’s so much to love about this park, from it’s epic views of the Olympic Mountains and stunning sunsets to the picturesque Admiralty Head Lighthouse.
There’s a giant field perfect for throwing a frisbee or flying a kite if you’ve been in the car a bit too long.
The most interesting and fun thing about this park is all the preserved military battlements that were built over 100 years ago. Today, you can wander around and climb on most of them and this is a really fun and unique thing to do on Whidbey! It’s particularly fun for kids. There are lots of structures to climb on and explore and endless opportunities for play and imagination.
This is another amazing sunset spot on Whidbey Island.
Visit historic Greenbank Farm (and other farms and markets)
Another unique place you’ll only find on Whidbey Island, Greenbank Farm is part shopping, part farm and part off leash dog area!
Your dog will love playing here and after you get a walk in with your dog while you take in the amazing views, make sure to get some pie at the well known and loved Whidbey Pies. Not only is this the best pie ever, it’s next door to both a wine and cheese shop! What’s not to love?? You can do a wine tasting at the wine shop too.
There are also a couple of art galleries at this historic farm and a beautiful cultivated garden to walk through.
In addition to Greenbank, there are five farmer’s markets on the island and lots of other farms that are at times open to visitors.
Walk across the Deception Pass Bridge
Located in Washington State’s most visit state park, Deception Pass State Park, the Deception Pass bridge is a must see on Whidbey Island! If you’re not keen on heights, walking across the bridge might not be for you, but if you’re ok with that you’ll see amazing views. You can also entertain yourself watching boats navigating the impressive current during tidal changes.
In addition to the bridge itself, this state park really has it all. You can go for hikes to big views, stroll along the beach and even swim in a freshwater lake just a few hundred steps from the beach. There are lots of wonderful tidepool beaches in the park too.
You can easily spend the whole day or even an entire week exploring Deception Pass without running out of things to do!
Langley has the most art galleries and shops of any of the Whidbey towns and also features some lovely waterviews. It’s also home to some great restaurants and Double Bluff Brewing.
Langley also hosts plenty of arts oriented events, so make sure to check out what’s happening during your visit.
Try Penn Cove Mussels or harvest your own
Whidbey’s Penn Cove is world famous for it’s mussels so don’t miss out on sampling them for yourself! The Front Street Grill in Coupeville is a great place to eat the famous mussels while looking out at the water where they are harvested.
If you want to try your hand at gathering mussels yourself, there is a beach open to the public in Penn Cove (sometimes it is shut do to biotoxins so make sure to check before harvesting.
You will also need a Washington State fishing license. Learn all about your options for harvesting mussels as well as clams and oysters here (Washington State Fish and Wildlife).
Eat amazing food!
There’s no question that eating is one of the best things to do on Whidbey Island! There are lots of farms, wineries and delicious restaurants.
Farms on the island occasionally host events featuring their food along with local wine and beer, so be sure to check if anything like this is happening during your visit.
I like the Front Street Grill in Coupeville to try Penn Cove mussels. They have plenty of other wonderful menu items for those in your party who are skeptical of seafood. Make sure not to miss a slice of pie from Whidbey Pies at Greenbank Farm!
Whidbey Island has five different farmer’s markets featuring lots of products grown, raised and produced on the island. If you’re visiting spring through fall make sure to find at least one to fill your bag with local goodies.
Wine tasting, Craft beer and local spirits
If you’re into craft and local beverages, then one of the best things to do on Whidbey Island is to sample the local wine, beer and spirits!
Whidbey Island has seven wineries and each have something a bit unique. Many of the grapes come from eastern Washington but many local wineries also work in some grapes grown on the island. Check out Rain Shower Cellars (Coupeville), Holmes Harbor Cellars, Blooms and Dancing Fish (Freeland) and Spoiled Dog (super dog friendly!), Comforts of Whidbey and Whidbey Island Winery (Langley).
There are also wine shops in Coupeville, Greenbank Farm and Langley.
If beer is more your thing, make sure to visit Double Bluff Brewing (Langley) and Penn Cove Brewery (three locations in Coupeville, Oak Harbor and Freeland).
Whidbey is also home to two local distilleries, a part of Washington’s thriving distillery scene. Check out Mutiny Bay (Freeland) or Whidbey Island Distillery (Langley).
Ride a bike
I find the main highway on Whidbey Island not that great for biking on for the most part. However, there are plenty of great places to bike making biking one of the great things to do on Whidbey Island!
Get off the main highway and explore back roads, or even better go for a ride on one of the trails. The Kettles Trail in Fort Ebey State Park and the adjoining lands near Coupeville, has many miles of mountain bike trails to enjoy as well.
If you don’t have or didn’t bring your own bike, you can rent bikes in both Coupeville and Oak Harbor.
Rent a kayak or Stand up paddle board
Whidbey Island kayaking offers rentals as well as tours based out of Coupeville and Langley. You can also take a tour by kayak through Deception Pass! Deception Pass has extreme currents and lots of rocks, so it is not a safe place to kayak without a guide.
Whidbey’s protected bays and beaches provide wonderful kayaking within view of the stunning shoreline. There are also opportunities to see tidepool animals along the rocks and keep an eye out for eagle’s in the trees.
Electric Vehicle Charging
There is one fast charger on Whidbey Island but it is only for Teslas. For everyone else, there are plenty of Level 2 chargers but no fast chargers.
I especially like the Level 2 charger at Greenbank Farm (great to plug in while running my dog and eating pie!) as well as the ones in downtown Langley. The Langley one provides easy parking while charging and exploring town.
The nearest fast chargers for all EVs are in Burlington (near the north end of the island) and Everett (near the south end of the island).
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years. I've been a tour guide in both Alaska and Washington and I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best low key adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!
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