In October, we spent a 3-day weekend visiting Whidbey Island.
Coming from Seattle, just under 2 hours' travel time (including ferry time) gets you to the southernmost tip of the island. Alternatively, you can access the island from the north, driving over the immense Deception Pass bridge into Oak Harbor.
Some things I love most about Whidbey Island:
- Accessibility: The fact that you can access this island either by ferry from the south, or by bridge from the north, means you have complete control in how you plan your visit.
- The food: Ever heard of Penn Cove mussels? They come from here. The restaurants on Whidbey, in true island fashion, humbly reap its bounty to deliver some of the best food we've tasted in Western Washington.
- The pace: Stay for a long weekend or a day. Either way, you'll feel you've got plenty of time to unwind. Spend a morning exploring one of its many state parks, go for a little antiquing in one of its quaint towns, have a late lunch/early dinner while you watch the sunset over the Olympic mountain range to the west.
We stayed in the southern town of Freeland but explored a good amount of the island in the short time we were there. Read on for some of our favorite things to do on Whidbey Island.
Where to Stay
Orca View Guesthouse and Loft
The Orca View Guesthouse and Loft is a small but functional home with a nice view in Freeland on Whidbey Island.
There is a loft with a full-sized bed that is accessible by a slide-out ladder and a second bed on the main floor. Technically the place sleeps 4, but it felt just perfect for 2.
We chose the Orca View mostly because of its view of the ocean (which is relatively easy to find on an island) and its thoughtful eco-friendly touches:
- The construction of the guest house, which sits atop a garage and is part of a larger house on the property, is practical with a minimal and clean aesthetic.
- The cabinetry in both the kitchen area and the bathroom were done by local craftsmen.
- The tile (in the kitchen and bathroom) were custom-made by local artisans.
- The centerpiece of the dining area, the custom glass lamp, is a lovely complement to the view outside.
The guest house is filled with floor-to-ceiling windows and gets beautiful light during the day. It faces west, so the sunset views are unreal. It also gets very dark at night, which we welcomed, as we stayed inside and read and relaxed on the cozy couches.
The kitchen was super tiny, lacked an oven and a dishwasher, but I was very surprised at how functional it was...
For example, in the morning, we cooked breakfast tacos on the portable electric hot-plate, roasted Yukon golds in the tiny toaster oven in the closet, and brewed local coffee (provided by the host) - all while watching the ocean.
We would stay here again in a heartbeat.
What To Do
South Whidbey State Park
South Whidbey State Park is a lovely little park with water access and a total of 3.5 miles of trails. Unfortunately, we came late in the day and didn't spend too much time here - but it was enough to get our fresh air fix for the day.
There is a washout blocking the beach access so we didn't get to walk along the water like I'd planned. I'm guessing this should be fixed in time for next hiking season but since we were visiting in the off-season we had no such luck.
I think this is a great park to come to if you lived in the area - perfect for a long walk or a trail run with plenty of forest and well-marked trails.
The Farm Stand at K & R Farms
The Farm Stand at K&R Farms (Oak Harbor) has the biggest pumpkin patch I've ever seen! It was really a sight to behold driving down Route 20. Clusters of orange spanned almost as far as the eye could see.
We hadn't planned on stopping in here but after passing it a couple times over the course of our trip, I finally caved and pulled into the lot.
In addition to the plentiful pumpkin selection, the Farm Stand also had a corn maze, freshly roasted corn (with all the fixins), hot dogs, a huge selection of ice cream and Italian ice. They also had a little shop with fresh produce.
This place is kid friendly!
We only stopped in shortly for a quick snack and were off, but before we left I had to snap a few photos of the pumpkin patch... to get into the fall mood.
Deception Pass State Park - Headlands / Rosario Head / Lighthouse Point
There was plenty to explore in the Deception Pass Headlands, with beautiful intermittent views of the pass and sunny rugged cliffs.
This trail is located north of Deception Pass, on the mainland. It provides views of the bridge from across
We set aside plenty of time to spend a nice leisurely morning weaving in an out of the forest, breaking out to cliffside views of the coast, watching birds catch their breakfast amongst the peeling bark and red wood of the Pacific Madrone trees.
Unfortunately, the bridge was undergoing some construction so part of it was covered up. Still, it was nice to view it from a different perspective than we'd done in the past.
When we started on this trail, the weather was grey and blustery but by the time we came back to the car, the clouds had cleared and it was blue skies for the remainder of the day. Really a treat we were not expecting on a fall trip in the PNW.
Fort Casey Historical State Park
There are a number of decommissioned naval and military posts to be seen on Whidbey Island, including Fort Casey, Fort Flagler, Fort Worden and Fort Ebey.
Fort Casey was built to guard the entrance to Puget Sound and the Bremerton naval shipyard.
Today, it boasts a beautiful white lighthouse with a red tin roof and views for miles in many directions.
We visited Fort Casey on a Monday morning and it was nearly empty except for a couple deer and a man flying a kite.
Unfortunately the lighthouse wasn't open to explore (likely because it was a holiday), but typically it's open to visitors from 11am to 5pm.
We spent the better portion of the morning walking through the old fortification structures, the coastal cliffside brush, the layers of driftwood piled up on the beach and hunting for the perfect souvenir to bring home from the rocky coast. We watched a ferry travel across the Sound to Port Townsend.
The weather was a mix of sunny and overcast offering dramatic lighting and plenty of wind. It felt like fall, like winter was coming.
Where To Eat
Dinner at Oystercatcher - Coupeville
One of our main events of the trip was a return to The Oystercatcher (we'd been once before). It was literally the only thing I planned on - it's that good.
Tucked away in the quaint seaside village of Coupeville, The Oystercatcher has some of the best food we've tasted since moving to Washington. They take incredible care in everything they present to the table.
House-made sourdough. Fresh-churned butter. They pickle, age, ferment, roast and cure everything in-house. The flavors they serve up represent a true taste of the PNW.
It's not bargain dining but it's worth it for a special occasion (or a Sunday evening in October on a 3-day weekend ;)).
If you don't do anything else on this list, make sure you go to The Oystercatcher. And make a reservation -- they are tiny and booked solid on weekends!
Lunch at Anthes Ferments - Langley
If a restaurant could be my spirit animal, it'd be Anthes Ferments. Like the name suggests, Anthes Ferments in Langley has plenty of pickled and fermented offerings in the restaurant/store. Kimchi, dill pickles, spicy curried carrots, fermented radishes.
Bonus! You can get many of their goods to go - packed in various sizes of mason jars.
If you're planning on eating there (and you should!), they offer an eclectic menu of fusion dishes, like kimchi deviled eggs, Shoyu ramen, boquerones (cured European anchovies), and various Yakitori grilled meats and veg.
I love walking into this light-filled restaurant that, while tiny, has plenty of outdoor seating which is lovely during warmer weather. They've got a butcher's block-style storage cart where their various "in-progress" pickles are placed and doing they're thing.
The owners are super friendly -- it's a tiny husband and wife operation -- and they strive to make everything in-house using ingredients from local farmers wherever possible with a focus on gut health (through fermentation).
Honestly, I wish I lived closer to Anthes Ferments because I would come here all the time.
Lunch/Dinner at Portico - Langley
What a romantic, cozy little restaurant! We went to Portico for dinner and it was just what we needed after walking around all day.
The restaurant has a really nice ocean-front view, and in warmer weather you can eat outside for a front-row seat of the sea. Since we were visiting late in the season, it was too cold to sit outside.
Inside, a handful of tables fill the tiny room and the warm tones of the furniture, richly painted walls and candle-lights give it a really intimate vibe.
This is another small family-run restaurant in Langley and the Latin American-inspired food did not disappoint. We shared one of their classic dishes, the Ropa Vieja and a cup of their soup of the night, a Red Posole in a flavorful and spicy broth.
Whidbey Pies - Greenbank
The first time we visited Whidbey Island, we didn't try Whidbey Pies. Now I know what we were missing!
This cafe was so good we found ourselves going back a second time during our short stay on the island -- which says a LOT!
I love a restaurant fully devoted to achieving a perfect flaky pie crust and the fact that they do both sweet and savory pies really makes them a one-stop-shop. Perfect for breakfast, brunch or even a late lunch (they stay open until 4pm most days).
Not only are the pies delicious, there's plenty to explore in the area.
Whidbey Pies is located in Greenbank on an expansive bit of farmland that caters to tourists. There are little shops to check out that showcase local artists' work, island-inspired home decor, specialty cheeses and more.
There's also a pretty pond to see, and a garden with a wide array of native botanicals to meander through either before or after you eat.
I'm sure we'll be back to Whidbey one of these days. Just thinking about our recent visit makes me feel calmer, at ease.
Did we miss anything? Have you been to Whidbey Island? If so, what's your favorite place to explore on the island? Let us know in the comments!