The ferry from Mukilteo (the Mainland side) to Clinton is the route taken by most first-time visitors. Once on Whidbey Island, recreational and historical sights are abundant. All are free! Our main office is conveniently located 1 1/2 miles up the highway from the ferry landing, at the stop light in Kens Korner Mall. First, be sure to visit the town of Langley (merely follow Langley Road, out of our parking lot). Langley is widely known year-round as a “quaint seaside” village of shops and inns.
Just offshore of the marina area in Langley, Captain James Vancouver on his flagship, HMS Discovery, made the eighth anchorage on May 31, 1792, during his “discovery” and mapping of Puget Sound. Langley is the site of the Island County Fair, held each year in August, and the Choochokam Festival of the Arts. Choochokam, in late June or early July each year, is a festival of national importance.
Continuing “up island”, one can either return to the main highway (SR 525) via 3rd Street and Brooks Hill Road and past Lone Lake to Bayview; or, for a pleasant longer tour leave Langley via 2nd Street and Saratoga Road and drive around Fox Spit and Baby Island to Freeland. To visit one of our favorite picnicking and walking sites, visit Double Bluff beach.
Half a mile south of Freeland, turn south on Double Bluff Road for our nicest west side beach – worth visiting in all but the worst weather. Freeland, the largest community on South Whidbey, is nestled at the southern end of Holmes Harbor, where the island is narrowest. This community was founded by utopian Socialists from the Equality colony in Skagit County during 1900. By 1915, the socialist dream was over. Their attractive meeting hall at Freeland Park, on the water, is their legacy. Read more about Whidbey’s history here.
Going north, the more interesting route than along the highway is to turn west at Bush Point Road. A mile north of Freeland go left and drive up the west side along Smuggler’s Cove Road past several beach communities and the South Whidbey State Park. The park (a semi-developed facility) has wonderful sand cliffs, numerous bald eagle nests, and the last great virgin forest on Whidbey at “Classic U” and the Wilbert Trail. The Lagoon Point community a couple of miles further has some of the best steelhead fishing in the world and is one of Whidbey’s sustainable businesses.
After rejoining the highway, you can turn south for a quarter-mile to visit the historic Greenbank Farm Winery, with a tasting room and unique gift shop. Five miles further north, take Highway 20 westward (left) to the Keystone ferry basin and Fort Casey. A short side trip might be interesting; visit the log blockhouse “fort” known as Fort Crockett, the oldest building on Whidbey Island (1855) still at its original site. For this visit, at the sharp left curve toward Keystone Spit, turn on Wanamaker Road, around the north side of Crockett Lake to Fort Casey Road. Turn left and the “fort” is on the left-hand side of the road. This was one of seven forts constructed during the “Indian Wars” of 1855-56 (see our “Whidbey, In the Beginning” section). “Fort Crockett” is on private property so please respect the owner’s property.
Continuing on will bring you to Fort Casey, a true example of a late 19th-century coastal naval fortress. Casey is a must see for military buffs and beach walkers and is next to the State Diving Park and the ferry landing for Port Townsend (and the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park). There are many spots for picnicking, and a lovely overnight campground at the ferry basin. Living on Whidbey Island is living in the rainshadow because of the island’s location.
Do not miss Admiralty Lighthouse, a pristine example of 1880’s lighthouse architecture with not-to-be-forgotten views of the Straits of San de Fuca and, at night, the lights of Victoria, Canada. If you fly kites – it’s usually windy here and a well-known area for enthusiasts. You leave Ft. Casey on Engle Road; continue for the short drive to Hill Road to visit the Ebey Landing National Historic Preserve beach park. This is an unimproved facility, excellent for beachcombing or panoramic views while walking up Ebey’s Prairie trail.
Then continue north on Ebey’s Landing Road, cross the highway and visit Coupeville’s waterfront district and the second oldest town in Washington. Just off Front Street is the new Historical Society and Museum complex, and the log blockhouse that was “Fort Ebey”. A more interesting route than returning directly to the highway would be to follow Madrona Way along Penn Cove (famous for the Penn Cove mussel – absolutely the world’s finest eating mussel and oysters) through the madrona trees to the Captain Whidbey Inn. This fine example of early log hotels was built in 1907.
At the highway intersection, go left for “two blocks” and then right on Libby Road to Fort Ebey, Partridge Point Beach Park, and West Beach Road. Fort Ebey State Park is semi-developed, and is a marvelous place to roam with your dog; once the site of one of the three Naval fortresses protecting the entrance to Puget Sound. Abandoned WWII defense fortifications can be found along the various trails and walkways.
After these visits, turn north on West Beach and drive along the windswept coast providing spectacular views of the Olympics on your left and the Cascades on your right. You will continue past the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station and rejoin Highway 20 again. Turn left to continue north, or backtrack three miles to Oak Harbor, the largest town on Whidbey (at a population of 24,000). North on the highway takes you nine miles to Deception Pass and the state park many consider the most beautiful in Washington. See also: Whidbey’s Eco Network.
If you have time, we encourage you to spend some time at Deception Pass. There are wonderful sights and facilities on both ends of the high bridge. For a tranquil picnic or a walk on an agate beach from the main park entrance, follow the road beyond Cranberry Lake to North Beach, wandering down the narrow asphalt road to the beach. It is usually uncrowded, a good place to find beach agate, and enjoy the boating scenery and the high bridge (built by the WPA in 1935). The bridge spans the pass called “Deception” because it remained undiscovered by seamen for almost 200 years after the “discovery” of Puget Sound. At strong tidal changes, you experience the east side of Whidbey (Saratoga Passage) trying to drain into or out of the narrow cut.
If you enjoyed Whidbey Island, please come back for another visit and stay longer. Many from around the world have “second homes” here; others of those from our near metropolitan areas maintain weekend or vacation “getaways” here. Many U. S. Navy families who were once stationed here, return to this peaceful place in retirement. Other retirees find our mild, maritime climate, the absence of snow, “endless fir forests, windswept bluffs and driftwood-covered beaches…” a perfect place for their later years. Whidbey Island is truly an “oasis”; crime-free, and light years removed from our world of danger. We are still, however, the “undiscovered jewel” of Puget Sound.