September 21, 2021
Whidbey Island is one of our favorite day trips from Greenlake Guest House for guests who have a car and want to explore beyond the Seattle city limits. Read more to learn where to go, what to do, and why it is worth a visit.
Why Go to Whidbey Island?
It is beautiful in every season. Whidbey Island is in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains to the west and gets less precipitation than other parts of Western Washington. The temperate influence of Puget Sound means that snow is rare and the climate is mild.The island is about 60 miles long and only 10 miles wide, with lots of interesting places to stop.
It takes about an hour to drive it from end to end but you will definitely want to get out of the car to explore. You can easily make the trip into a scenic loop if you start 90 minutes from Seattle at the north end and return home on the south side via the ferry from Clinton to Mukilteo.
Top Attractions on Whidbey Island
This much-photographed bridge opened in 1935 and is the gateway to the north side of Whidbey Island and Deception Pass State Park. The huge state park offers many scenic hiking trails, camping and picnicking and both lake and salt water beaches. You can walk across the bridge and catch a view of the San Juan Islands on a clear day.
Coupeville is one of Washington State’s older towns and has a New England, Victorian feel to it. Walk the short distance to the end of the wharf. Be sure to visit Front Street’s waterfront restaurants and shops and try some famous Penn Cove mussels at Front Street Grill. In the historic downtown, The Lavender Wind Farm store is one of Julie’s favorites (they also do farm tours in summer!).
This historic reserve sits on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound on the west side of Central Whidbey Island. It features a prairie, rich farmland, and beach access. The area was originally used by Native Americans, and then settled by Europeans in 1850. The 4-mile hike along the bluff and the beach is stunning.
The pristine, historic lighthouse near Coupeville is definitely worth a quick photo stop. Due to the pandemic, we were not able to go inside on our last visit. Fort Casey is adjacent and still has the original bunkers and gun batteries dating back to the late 1800’s. Stay and explore if you have time.
Greenbank Farm’s big red barn is hard to miss from the main road. The property began as a Loganberry farm back in 1904. Now it offers organic gardens and walking trails and some specialty shops including a cheese shop, wine shop, and incredible Whidbey Pies at the Old Spots Bistro. Be sure to stop for a slice or bring home a whole pie.
Langley is a cute seaside village overlooking Saratoga Passage in Puget Sound. It’s known for art galleries and good restaurants. Some of our favorites are Prima Bistro, the homey Braburn Restaurant, and Village Pizza. The Langley Whale Center is small but fascinating. The sprawling Star Store has everything from groceries and deli items to clothing, kitchen items and souvenirs. Enjoy the whimsical public art all around the town.
The south side of Whidbey Island offers several distilleries and wineries. Whidbey Island Distillery offers complimentary tours and tastings daily. Its award-winning Blackberry Liqueur is made with local fruit and is the single highest rated spirit of any kind in North America. Comforts of Whidbey Winery is the perfect spot to stop and enjoy a glass of locally made wine, with grapes grown right on Whidbey Island. The tasting room is open Friday-Sunday and has an inviting deck with a beautiful view of Puget Sound.
Washington State has one of the largest ferry fleets in the world. These iconic green and white ferries are seen all over Puget Sound. The ferry between Clinton and Mukilteo departs every 30 minutes and lasts about 15 minutes. During the crossing, you may wait in your car or walk up the stairs to the passenger deck where food, seating, and restrooms are available. Purchase your tickets at the tollbooth on a first come, first served basis. This route does not offer reservations. Summer weekends can get quite busy heading over to the island on Friday and Saturday, or returning to the mainland on Sunday afternoon. During summer, we recommend making this trip midweek if possible in order to avoid the wait.
Bonus Attractions If You Have More Time
Mt Erie is located just north of Deception Pass Bridge near Anacortes. It offers a beautiful lookout of Whidbey Island and the nearby San Juan Islands. Drive 1.6 miles to the top and park next to the radio tower and take a short walk to both lookout points. Be sure to bring your camera!
La Conner is a picturesque farming community on the bay, located between I-5 and Deception Pass Bridge. The route is scenic and the town is worth a stop if you have the time. Take the Conway exit from I-5 and drive through scenic farmland en route to La Conner.
In summer and the early fall harvest season, be sure to stop at one of the many local farm stands for fresh fruit, vegetables, and handmade items. Snow Goose Produce is a local favorite because of their giant ice cream cones. In spring, you will see beautiful fields of daffodils and tulips along the way. Stroll through historic downtown La Conner and enjoy the antique stores, art galleries, and bayside restaurants. Be aware that this town can get very crowded in April during the extremely popular Tulip Festival.
Our Recommended Itinerary
This day trip can be done as a loop in either direction. Whidbey Island is 60 miles long so it takes about 1 hour to drive from Deception Pass to the ferry terminal at Clinton if you don’t stop at all.We normally recommend driving 90 minutes north on I-5 to Deception pass to start the trip (add stops in La Conner or Mt. Erie before you get to Deception Pass if you have extra time). Then drive north to south, making as many stops as desired.
- Drive north on Interstate 5 and take exit 226. Turn left onto state highway 536@ until you reach state highway 20. Turn left and travel about 4 miles until you cross over the Deception Pass Bridge onto Whidbey Island.
- Hike at Deception Deception Pass State Park in the morning.
- Stop for lunch and shopping in historic Coupeville.
- Hike at Ebey’s Landing and explore the lighthouse and Fort Casey after lunch.
- Buy some pie or local cheese and stroll the gardens at Greenbank Farm.
- Do a winery or distillery tasting on the south side of the island in the afternoon.
- Explore the artsy town of Langley and have dinner before taking the short ferry ride back to Mukilteo.
- Drive 30 minutes south on I-5 and arrive back in Seattle and the Greenlake Guest House.
Short on time? Make fewer stops. If you only have a half day available to explore the island, you can take the ferry both ways, skip Deception Pass, and simply explore the south side of the island. This day trip from Seattle offers beautiful scenery and lots of opportunity for fun within a fairly short driving distance.