Updated: Jul 20
Looking for things to do on Whidbey Island? You won’t be disappointed with all the options you have. The island is a nature lover’s dream with lots of wildlife like roaming deer, bald eagles, seals and of course, the beloved migrating whales. But it also has a very storied history of early settlers from the Oregon Trail and Native American tribes that local agencies have worked hard to preserve and share with others.
From strolling the beaches along the Puget Sound or visiting art galleries and antique shops, to exploring national parks and historic sites, there is a little something for everyone. But chances are, you don’t have a lot of time, so you’re going to want to choose wisely.
Click here for a quick travel overview of Whidbey Island, including where to stay, what to eat and how to get to Whidbey Island.
Check out our list of five cool things to do on Whidbey Island.
1. Visit Coupeville
Penn Cove Gallery
Coupeville is definitely a fan favorite on Whidbey Island, and there are lots of reasons why. The Dutch Colonial style architecture is oozing with charm, and there are so many fun artisanal shops like Lavender Wind which has their own lavender farm on the island and sells handmade soaps, shortbread cookies, and even lavender ice cream in their gift shop in the historic waterfront district.
The Penn Cove Gallery is home to a melting pot of local artisans. There are 26 painters, photographers, jewelry makers, wood carvers, weavers, ceramic artists and more with their works on display. It’s a great place to buy authentic souvenirs from your visit.
Have a hankering for ice cream? There will be a line out the door at Kapaw’s Iskreme, but the waffle cones are homemade, and three scoops will only cost you four bucks. Another fun note, it’s also the original shop location for Seattle’s Best coffee. The coffee shop opened in 1969 as the Wet Whisker but they changed their name in 1991 when they won the contest for the “best coffee in Seattle.”
We haven’t even made it to the Coupeville Wharf yet. It was built in 1905 and is home to a restaurant and coffee shop, a place to buy souvenirs, gas and boat supplies, a marine educational center and of course, the Harbor Master’s office.
2. See Deception Pass Bridge from above + below
Deception Pass State Park
Deception Pass Bridge
You don’t have to be a serious hiker to enjoy the trails at Deception Pass State Park in Oak Harbor, but if you are, there are 40 miles of trails to wander. For those who don’t really want to commit to a day of hiking, you can follow the winding dirt trail down to North Beach to skip rocks and look for shells along the water’s edge.
You could also sit on one of the pieces of driftwood for a stunning view of the boats sailing beneath the soaring steel bridge. North Beach is an extremely photogenic little cove that is well-protected from the wind and has beautiful views of the water, the forest and the bridge. You’ll end up taking lots of photos.
Then walk back up to the Deception Pass Bridge for an expansive 365-degree view, 180 feet (55 m) above the Puget Sound. The path to walk up to the bridge is lined with shaggy ferns and shaded by a lush canopy of trees and thick-velvety moss covering the trunks. It’s quintessential Pacific Northwest in all its glory.
The bridge was built in 1935 and it still retains the gorgeous art deco charm from that era. Keep in mind the bridge connects Whidbey and Fidalgo Island and is nearly 1500 feet (453 m) across. While you can walk across the bridge, there is a fair amount of traffic to be mindful of as well.
3. Go wine tasting
Vail Wine Shop & Tasting Room
Whidbey Island Winery
Washington wines have worked long and hard to put themselves on the map. Regions like Columbia Valley, Walla Walla and Yakima have made themselves more mainstream in recent years and Whidbey Island celebrates their hard work and notoriety with several wineries and wine tasting shops.
If you’re in Coupeville, like we recommended above, stop in and get a wine flight at the Vail Wine Shop & Tasting Room. They specialize in stocking small batch, hand-crafted wines, ciders and microbrews all by the glass and of course bottles. They really know their stuff and have a fantastic outdoor seating area in the front and the back of the building. If you go to the backside, you’ll have a great view of the Wharf and Penn Cove.
Whidbey Island Winery is the island’s oldest winery and vineyard and is a gorgeous place to spend an afternoon. While they do have island grown varietals, they are all white wines. Our favorite was one of their reds, the 2016 Composition from Yakima Valley, a very smooth Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenere.
Dancing Fish is another extremely beautiful place to spend the afternoon, with rolling green hillsides and pastures, orchards, plenty of outdoor deck seating and big red barns lining their vineyard, it’s hard to want to leave. You can stroll the sloping grounds or play bocce ball on their crushed oyster shell court.
4. Walk Ebey’s Landing
Ebey's Landing National Historical Site & Park
Jacob & Sarah Ebey House
The windswept cliff sides at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Site & Park are worth exploring if for nothing more than the views alone. It’s considered the crown jewel of all the Whidbey Island beaches for its expansive views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and tall grass prairies, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better place to watch the sun set.
There are a couple hikes you can do, including one that leads up and around a loop along the bluffs and the beach at around five miles or so. This is a great place to keep your eyes on the horizon for any passing whale pods that might be migrating through the area.
If you’re a history buff, you can visit the Jacob and Sarah Ebey House, named for the settlers who built it in 1856 along with a surviving blockhouse that was built for defense against the Native American tribes they’d moved in on. The Ebey’s were amongst the other settlers who headed west on the Oregon Trail and the grounds are now protected by the National Park Service.
5. Explore Fort Casey
Fort Casey Rifles
Fort Casey Bunkers
Admiralty Head Lighthouse
Keystone Underwater Dive Park
Fort Casey Inn
Even if military history isn’t your thing, Fort Casey is a main attraction on Whidbey Island for a number of reasons. It was built for marine defense in the late 1800s and used for training during World Wars I and II, and still has the original lighthouse, bunkers and a set of rare disappearing canons you can explore. Ok, I say canons but they’re actually a pair of 10-inch D.C. rifles that are the only remaining models in the world, and that’s pretty cool.
The Victorian-style Admiralty Head Lighthouse was built in 1903 with brick walls that are 18-inches thick and then covered in white stucco with a fire engine-red roof. It’s perched 100 feet above the cliffside, and you can still climb the iron spiral staircase to the top of the 30-foot tower for a 360-degree view.
The Fort Casey State Park also has more than 10,000 feet of saltwater shoreline on the Puget Sound with a protected scuba diving site called the Keystone Underwater Dive Park that most people visiting Whidbey Island never get to see. With boat launches, fishing, fire pits and seaside campsites, it’s really an outdoor lover’s paradise. There are also restored officer’s quarters nearby, called the Fort Casey Inn, that are now used as rentals for up to six people and include everything you’d need for a comfy stay.
Click here for more information on our Whidbey Island Travel Guide.
More things to see on the Puget Sound
Ashley Oñoz-Wright has been a travel writer and editor based in Las Vegas, NV for the last eight years. Her work has been featured in Manifesting Travel, Modern Luxury, Sophisticated Living, Greenspun Media Group, Vegas.com and LasVegas.com. She holds a degree in Sociology & Anthropology from DePauw University.