If you’re looking for the perfect weekend getaway out of Seattle, plan a weekend on Whidbey Island. It’s close enough to the city yet makes you feel like you’ve been transported somewhere far away with how beautiful and tranquil it is. You just have to take a short, scenic ferry ride from Mukilteo, and then you’ll find plenty of things to do on Whidbey Island to fill your weekend.
I have enjoyed spending time on Whidbey Island for over a decade, as I have family here. I love the island so much that I even got married here!
While I love visiting the most during the summer, I go year-round because there are always Whidbey Island activities. The winter is a great time to visit because you can get a place by the water, watch a stormy day from your cozy cabin, and there are fewer people around.
That said, I know this island better than any other island in Washington. Based on my experience, here are some of my recommended travel tips and what to do on Whidbey Island on the weekend.
Travel Tips for Visiting Whidbey Island
The island is about 58 miles long, so you can easily explore it during a day trip to Whidbey Island or weekend on Whidbey. The north part has the largest city, Oak Harbor. This is also where you’ll find chain restaurants and stores, as well as a naval air station.
However, the mid to southern part of the island is why most people come. You’ll get away from the crowds and traffic, and every store or restaurant you’ll go to will be locally run during your 3 days on Whidbey Island.
Coupeville is in the middle of the island and sits right on the water, while Langley is the main city in the south part of the island. There are many small towns in Washington between these that are also worth visiting.
Here are a few tips to make your trip to Whidbey that much smoother.
How to Get to Whidbey Island
There are two ways to get to Whidbey Island. The most common way is by ferry, and if you’re coming from Seattle to Whidbey Island, you’ll head to the Mukilteo ferry (about 30 minutes north) to take the 15-minute ferry ride to the south end of Whidbey Island to the town of Clinton. You can check out the ferry on the WSDOT website.
It is important to note that the ferry line gets very backed up during holidays and summer months at peak hours, to the tune of a two or even three-hour wait.
Unlike San Juan Island, where you can reserve your spot in advance, Whidbey is first come, first serve. My best advice is to go at off-hours, such as late at night on a Thursday or early in the morning on Friday.
If you’re not able to avoid the busy times, bring a good book to pass the time and know there’s an Ivars by the Mukilteo ferry and a small food stand by the Clinton ferry if you get hungry.
If you’re coming from the peninsula on the western part of Washington, you can go to Port Townsend to take the ferry to Coupeville. This will take you about 35 minutes to cross, and you’ll be in the middle of the island when you get off for your three days on Whidbey Island.
While it is an island, Whidbey is also connected by the Deception Pass Bridge up north in Anacortes. It takes about an hour and a half to drive from Seattle to Anacortes, and from there, it takes an hour to go down the island.
When the wait to get on the Whidbey Island ferry starts to get over two hours, driving is a good alternative so you can start your trip. There are plenty of fun things to do in Anacortes, so you can spend a few hours there if you want to make a long weekend of it.
Best Time to Visit Whidbey Island
To be honest, there’s no “best” time to visit Whidbey Island. I’ve been here every season multiple times and love them all for different reasons. Summer is great for a weekend vacation from Seattle if you want to get out on the water and walk on the beach.
Many events go on, such as the annual Whidbey Island Fair, which is hard to pick out the best weekend on Whidbey Island to plan your vacation.
Fall is my second favorite time to visit, as it’s prime harvesting season for grapes. It’s fun to go wine tasting as the weather starts to get cooler. Winter is a great time to visit, too. There’s something cozy about being on the island during a stormy winter day as you look out at the ocean. Spring brings plenty of things to do at Whidbey Island as well, such as Coupeville’s annual Musselfest.
Where to Stay on Whidbey Island
There are plenty of places to book your Whidbey Island lodging, but I recommend staying somewhere that’s relaxing and private. Nothing beats waking up in a Whidbey island bed and breakfast in the morning with the trees and water surrounding you. No matter where on the island you stay, you’ll also notice how quiet it is.
- Comforts of Whidbey – One of the best places to stay in Langley is Comforts of Whidbey. It’s less than 10 minutes away from the Clinton ferry and close to downtown Langley. The rooms are above the wine tasting room and look out over the property. (rates start at $236 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Captain Whidbey – If your base is in Coupeville during your 3 days on Whidbey, check out Captain Whidbey. It’s right on the beach, has a bar and restaurant in it, and was built in 1907, which gives it an old-school charm. (rates start at $149 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
Another good option for Whidbey Island lodging is to look at a vacation rental, as there are dozens rented out throughout the year. This is particularly smart if you have a large group coming together, as you can all stay together and cook in the kitchen during your stay to save money.
Here are a few recommendations:
- This waterfront home has stunning views of nearby Camano Island and Puget Sound and can host up to eight people. (rates start at $229 per night)
- This beautiful home has a wraparound deck that will give you stunning views at sunset. (rates start at $199 per night)
11 Best Things to Do on Whidbey Island
There are many things to do in Whidbey Island, whether you’re on the island’s north end or the south end. Here are some ideas when looking for what to do on Whidbey Island.
1. Visit Deception Pass State Park
One of the most visited parks in the state is Deception Pass State Park, so you’ll want to put this on your Whidbey Island itinerary. This should be high on your list of things to do in the Pacific Northwest if you haven’t been here yet.
The bridge connects Whidbey Island to the mainland, and many people pull off to the side to walk on the sidewalks on the bridge to see the famous whirlpools that form in the water in Deception Pass.
You can hike on the trails and even camp here in the summer when looking for what to do on Whidbey Island. This is one of the more popular things to see on Whidbey Island, so you might have to share the road with others.
If you’d rather take a tour, you can Deception Pass day tour so you can see the island without having to drive yourself.
2. Explore Fort Casey State Park
History lovers will enjoy stopping by Fort Casey State Park in Coupeville, as this is one of the most educational things to do on Whidbey Island. While the fort was never used in an actual battle, it was built in the late 1800s to train officers and soldiers.
You can walk around, on top of, and in some parts of the fort that are still open to the public on one of the most popular Whidbey Island attractions. People of all ages will enjoy this, but it’s one of the top fun things to do on Whidbey Island for kids who need to get their energy out. My toddler loved exploring the fort and then running on the grass after.
3. Go Wine Tasting
One of the huge draws about planning a Whidbey Island weekend is how many wineries are on the island. You could spend the whole weekend wine tasting on Whidbey Island, as there are about a dozen different places to go. This is probably one of the romantic things to do on Whidbey Island.
I always prefer wine tasting on Sundays because the wineries tend to be less crowded than on Saturdays. Pick out a few that you want to visit and enjoy taking your time sampling the wine during your Whidbey weekend.
Some let you sit outside and enjoy the sun as well. Many wineries are also dog-friendly, so call ahead of time to confirm.
Here are some of my favorite wineries to visit when looking for fun things to do on Whidbey Island.
- Spoiled Dog Winery – I go to this winery almost every time I’m in town, as I love the property. The vineyards are right on the property, and they have several outdoor areas to taste wine in. When you go indoors, you’ll be greeted by an adorable Australian Shepherd.
- Holmes Harbor Cellars – This winery has won many awards for their wine, and when you go wine tasting you’ll see why. They have an outdoor patio that overlooks Holmes Harbor and a friendly cockapoo who will greet you when you come.
- Dancing Fish Vineyards – This winery makes it easy to spend an afternoon or evening here, as they have live music on a regular basis in addition to lawn games. They recently started making a rosé, but it’s become so popular that it was sold out when I was there.
- Comforts of Whidbey – As I mentioned before, this bed and breakfast on Whidbey Island is also a winery. Even if you’re not staying there, stop by to try their wine and enjoy a glass while sitting out on the spacious deck.
4. Shop in Downtown Langley
One of my favorite things about the islands in the area, like Orcas Island, is there are always cute boutique stores to visit. You’ll also find wine tasting shops and plenty of restaurants and cafes downtown that you’ll want to put on your Whidbey Island itinerary. Langley is often considered “downtown Whidbey Island,” as it’s the most popular city on the island.
Check out Sweet Mona’s for delicious fudge, or head over to the Star Store if you’re looking to stock up on healthy food for the weekend. The Chocolate Flower Farm is a place to buy all things chocolate, from chocolate-scented candles to chocolate jam.
5. Catch a Flick
Since 1937, The Clyde has been showing movies in its small, one-room theater. The best part is the prices haven’t inflated drastically with the times., so you can do this on a budget on your Whidbey Island weekend.
You can easily see a movie and get a large popcorn and soda for less than $10. This is one of the cheapest things to do in Whidbey Island and also nostalgic.
6. Check Out Local Events
There’s always something going on when you’re looking for what to do on Whidbey Island this weekend. Whether it’s a wine tasting festival, art show, or a mussel festival, you’ll love the local events.
Check online before coming to see what’s going on that weekend in Whidbey Island. This is especially true during the summer, where it feels like something is always going on during a Whidbey weekend. The winter also has plenty of holiday events so that you can plan your trip to the island around one of these.
7. Explore the Tide
There are many accessible beaches around the island that you can go down on when the tide goes out. You’ll find plenty of crabs, starfish, and more lounging in the pools of water. I do this almost every time I visit, as it’s one of the best free things to do on Whidbey Island if you like exploring.
You may also see whales passing through if you’re there at the times of the year when they’re migrating. I can’t tell you how many times whales have been in the waters on the same weekend I’ve been there. If you want to find them, you can take a whale watching tour, as many hang out around the south end of Whidbey.
8. Go Hiking
If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I always try to get a hike in wherever I go, whether that’s a winter hike in Washington or an easy Washington hike. There are several hikes you can do around the island, and most are easy for the majority of skill levels. This makes them one of the top things to do on Whidbey Island if you want to be active.
My favorite Whidbey hike is Ebey’s Landing, which is 5.6 miles roundtrip and has an elevation gain of 260 feet. You’ll get beautiful views of the water during your time on the trail and I always find it to be very relaxing. While I would consider it kid-friendly, the trail is narrow in parts and goes along the cliff. That said, I would make sure your children are at an age where they can listen and not run off, or you can wear them if they’re young enough.
9. Visit Greenbank Farm
One of my favorite things to do on Whidbey Island when friends come with me is to bring them to Greenbank Farm. This former farm now has a restaurant that serves some amazing food and even better pies (you’ll want to get one to go!).
You can also wine taste while you’re here to try some local wine or shop for local crafts. The holidays are a particularly fun time to visit the farm, so they have great gifts to get others. There are also two art galleries if you want to spend an afternoon looking around.
10. Explore Coupeville
Coupeville is another Whidbey Island must-see, and I always recommend everyone stops here in addition to Langley if they’re short on time. Located in the middle of the island, the area has plenty of restaurants, shops, and amazing waterfront views, making it an ideal to put on your Washington bucket list.
When you’re ready for lunch or dinner, check out Front Street Grill. This is the best restaurant in the area for waterfront dining if you want fresh, local seafood. If you’re looking for a more casual place, I always love visiting Toby’s Tavern. This building has been around since 1890 and is the perfect place to get a pint of beer and fish and chips.
If you’re in the mood for something sweet, make sure to get ice cream from the famous Kapaws Iskreme. After, you can walk down the wooden pier to visit the shops at the end and get some beautiful pictures (try coming here at sunset!).
11. Go Kayaking
One of the more unique things to do on Whidbey Island is that you can kayak virtually around the whole island (although that would take quite a while). I love going out on the water in the summer with a snack packed and exploring the ocean for a bit. You can even kayak across the water to Camano Island at some of the accessible beach points.
As always, make sure you practice water safety by wearing a life jacket, preferably going with someone else, and watching out for the larger boats that pass by. You’ll likely see curious seals following you in the water, and if you’re really lucky, a whale.
When you’re done with your trip on the island, it’s time to head back to the ferry line. While you wait, you can look back at all the things to do on Whidbey Island that you found and start planning your next trip back!