Ever wonder what is north of Seattle? Or know that you can go island hopping in Washington State? There is so much to see and do in the Puget Sound area and we got you covered for a 4 day adventure. Read below for an incredible itinerary full of beauty and adventure.
Day One | Island Hopping in Washington State – Exploring Whidbey Island and San Juan Island
Spend your first day exploring Whidbey Island focusing on Deception Pass State Park and going as far a Coupeville. The day will plenty of amazing views and delicious food!
Deception Pass State Park
History and Visitor Information for Deception Pass
Deception Pass was named by George Vancouver because Whidbey Island was first thought to be a peninsula but later proved to be a narrow rocky strait and Vancouver felt deceived by the narrow strait and named it Deception Pass. It has an iconic bridge that opened in 1935 that connects Whidbey Island to Fidalgo Island and most of the development of the park was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression Era.
This 3,854 acre park is Washington State’s most visited park and offers, hiking, beaches, camping, and water activities. There is a fee to enter the park – you can either buy a 1 day pass or a Discover Pass that is good for all entry into the Washington state parks for a year.
Plans for Morning in Deception Pass
Start your morning in Mount Vernon and grab a bagel sandwich and a latte at Whidbey Island Bagel Factory and then head toward Deception Pass through Anacortes. If you need some provisions for the day, a great stop is at The Store in Anacortes, they have snacks and beverages for purchase and don’t forget to grab a muffin, they are known for their inhouse made muffins.
Head over to Deception Pass State Park – I recommend getting the Discovery Pass for all of the state parks but if you don’t want one, make sure you have cash on hand to pay at the park.
Spending your day at Deception Pass Park
The park has over 30 hiking trails, so there are plenty of options to choose from! I recommend the Lighthouse Point hike, a 2.4 mile loop that is on the Fidalgo Island side of the park. It has beach views, views of the bridge and woodland views – it is an amazing hike and has a little bit of everything in the scenery department!
I do recommend wearing a pair of hiking sandals, they are very versatile for all of the different terrains on the trail. Also, a windbreaker or light sweatshirt if you are going in the morning since the mornings can be a little chilly. Alltrails says it takes about an hour to complete, but the amount of time depends on how much stopping you want to do. Once you are done exploring the area, hit the road for the next stop, Oak Harbor.
This is the biggest city on Whidbey Island and is the home to the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, the Pacific Northwest Naval Aircraft Museum and Flintstone Park. They have a historic main street you can explore as well as a farmer’s market on Sundays in June-September.
Stop at Seabolts Smokehouse for lunch, you should to try their fish and chips and clam chowder, both are delicious. Take a walk after lunch at Flintstone Park, they have a boardwalk along the water and a little playground you can stop at as well. At the side of the park with the pier is a concrete ‘Flintstone’ car, which is fun to get a picture in.
Next up is the Pacific Northwest Naval Aircraft Museum. This museum focuses on aircraft and and the naval history connected to the Pacific Northwest Area. Some of the exhibits include a PBY-5A aircraft, interactive exhibits, and flight simulators. It is a small museum but great to go learn about the naval history of the island.
Fort Casey and Admiralty Head Lighthouse
Fort Casey was built in the late 1800’s and was used for defense and training facility until around the mid-1940’s and it was one of 3 forts that made up the “Triangle of Fire” that protected the entrance to the Puget Sound in the early 20th century. Today you can explore the original bunkers and gun batteries of the fort as well as 1.8 miles of hiking trails.
Adjacent to the fort is the Admiralty Head Lighthouse, built originally in 1861, it was moved in 1899 to make room for one of the gun emplacements at Fort Carson and served in the current location temporarily until the new lighthouse could be built. The current lighthouse was built in 1902 and hasn’t been an active Lighthouse since 1922 but was used as barracks during World War II. Today it has been restored and is open to visitors seasonally.
Take some time to explore the old fort and take some pictures of the lighthouse-make sure you have a good camera. When you are at the fort, focus on the freshly painted areas, that is where all of the informational plaques will be located. You can walk the whole area, but don’t miss the updated area.
There is a path over to the lighthouse area, so you can just walk from the fort. If you are there when the lighthouse is open for visitors, take a moment to stop in and take a look around. Next, take the short drive into Coupeville.
Coupeville is one of the oldest towns in Washington and has cute shops, tasty eatery’s, a local museum and a sculpture forest. A lot of the building in the town are historic and the iconic red building on the wharf is a must visit. It is unique in that is is a historic district in the federal Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve, established in 1978 by congress and is the only one in the country.
Stroll main street and check out some of the shops. Don’t miss getting some ice cream at Kapaws Iskreme and walking along the historic wharf. Then go check out the Price Sculpture Forest and the Davis Blockhouse located in the Sunnyside Pioneer Cemetery.
After your time in Coupeville, head back up to Anacortes to catch the ferry. Stop and grab some snacks for your ride over to San Juan Island.
San Juan Island
San Juan Island is the second largest of the San Juan Islands and is the most populous. The first non native settlement was in 1853 by the Hudson Bay Company for a sheep farm but had been used seasonally by the Coast Salish Tribes for salmon fishing.
Friday Harbor on San Juan Island is the only incorporated town in the San Juan Islands and is home to a resident Orca pod, historical sites detailing the Pig War, and great local farms. Enjoy your first island hopping adventure over to San Juan Island.
Once on the ferry, they do have a little café and vending machines if you need a snack as well as restrooms and tables to sit at. Have cash on hand if you want the vending machine, we couldn’t get any of the credit card stuff to work and was glad to have some cash. We also brought a couple of games and I had my Kindle to pass the time.
Some Tips on Navigating the Ferry System
Anacortes to San Juan Islands is a very popular route, especially in the summer, so it is recommended that if you are wanting to take a vehicle, make reservations. Here are some tips for the ferry:
- Make an account on the Washington State Ferry website so that when the reservations opened up, you can make them without having to create an account that day.
- Sign up for text alerts so that you can get notifications of any changes
- The morning that your dates opened up for reservations, logon to your account and reserve the times you want. They only open up 30% of the available reservations 2 months before sailing and then an additional 30% at 2 weeks before sailing and then an additional 30% 2 days before sailing, saving 10% of the space for day of vehicles. So, if you don’t get what you want at first, keep checking back. This is only a save your spot reservation, you still have to buy a ticket.
Here is how it works:
You pick your time and reserve it and then you will need to show up at least 45 mins before sailing but I have seen people recommend at least an hour before sailing. Your reservation is not your ticket, you must buy tickets and then get in line. The ferries are often behind schedule or cancelled, keep updated with texts so you know what your timeline looks like.
If your ferry is cancelled, you will have priority on the next one but it can be quite a wait, so be prepared. Also, grab the snacks you want before you get on the ferry, there aren’t tons of food options once on the ferry. You only pay departing from Anacortes, not Friday Harbor, so it is a round trip ticket.
San Juan Island Arrival and Plans
Since the ferry will be arriving later in the evening, plan going straight to your hotel, The Friday Harbor House. You will be here for two nights before heading over to Port Townsend, so settle in and have a relaxing evening.
Day 2 | Exploring San Juan Island
On day 2 of your adventure, start with breakfast the Friday Harbor House Restaurant and then go grab a latte at the Salty Fox before you head out for the day. First stop is American Camp and South Beach. Take some water, a pair of binoculars, a camera and a windbreaker (if you are there in the morning) so that you don’t miss anything while you are out exploring.
American Camp and South Beach
History of the Pig War
The English and the American nations almost went to war in 1859 over an English pig that was shot by an American, called The Pig War. The matter was settled peacefully but the question of territorial rights of the island were still being settled and it was agreed that there would be a small presence of each nation on the island until it could be resolved. The American’s chose the south of the island and you can visit the historic military site where the American’s occupied the island from 1859 to 1872.
Exploring American Camp
At the American Camp, they have a visitor’s center and you can visit the Officer’s quarters. There aren’t as many buildings to visit as the English Camp, but there are several trails you can meander and interpretive signs along the way. The visitor’s center has some brand new displays installed to give you an idea about the history and people of the area and American Cam. It is really well done and worth the stop in before you start exploring the area. The volunteer staff and rangers are also really helpful and can give you some great tips on what you should do on your stop there.
Grandma’s Cove and Hike to South Beach
After stopping at the visitor’s center, start down the trail towards the parade grounds. Then follow signs to Grandma’s Cove. It isn’t a long walk, but it’s a great little beach where you can swim or check out the driftwood. You can sometimes spot animals there as well – we saw a bald eagle and a sea otter.
After exploring the cove, walk back up the trail ( I really appreciated having my hiking sandals for this hike since it was a combo of sand and dirt that I was walking on). Meander around some of the trails that go along the rugged coast line. They have cliff views, blackberry bushes and sweeping meadow views. It’s an incredible hike! From these trails you can make your way towards South Beach , the longest beach on San Juan. It has views of the Olympic Mountains and known for having driftwood on the beach.
From South Beach, head back on the marked path towards the visitor’s center. Make a stop at the parade grounds and officers quarters to see how the Americans spent their time on San Juan island. After you see the Officer’s Quarters, make your way to the parking lot and head on out towards Roche Harbor.
Head over to the Roche Harbor Resort to grab some lunch at the Lime Kiln Café. This place isn’t fancy but the food was really delicious and the views of the harbor were gorgeous. I recommend the Café Carvery Dip Sandwich with the fries, so good! After lunch, explore the area a little bit, you can walk along the harbor or check out some little shops.
You can see where the lime kilns used to be. There isn’t much left there but it is cool to learn about why they started processing lime (to keep the British soldiers from getting bored) and to learn about the process. Over by the kilns, there is are bocce ball courts, play a game and then head out to English Camp.
English Camp and Alpacas
English Camp is only a few minutes down the road from Roche Harbor resort. It is a great stop to see how different the English were living compared to the Americans. With British territory so close and more support for the outpost there, the English had plenty of supplies. They made the camp look more like home compared to the bare bones American Camp.
When you visit, there is a formal garden to walk through, some buildings from their time there and a cemetery. During the summer, the visitor’s center is open and some reenactments of the time are done. There is also a steep trail that takes you to where the officer’s built their houses while stationed there.
After exploring the area, head over to for a stop at The Farm at Krystal Acres to see the Alpacas. For a small fee you can also feed them. There is also a little gift shop where you can purchase Alpaca related items. From there, head off to Lime Kiln Point State Park.
Lime Kiln Point State Park
Lime Kiln Point State Park is home to 1.6 miles of hiking trails and a lighthouse. It is also one of the best places in the world to view whales from land. Explore the light house, then walk along the rocky trails to see if you can spot an Orca. There are benches and rocks you can sit on to take you time to spot a whale. That really would really make a perfect day on San Juan island! I recommend taking a pair of binoculars with you to better spot some sea life. Also, have some shoes with grip on them if you are going to explore the rocks.
After some whale watching time, head back to Friday Harbor to have dinner at Downriggers. The views are amazing, the cocktails are delicious and don’t miss out on their Spicy Prawn Mac and Cheese. It is a great way to end a busy day!
Day 3 | Friday Harbor, E-biking and back to Anacortes
Breakfast on the Island and Exploring the Town
Friday Harbor is the only town on the island and has plenty of shops featuring local artists. Spend a leisurely morning grabbing breakfast at Rocky Bay Café, they have some basic options for breakfast but they are all well executed. After breakfast, do some shopping around Friday Harbor. Don’t miss stopping by the Penlindaba Lavender Farm store and the Rookscroft & Company shop, featuring products by local artist and author, Jayne Siroshton. Also check out the whale museum.
Lunch and E-Biking
When you are done shopping, get some at the San Juan Island Brewing Company. They have a great menu and of course, a great selection of beers to try. We really enjoyed the pretzel and the salmon burger while we were there. The space is great if you have a large party or kids that want to run around for a bit.
After lunch head over to Cycle San Juan to pick up your E-bikes. Spend some time riding around the island,pack some snacks for along the way. Make sure you return your e-bikes and are ready for the ferry back about 45 minutes before the ferry leaves. Get your car in line and then go grab some drinks at Cease & Desist while you wait.
Enjoy your ride back to Anacortes, either enjoying the views from the observation deck, finding a nice place to sit and read your Kindle or grab a table to play some games. In Anacortes, get dinner at A’town bistro before heading to Deception Pass Bridge.
Make a stop at the bridge and walk along it, the views are really incredible. If you are lucky you can watch the sunset from the bridge! Head over to Coupeville when your done to stay at Captain Whidbey.
Day 4 | Coffee, Fort Worden & Port Townsend
History of Port Townsend
Port Townsend was called the “City of Dreams” because it was once speculated to become the largest harbor on the west coast. It did become a bustling sea port and many homes were built at the time in the Victorian style. When the boom of growth rapidly ended in the 1890’s, the buildings were abandoned, preserving the way the city looked at the time of the boom. In 1977, it was registered as a National Historic Landmark.
The city today is know for it’s charming downtown and beautiful Victorian architecture. This is the last stop on your island hopping in Washington state adventure.
Morning Ferry Ride
Start your day at the Cedar & Salt Coffee Shop, try a coffee flight and pastry. The coffee flight consists of 4 different coffees of your choice, so this is a great way to try some new coffee flavor combinations! After coffee, head over to the ferry terminal for your short ferry ride over to Port Townsend. Remember before to buy your ticket and reserve a spot for your car before you leave for your trip.
This ferry terminal has a little cafe near by and you can walk along the shore while you wait for to load onto the ferry. Spend your 20 minute ride looking for sea creatures and the beautiful coast lines. After you get off the ferry head to Fort Worden and Fort Worden Lighthouse.
History of Fort Worden and Point Wilson Lighthouse
Fort Worden, part of the “Triangle of Fire” and was constructed between 1898 and 1917. It was once the Naval headquarters for the defense of Puget Sound and was last used as amphibious training exercises for the navy. The fort was decommissioned in 1953 and became a state park in 1972. Today there are over 11 miles of trails for hiking, the Coast Artillery Museum, and the Commanding Officer’s Quarters as well as old bunkers you can explore.
The Point Wilson Lighthouse is not officially part of the park but is nearby. A lighthouse was built in 1879 on this spot but because of erosion, a new one had to be built, which was completed in 1914. It is still and active lighthouse, though is automated and is the tallest light in the Puget Sound.
Exploring Fort Worden
Take some time to explore the bunkers and go to the Coast Artillery Museum, showcasing the history of Fort Worden, and then head over to the Point Wilson Lighthouse. At the lighthouse, you can walk along the beach and check out the driftwood and beautiful coastline. After some time exploring the beach head to the Historic Downtown area of Port Townsend.
Historic Downtown Port Townsend
Downtown Port Townsend is full of great shops, Victorian beauty and delicious restaurants. Stop for some lunch at Tommyknocker’s Cornish Pasty and then spend the rest of the afternoon checking out the shops. Don’t forget to stop by Elevated Ice Cream for an afternoon treat and walk along the water before you end your 4 day island hopping in Washington State adventure!
Are we missing any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
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