We are leaving next week to spend a few days in Washington State and instead of spending time in Seattle and area, which is great but we wanted to do something new, we are going island hopping in Washington state and are going to be exploring Whidbey Island, San Juan Island and Port Townsend. Find out below what plans we made and check back to see if they all worked out 🙂
Our first day will be spent exploring Whidbey Island, driving from Burlington, WA that morning and driving down the 47 mile island and then heading back up to Anacortes to catch the ferry over to San Juan Island to spend a couple of days there.
I am excited that we are starting here, I was born here but moved when I was 2, so I have no memories of it and would love to see some places where I spent some time as a child. Our plans so far are stopping at Deception Pass, Oak Harbor, Fort Casey, Coupeville, and maybe Greenbank Farm, if we have time. We have to be back up the island by 5, so we will see what we can fit in. We will have to come back sometime in the summer to experience the Lavender fields.
Deception Pass State Park
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.
Our plan so far is to grab some coffee in Anacortes at The Store in Anacortes, rumor has it that they have the best muffins and they roast their own coffee beans, so we will let you know what we think! We will then go on over to Deception Pass State Park – we are going to go ahead and get the Discovery Pass since we are going to go to a few different state parks on this trip and I’m pretty sure we will visit Washington again before our year is up.
The park has over 30 hiking trails, so it was hard to pick just 1! We decided on doing 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 sounds like an amazing hike! I am of course, bringing my trusty hiking sandals and just got a windbreaker for this trip since I didn’t know how the weather would be so close to the water for most of the trip. Alltrails says it takes about an hour to complete, so after our hiking adventure we will hit the road to our 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.
We are just going to be making a quick stop here for lunch at Seabolts Smokehouse to try their fish and chips and then a stop at Flintstone Park and the Pacific Northwest Naval Aircraft Museum. I was born on the naval base in Oak Harbor and spent a couple of years there but have no real memories of being there. The first stop after lunch will be at the Pacific Northwest Naval Aircraft Museum, it focuses on aircraft and and the naval history connected to the Pacific Northwest Area. We love the Wings Over the Rockies here in Colorado and are excited to see some more history and exhibits connected with aviation. Also, my dad’s first duty station was at the NAS Whidbey Island, so it will be cool to see some of the history there.
My mom has fond memories of Flintstone Park and says that it was my and my brother’s favorite spot in the city and that we would spend hours here playing. Flintstone park has a views of the harbor, some benches and a little walkway and a stone car like in the cartoon, the Flintstones. We will get our cheesy picture for my mom here in the car and then head on over to Fort Casey and the Admiralty Head Lighthouse.
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.
Two things I love to check out are old abandoned buildings and lighthouses, so this is the ultimate stop for me! I can’t wait to go explore the old fort and take some pictures of the lighthouse with our new camera! We are going in October, which is shoulder season and the lighthouse is only open on Saturday and Sunday, so we will miss seeing the inside but I am still excited to just walk around by it. We are planning on exploring the area and then heading over to 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.
Our plan while we are there is to stroll main street and check out some of the shops and then get some ice cream at Kapaws Iskreme and walk along the historic wharf. If we have time, we are going to check out the Price Sculpture Forest and the Davis Blockhouse located in the Sunnyside Pioneer Cemetery.
From here we are going to head back up to Anacortes, we would love to explore the whole island but we have a ferry to catch and I know we need to be back up and in line early for it. If we have time, we will stop at A’Town Bistro.
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.
We are taking the ferry over from Anacortes to Friday Harbor on Thursday night. We have in the past, taken a Washington Ferry over from Anacortes to Vancouver, BC but in between the time we last took it and now, it seems like the ferry system is having a hard time finding staff and keeping the ferries on time. So, from reading on the Tripadvisor forum, I have some plans in place and we are just going to go with flexibility in mind – we will get there when we get there.
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. We are going in early October, so hopefully less busy but I still made reservations. Here is what I I have planned for the ferry:
- I made an account on the Washington State Ferry website so that when the reservations opened up, I could make them without having to create an account that day.
- I signed up for text alerts so that I would be notified of any changes
- The morning that my dates opened up for reservations, I reserved the times I wanted. 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 30 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
We will be arriving at Friday Harbor after 8:30, which is when it looks like the island closes businesses up, so we just plan on going straight to our hotel, The Friday Harbor House. We will be staying here for two nights and then we will be heading over to Port Townsend.
On Friday, we are planning on exploring the island with no real time table. We are going to have breakfast the Friday Harbor House Restaurant and then we are going to go grab some coffee at the Salty Fox and then we will be on our way. We will then head off to American Camp, Cattle Point Lighthouse and South Beach.
American Camp, Cattle Point Lighthouse 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. You can also access South Beach from here, the longest beach on San Juan and has views of the Olympic Mountains and known for having driftwood on the beach. You can also hike to Cattle Point Lighthouse, the area was first used as a navigational aid in 1888 and the current lighthouse was built in 1935.
We are going to spend some time wandering the historical area and hike to the beach and then check out the lighthouse. Even if you can’t go inside, I still love lighthouses and can’t wait to see it. If we are up for it, we might stop at the Pelindaba Lavender Farm. The lavender won’t be in bloom but they have a shop with a great selection of lavender products that we can check out.
Lime Kiln State Park
Lime Kiln State park is name for a lime producer moved in the area in 1860 and built lime kilns adjacent to the lime quarries. A lighthouse was built in 1919 next to the lime quarries and is still used today as an navigation aid but also is used for orca research. This area isn’t known for it’s lime though, it’s know for being one of the best land based areas for whale watching. This is a 41 acre park that has 1.6 miles of trails.
We are planning on exploring this area, of course getting pictures of the lighthouse and then heading back to Roche Harbor for lunch at the Lime Kiln Cafe. Since we are going off season, we are hoping to get lucky to see some wildlife but know it might not happen.
English Camp and Friday Harbor
The English Camp is on the northern part of the island and is where the English set up camp while occupying the island from 1859 to 1872. The English designed this camp to be like what they would see at home and had pretty buildings and beautiful gardens. Today you can see some buildings, a garden and cemetery from when the camp was active. They have trails and you can hike to Dead Man Bay Beach from here.
Friday Harbor, E-Bikes and the Ferry Back
There are some great things to do on San Juan that we aren’t going to get to on this trip – kayaking, whale watching, seeing the lavender, so we will have to make a point to come back! We have about half the day before we get back on the ferry to get to our Airb&b in Coupeville for the night. We are planning on getting some coffee at San Juan Coffee Roasting, then renting e-bikes from Cycle San Juan and taking a morning ride and then we will check out some of the shops in Friday Harbor. The farmer’s market is still going on Saturday, so we plan on checking that out as well. We are planning on having lunch at San Juan Brewing & Pub. If we have time, we are going to drive over to the San Juan Island Distillery and do a tasting there. We have to be back at the ferry by 5:30. Spending the night in Coupeville and then heading to Port Townsend in the morning.
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.
We are staying at the Belmont Inn in Port Townsend, a boutique hotel located on the waterfront. In the morning we are planning on taking the ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend and spending the day exploring the area, including the historic downtown and Fort Worden. We are definitely stopping for coffee at Better Living Through Coffee when we get to Port Townsend and then we will be exploring the area.
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.
We are planning to explore the bunkers, as well as checking out some of the trails and of course, seeing the Point Wilson Lighthouse, which is not officially part of the park but is easy to access from the park.
Historic Downtown Port Townsend
Downtown Port Townsend is full of great shops, Victorian beauty and delicious restaurants. We plan on checking out the shops after lunch at Waterfront Pizza and after a little shopping we are going to stop by Elevated Ice Cream for an afternoon treat. We will also check out some of the Victorian Houses around the town and then grab some dinner at the Silver Water Café.
Lazy Morning and Going Home
We plan on having a late breakfast at the Blue Moose Café and then making our way back to the airport for our flight home. We are not sure of the traffic, so we are planning on leaving the area around noon.
What do you think of our plans? Are we missing anything? Let us know in the comments!
We will let you know how the trip went and our thoughts on the area.
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