We spent few days in Washington State and instead of spending time in Seattle, we wanted to do something new. So we went island hopping and dipped our toe into the Olympic National Park. We explored Whidbey Island, San Juan Island, Port Townsend, and the Hoh National Rain Forest on our Puget Sound adventures. Read on to see how our trip went!
We arrived in the early evening on Wednesday, with beautiful views of the sunset from the airplane. Headed over to the car rental place to pick up our car and headed up to Burlington for the night. We wanted to get out of Seattle before the traffic in the morning and decided on the Hampton Inn & Suites in Burlington to stay at. It was a great place for a quick overnight and in the morning, we were ready to start our trip! We focused on Whidbey Island the first day. That evening we headed Anacortes to catch the ferry over to San Juan Island to spend a couple of days.
I was excited that our Puget Sound adventures started on Whidbey Island. I was born here but moved when I was 2, so I have no memories of it and was pumped to see some places that my mom has always talked about. We only made it as far as Coupeville on our visit. I would love to go back some time and spend more time on the island – we really loved it!
Deception Pass State Park
History of the Area
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. 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. 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.
Breakfast and Supplies for the Day
We started our day at Whidbey Island Bagel Factory in Mount Vernon. Please go there if you are in the area! It was the best breakfast we the whole trip. The place is a walk up and order kind of place in a neighborhood. The bagels were so good and the coffee was descent. It was a little chilly out, so we ate our breakfast in the car and then were off to Deception Pass. We did stop for some more coffee in Anacortes at The Store, where we picked up some bottles of water, another latte and a cherry cobbler muffin. I read all about their muffins, which they are known for and have over 200 different flavors. I thought the muffin was good but I would probably go back for a bagel over one of the muffins, I thought it was a touch too sticky sweet.
Deception Pass State 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 was an amazing hike and not too difficult. I, of course, had my trusty hiking sandals and my windbreaker since the morning started out a little chilly. I ended up not needing it all day, but was glad I had it in the morning.
Our Hike and Beach Experience
To get to the Lighthouse Point Hike, you pull off right before the bridge and follow signs to Bowman Bay. Start out at the Bowman Bay Pier and catch the trail from there. The tide was out, so we explored the area for awhile. We got to see a cool heron having breakfast and some other sea life. We cut across the beach and caught up with the trail. If the tide wasn’t out we would of had a steep climb up to where the trail started, so I was grateful that we just cut across the beach. We hiked longer than I had planned which meant that we couldn’t do all of the things I was planning. However, we were not sad about it because Deception Pass is incredible and we really could have spent all day there.
This park does require a fee and we bought a Discovery Pass for year long access since we planned on stopping at a few different state parks. It was well worth it for our time there and it was nice to not have to pay at every park we stopped at.
We then made our way to the Deception Pass Bridge and took the little path by the parking lot to go under the bridge and get a few pictures. By this time we were ready for lunch, so we headed over to 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 got lunch at Seabolts Smokehouse and it was one of my favorite stops on the island. The clam chowder was my favorite thing I ordered there. The fish and chips were fine but the stand out was the chowder. Made a quick stop at Safeway to pick up some more water and a deck of cards for the upcoming ferry ride. We had told my mom we would stop at Flintstone Park to get a picture of the flintstone car since that is one of the memories she has of our time there. Stopped by the pier and walked along the path through the park.
It was a nice walk along the water and has a playground but we totally couldn’t find the car. We found on our way out, it is small and a little hidden on the side of the park with the pier. Glad that we had finally found it, I snapped a couple of pictures of it and then we were off to Fort Casey. We really liked Oak Harbor and would like to come back and spend a little more time there in the future.
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 I was excited for this stop! Since our trip was in October and is the shoulder season, the lighthouse is only open on Saturday and Sunday, so we missed seeing the inside. It was still cool to see the fort and learn about how they stored the ammo and worked the guns. We did really like having our new camera to get some fun shots of the area.
Our walk around the fort was enjoyable and I didn’t realize until the end that the area that looks freshly painted has all of the signs with information about the history of the area and how the fort operated. We did get to read everything and it was a little spooky to go deep into some of the areas but cool to see the rooms and what they were used for.
Next was a walk over to the lighthouse and took the little trail down to the cliff where you could see the ocean. It is a very cute little lighthouse with a nice yard. You can definitely picture a lightkeeper and their family living there. After time at Fort Casey we realized that we should probably head back up to Anacortes to catch our ferry. We did drive by the little Coupeville main street but didn’t stop to shop. We did stop at Seabolts Smokehouse again to get a slice of pie from Whidbey Pies for the ferry ride over. Next up on our Puget Sound adventures is San Juan Island.
San Juan Island
History of the 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.
Getting to San Juan Island
We took the ferry over from Anacortes to Friday Harbor. 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, the ferry system is having a hard time finding staff and keeping the ferries on time. I had signed up for the text alerts and knew that our ferry was running a bit behind. We had reserved a spot for our car and purchased tickets online a couple of months before our trip to make it easier to get on the ferry. You could also choose to take a flight over to the island as well but we wanted a car for the time we were 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. Here is what I I did for the ferry:
- I made an account on the Washington State Ferry website and reserved a spot for our vehicle as soon as it opened up for our date.
- I signed up for text alerts so that I would be notified of any changes. We did end up having changes and was glad that I knew what to expect when we arrived
- I also pre purchased tickets for us online and printed out the passes. The reserve a spot is different from your ticket, so make sure you get both! The tickets aren’t for a specific sailing, it is for a sailing of your choice. The reserve a spot is for a specific sailing.
Here is how it works:
You pick your time and reserve it and then you will need to show up at least 60 mins 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.
Our Experience on the Ferry
We got in line for the ferry and then hung out. Since our ferry was later in the evening, not much was open and the Anacortes ferry terminal doesn’t have a lot of things to do to pass the time. The café was closed when we got there but there are restrooms. I would come prepared with a Kindle or some activities to do while you wait. Also, have cash on hand if you want to use the vending machines on the ferry, we found that the credit card function didn’t work and because it was late, the little shop wasn’t open. Also, we found that most people stayed in their cars for that sailing, which was interesting. We did get out and walk a bit but ended up back in our car and read for part of the sailing.
San Juan Island Arrival
We arrived at Friday Harbor around 8, which is when a lot of the island closes businesses up, so we just went straight to our hotel, The Friday Harbor House. Our stay was for two nights and we thought it was a good choice for us, close to everything and it has nice amenities. The rooms were big, nicely laid out and we had a nice view of the harbor from our balcony. The bartender was great and we got some drinks to take to our room and settled in for the night. It is a boutique hotel and everything is done in person, so check in, any needs – including housekeeping, and check out are all done in person. I would stay here again on another visit.
American Camp and South Beach
In the morning we had breakfast the Friday Harbor House Restaurant and then grabbed some coffee at the Salty Fox . I thought breakfast was fine but not as well executed as it could have been. The views are nice but I have had better food elsewhere and our breakfast the next day at Rocky Bay Café was WAY better. After breakfast we headed off to 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.
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 Camp. 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.
Our Experience at Hiking at American Camp
After our at the visitor’s center, we started down the trail towards the parade grounds. We then took the trail to Grandma’s Cove, which isn’t a long walk, but ends at a great little beach. We arrived at low tide and was exploring the beach when we saw a sea otter get out on the beach across the way and hang out there for awhile – it was the highlight of the whole day! It was really cool! We also saw a bald eagle out on the rocks as well. After exploring the cove, we walked 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).
We meandered on some of the trails that go along the rugged coast line. The area has tons of little off shot trails that connect back to the main trails. We had a great time hiking along the cliffs and then some meadows with blackberry bushes by the trail. There were still some blackberries left on the bushes, which we enjoyed a few of. It was everything I pictured when I thought of a little coastal island, it was such a great time.
We did connect back to the main trail and went down to South Beach , the longest beach on San Juan. It has views of the Olympic Mountains and known for having driftwood on the beach. It was a nice little beach and we hung out there for a bit before we headed back.
On the way back, we stopped by the Officer’s Quarters and the Parade grounds to learn a little bit about the American troop experience on San Juan Island. We did learn that they didn’t have very much support or supplies from the American Army and had a more rugged experience than their English counterparts. From here we made our way to Roche Harbor.
We then headed 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, we explored the area a little bit, we walked along the harbor and checked out a few shops. Then we went over across the parking lot to see where the lime kilns used to be. There isn’t much left there but it was cool to learn about why they started processing lime (to keep the British soldiers from getting bored) and to learn about the process. This place was really beautiful and we would totally check out staying her on a future trip.
English Camp, the Sculpture Park, and Alpacas
San Juan Islands Sculpture Park
We made a stop at the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park and wandered around for a little bit. It was neat to see some of the sculptures but we weren’t really interested in exploring the whole 20 acres of the park. After seeing our fill of sculptures we headed over to English Camp.
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 what their home looked like compared to the bare bones American Camp. The officers also brought their families with them, so they had a formal garden, family events and a little more refinement at their camp. When the territory dispute was settled, they abandoned the camp.
Our Visit at English Camp
When we visited, the visitor’s center was closed for the season. So we walked the parade grounds, walked through the formal garden and walked by the water. Then we went up the hill to see where the officer house were built. There are hiking trails around the area but we were ready to do some whale watching and headed out to Lime Kiln Point State Park. If you do visit during the summer, the visitor’s center is open and some reenactments of the time are done.
We stopped at The Farm at Krystal Acres to see the alpacas on our way to the park. It wasn’t busy when we stopped by and they were selling hay to feed the alpacas. I had some cash, so I paid for some hay and tried to feed the alpacas. They were totally not interested but they were fun to watch – the definitely have some attitude. We checked out the shop and then headed off.
Lime Kiln Point State Park & Our Evening
Our Visit to 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. We did know going in that it was late in the season and we might not see any whales but were excited to see the area anyway. We checked out the light house, then walked along some of the rocky trails but no whales for us. The views were pretty amazing though! If you do go to this area, 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.
Dinner & Evening
After watching the water for a bit we headed back into town to get ready for dinner. We walked down to the restaurant, which was on the water. We had dinner at Downriggers and to be honest, it was just okay. The drinks and appetizers were good but I was there for the Spicy Prawn Mac n Cheese, which they didn’t have that night. I got the scallops and they were okay, Randy got the special pork chop which was good but not awesome. Overall, I might give them another shot but wasn’t super impressed.
Friday Harbor and back to Anacortes
Breakfast in Friday Harbor
On Saturday we decided to head over to Rocky Bay Café for breakfast and was glad we did! It is small and their menu has some basic breakfast items but man was it tasty and the service was great! We were sad we didn’t start here the previous morning. I just got pancakes and eggs but my pancake came out a little dark. The server looked at it when she set it down and told me that she was going to get me a new one because it looked overcooked. I got a fresh pancake and it was perfect! Randy got the breakfast burrito with fresh made salsa, which he said was amazing.
Whale Watching & Shopping in Friday Harbor
After breakfast, we checked out of our hotel and headed back to Lime Kiln Point State Park, we were still hoping to spot a whale. We walked along some more of the paths at the park. The tide was low, so we got to explore some of the rocks more. No whales for us this trip – just means we will have to come back! We headed back into town and explored some of the shops. I really fell in love with the Rookscroft & Company shop, featuring products by local artist and author, Jayne Siroshton. I bought some art and the first book in the series – excited to read it
After shopping we headed over to 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.
Ferry Ride back to Anacortes
Since it was still daylight, the ferry ride back was a totally different experience than our ride there. The parking for it was in the middle of town, so it was easy to leave our car to explore. We went to go grab drinks at Cease & Desist while we waited to board the ferry. Also, the café was open and everybody was out and about. We grabbed some snacks and stood outside to watch the islands pass us by, it was so beautiful. We then walked around to find and open table and played some cribbage. Soon it was time to hop in our car and hit the road again for more Puget Sound adventures.
Anacortes, Deception Pass Bridge, and Coupeville
Evening on Whidbey Island
We wanted to eat at Seabolts Smokehouse again for dinner but had to stop at Deception Pass Bridge first. It was crazy busy because it was almost sunset. I am so glad we found a parking spot and made a stop there! So incredible to walk the whole bridge and then to watch the sun go down from the middle of the bridge. One of the highlights of our trip for sure! I highly recommend doing this, it was so cool!
On to Oak Harbor and the realization that Seabolts Smokehouse was going to close in 45 mins with a line out the door. We felt like we wouldn’t be seated in time and headed over to Coupeville because there were 2 restaurants that would be open when we got there. They also were jam packed and we ended up eating at Penn Cove Brewing Company, who kindly served us even though they were closing up their kitchen. Lesson learned, small islands, plan your dinner a little earlier than you normally would! We stayed at an Airb&b for the night before we went over to Port Townsend. It was not a great experience and I was a little bummed that I chose that one. Hopefully there are better ones in the area.
History of the Area
Port Townsend, called the “City of Dreams” as 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.
Our Unexpected day in Hoh Rainforest
We took the ferry over from Coupeville to Port Townsend and since it was short, we just stayed outside to see the sights. It was a beautiful ride and we ended up seeing some otters and porpoises! Once we got into town, we headed to Tommyknockers Cornish Pasty to have some pasties. This place was so great! We had pasties and the scotch egg – everything was fresh made and really delicious!
So we decide to totally veer from our original plan of staying in town and decided to just drive the 3 hours to the Hoh Rainforest. IT WAS AMAZING! The drive was beautiful and we discovered a new places we wanted to come back to explore. It was a great drive and then got in line to enter the park. We arrived around 2 pm in October and still had to wait in line and the parking lots were full. So be aware if you are planning a trip there that there are a lot of people who visit!
We started with the Trail of Mosses, which is breathtaking. I felt like I was in a fairytale world and it was so cool to see the nurse trees everywhere. After that we took the Spruce Nature Trail, it had less people on the trail and was also really beautiful. Our time there ended with us eating farm fresh apples we had picked up on our way. We then started our journey back to Port Townsend.
Again had a little panic trying to find some food a little late in the evening but got some slices of pizza to go at Waterfront Pizza, who was just about to close and then headed to our hotel. We stayed at the Belmont Inn in Port Townsend, a boutique hotel located on the waterfront. It was a nice place to stay and had views of the harbor from the balcony.
Lazy Morning, Fort Worden & Going Home
Breakfast and Coffee Experiences
In the morning we headed over to the Blue Moose Café for breakfast and I just didn’t love it. Maybe I ordered the wrong thing? The space just feels a little dingy and the food was overcooked. I mean, I did hear the table next to us order a Mimosa without the orange juice, so it least it was entertaining? After that we did go to the Better Living through Coffee shop. I also felt like it was not amazing. I definitely did not win on the food front on our last day there. We did head over to Fort Worden and checked out the lighthouse and the beach area.
History of Fort Worden
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.
Our Time in Port Townsend
The beach was a beautiful morning walk, I will miss the beach hikes we have been having every morning for sure! We checked out the lighthouse and saw some sea otters playing in the water. After that we headed to main street to check out some shops. We shopped a bit and I did grab some ice cream at Elevated Ice Cream. It was fine, but was a little thin and not creamy like you would expect from homemade ice cream. I was still not winning with food choices. They do have fun flavors like cardamom and orange chocolate, so that was a win. After ice cream, it was time to head to the airport and head home.
Overall, we had an amazing trip and decided that we have to go back to explore more of the area. I would love a week in the San Juan Islands and a week in Olympic National Park in the future! Let me know what you thought of Puget Sound adventures.
What should we add to our next visit? Let us know in the comments!
Want to check out some other itineraries we suggest? You can see our Perfect Day on San Juan Island or how to spend 3 days in Breckenridge seeking out some colorful fall foliage. Check out our other posts to discover more.
We wanted to share a great itinerary for seeking out fall foliage in Breckenridge. Click the link for a rundown of all the awesome places we think you should visit in Breckenridge!
Ever think about island hopping in the state of Washington? There are plenty of islands to visit in the Puget Sound and we got you covered on how to start exploring the area.