Filled with beaches, parks, forests, farms and quaint towns, Whidbey Island makes the perfect close-in getaway or day trip. You can explore history at Admiralty Head Lighthouse or Deception Pass Bridge; study marine life at the Langley Whale Center; enjoy kayaking and beachcombing at one of the numerous gorgeous beaches; hike, bike, savor good food; learn about saving the environment and much more.
But the best part of Whidbey has to be the spectacular views that force you to slow down and appreciate nature's creations. You won’t hear any cries of “I’m bored” from the younger generation on Whidbey. From sand play to full-blown boat excursions, enough activities exist to keep the entire family busy and happy. Here are fine of my favorite things to do with my grandkids and their friends on Whidbey. Add yours in the comments!
1. Beachcomb, fly a kite and run the dog at Double Bluff Beach
About one third the way up the island, you'll find Double Bluff Beach, a waterfront spot so lovely kids and teens who normally spend most of their days in front of screens will soon be drawing in the sand, searching tide pools and rearranging driftwood. Search for bald eagles and great blue herons. Sit on a bench and let the surf breeze blow . Bring your furry friend because he’ll give the off-leash beach area at least five tail wags.
Address: S. Double Bluff Rd. & E. Shore Ave. Freeland
2. Explore Greenbank Farm
Greenbank Farm, north of Double Bluff, includes a small playground area, hiking trails and a beautifully landscaped pond area that attracts a wide variety of ducks, geese, swans and other birds throughout the year. Many of the events held throughout the year are kid-friendly and attract young families. Visiting the Whidbey Pie Café is a grand slam for the entire family.
Address: 765 Wonn Road #A201, Greenbank
3. Climb to the top of a lighthouse
Discover what the inside of a lighthouse looks like and see two actual Fresnel lenses at Admiralty Head, located in Fort Casey State Park near Coupeville. Grab a “Keepers Kids” activity book at the base of the lighthouse and use it later on to keep the youngsters busy learning. (Note: They also offere group tours.) Find open hours at the lighthouse here.
Address: 1280 Engle Road Coupeville, WA 98239
4. Jet around Deception Pass
You can explore Deception Pass, one of the most beautiful areas in Washington state on a one-hour jet boat tour with Deception Pass Tours, where you'll learn about the bridge’s history, and see wildlife like harbor seals and bald eagles. You might even imagine a giant Pacific Octopus wiggling through caves under the water beneath you as you skim along on the Island Whaler. (Tours start at $32.95/person; whale watching tours are more expensive.)
Address: Deception Pass Tours, 160 E. Cornet Bay Road, Oak Harbor, WA
5. Take a go kart spin before a drive-in movie
Put your competitive racers into go karts at at one of the last local drive-ins, the Blue Fox — also in Oak Harbor. They can navigate the one-quarter mile track before the film begins. No “B” movies here, just first-run flicks. If you’re game, try the snack bar’s refillable 100-ounce drink jugs.
Address: 1403 Monroe Landing Road, Langley
6. Create glass art
Professional glass blowers already have tons more patience than most of us, so helping novices create their own glass art at Callahan’s Firehouse in Langley is second nature. The old firehouse makes a perfect backdrop for Callahan McVay’s stunning creations, which are available to purchase. You might need to let your work of art cool overnight, but that gives you even more time to discover new parts of Whidbey Island. Langley. Minimum age is 5.
Address: 179 Second St., Langley
7. Discover some whale tales
On days too rainy to explore nature, head to the Langley Whale Center to find out about the marine mammals that either reside in or visit this area. Learn about the history of the gray and orca whales. View and touch whale baleen (the filter-feeding system inside the mouths of some whales), teeth and bones. Best of all: Admission is free.
Address: 115 Anthes, Langley
Info: Langley Whale Center
8. Keep score
You’ll get to explain the honor system to the kiddos when you play the par 3, 9-hole golf course at Whidbey Island Greens, the only public driving range on the island, located in Clinton. Bring a check or cash. Fido is also welcome to romp in the grass while the family putts and pitches. Open dawn to dusk.
Address: 3890 East French Road, Clinton
9. Paddle around Saratoga Passage
Note: Whidbey Island Kayaking is closed for the season.
After two-plus hours maneuvering a two-person kayak around Puget Sound with Whidbey Island Kayaking, which runs guided tours out of Langley, the entire family may need a nap. But oh, the sights you’ll see. Mountains, big and tiny islands, harbor seals, sea lions, bald eagles, Dahl’s porpoises and your children zooming right past you. Don’t worry. Each tour begins with an in-depth safety lesson and nobody leaves without wearing a life jacket. First-timers welcome.
Address: 201 Wharf St., Langley
Sleep: Four places to stay
Every type of lodging exists on the island from those that include breakfast in your room fee to cabins where you can cook, to hotels, cottages and more. Just pick a location and you’re sure to find a comfortable place to spend the night.
Boatyard Inn, Langley. Wake up to the stunning view of ships wending their way through Saratoga Passage. Each of the 12 oversized units comes with a waterfront or water view deck, mini-kitchen and roomy living space. Loft units have an additional queen bed and bath. The smallest unit, a waterfront studio, still measures 600 square feet.
Whidbey Wayfarer, South Whidbey. Perfect for a family of four and located one-half block from Columbia Beach, this home has a full kitchen, barbecue, propane stove, fenced yard, decks, Wi-fi and washer and dryer. It’s also dog-friendly. South Whidbey.
Pitch a tent. Several RV parks and campgrounds are scattered throughout Whidbey from Deception Pass State Park to Fort Casey Historical State Park to the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds. Find all of them at whidbeycamanoislands.com.
Eat: Five places to chow down
The Braeburn. Stop here for breakfast or lunch where the chef likes to use fresh and local organic fruits and vegetables as much as possible. You’ll discover Braeburn Apples in many of the dishes.
Sweet Mona’s. For a sweet indulgence to top off a meal or take back to your room for a late night snack, try Mona’s salted caramels, brittles, seafoam or truffles.
Front Street Grill. This cozy eatery overlooks Penn Cove and focuses on its namesake, Penn Cove Mussels. They have at least eight different preparations of mussels plus oysters, clams, crab, salads, pasta, steaks, chicken and a kids menu. Front Street also offers gluten-free options.
Fraser’s Gourmet Hideaway, Oak Harbor. If your kids enjoy new tastes, take them here. They can sample oven-roasted duck breast, herb and pistachio-crusted lamb, pasta tossed with lobster and many more delectable entrees. Call ahead and try to get a seat at the counter in front of the performance kitchen. Watch the speedy and at the dame time delicate work of the cooks and sous-chef.
Photo credits: Double Bluff Beach, Photo: luisar/flickr.; Greenbank Farm, Greenbank Farm; Deception Pass, Chase N, flickr; Go-Karts, Heather Larson;Admiralty Head, gainesmary28/flickr; Whidbey Island Kayaking; Boatyard Inn, Boatyard Inn.