Explore Whidbey Island Like a Local (8 Fun New Ideas)

In August, we were fortunate to spend an entire month in my hometown on the south end of Whidbey Island, and I took the opportunity to knock a few more items off my local excursion list so that I would have more ideas to share with you.

Delightful Whidbey Island, located in Puget Sound north of Seattle Washington, is fun to explore whether you have only one day or are visiting for a longer time. While certain “touristy” favorites on the island (like visiting Fort Casey) continue to be fun for us too, I wanted to share a few more unique ideas from a local perspective.

8 Fun New Ideas To Try on Whidbey Island 

Visit the Blue Fox Drive-In Movie Theater (& Go-Karts and Arcade)

The historic Blue Fox Drive-In movie theater located close to the north end town of Oak Harbor has always intrigued me, but I never bothered to check it out until this summer. Now that I have older kids, I thought it would be fun to try, and it was. We were even able to bring the family dog.

The tricky part about seeing a movie at the Blue Fox is that, during the summer months, movies don’t start until dusk and that can be very late (9 p.m.+) Since you can’t pre-order tickets ahead of time, you need to get there early, and that involves spending money at the arcade and on the Go-Karts and the cost can add up quickly. (The box office opens at 4 p.m.)

In all, it was a super fun family experience, and we’d do it again. The Blue Fox Drive-In is open year-round on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and you might enjoy checking it out during the rainier fall or winter months to avoid some of the crowds.

Local tip: Read the schedule carefully, the day we went, there was a last-minute schedule change and they ended up playing the family movie second which would have been extremely late (11 p.m.) I am not sure who made that decision. It is good to know that if you are from out of town you can even consider camping on the property.

The Blue Fox at sunset.

Shop at Bayview Farmer’s Market

One of the downsides to leaving our house in the Willamette Valley behind in the late summer is that we miss out on some of late summer’s produce bounty in the valley, but luckily there is the Bayview Farmer’s Market for island-grown produce. The market is located on 5642 Bayview Road in Langley and runs every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine, from April 30th to October 15th.

Beautiful sunflower field at the Organic Farm School on Whidbey Island.
Pollinators are busy at work at the Organic Farm School.

Local tips: Grab baked goods, coffee, and lunch or brunch at the Flower House Cafe. And, if you’re out sightseeing on the island mid-week, make sure to stop by the Organic Farm School on 6312 Maxwelton Road in Clinton for weekly fresh produce stand every Wednesday afternoon from 2 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. 

Go Tide Pooling at Bush Point

In the Puget Sound area, you can explore tide pools year-round, although tide pooling aficionados prefer to time their outings one to two hours before the low tide during a minus tide cycle. The summer months, in particular, are the best time to hit the super-low tides along coastal Washington and Oregon beaches (with June, July, and August featuring the lowest tide days in 2022).

While Double Bluff Beach is often recommended as a nice place to go tide pooling on Whidbey Island, we were fortunate to go tide pooling with a knowledgeable family friend these past two summers, and she recommended Bush Point beach starting at the Bush Point Wharf at 29 Spyglass Drive in Freeland.

Just a sampling of the sea life we saw on our excursion: hermit crabs, tubeworms, mottled sea star, painted anemone, brooding sea star, baby decorator crab, graceful kelp crab, red rock crabs, ochre sea star, and rough piddocks. The highlight was the discovery of a giant California sea cucumber that measured almost two feet long! It was an unusual find and it was a mystery why it was there. 

Local tips: Start by downloading a tide pooling app on your phone (Tides PRO was recommended by our friend). You can also pick up wonderful laminated guides to sea life, types of seaweed, and more at the Langley Whale Center in downtown Langley and/or refer to the Sound Water Stewards Marine Species Identification link during your explorations.

Finding a giant California sea cucumber on Whidbey Island.
An unexpected sighting of a giant California sea cucumber.

More tips: Make sure you wear sturdy and waterproof footwear, this beach is rockier and you might even appreciate having your trekking poles. Make sure to respect the critters who are exposed and stressed during low tide events. Watch where you walk and do not remove them from their home. And to further expand your knowledge, make sure to check out Sound Water Stewards of Island County, where you can choose from a variety of educational programs. 

Explore Whidbey Camano Land Trust (WCLT) Trails

While there are many wonderful trails to explore on the island, for a more authentic taste of the island’s rural beauty, try exploring some of the new and lesser-trafficked Whidbey Camano Land Trust trails. The Whidbey Camano Land Trust, a local 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has been working hard to protect the best of the islands since 1984. Their projects have helped expand county and state parks, protect natural areas and family farms, improve beach access, and protect and restore fish and wildlife habitats. Click here for an interactive map of their many protected properties.

A glimpse of Cultus Bay from Hammons Family Farm Preserve.

Three of the properties with public access that our family has enjoyed exploring recently include:

Possession Sound Preserve, located off of Humphrey Road from Highway 525 in Clinton on the south end, was opened to the public in July of 2021. At Possession Sound Preserve, you can take a short nicely maintained trail (somewhat steep) down to the beach, ending at a rugged rocky beach with views of the crossing ferries, Cascade Mountains, and more. Both times we visited we did not encounter many people and there were lots of wild blackberries to pick along the way.

Juicy wild blackberries on Whidbey Island.

Hammons Family Farm Preserve, located at 7712 Possession Road also in Clinton, was protected in 2006. The farm is a 9.5-acre preserve with a ¼-mile trail, wildlife habitat, a wetland and stream, a heritage orchard, and scenic views of Cultus Bay. The preserve is also adjacent to a 40-acre forest with significant wildlife habitat and watershed values that will be open to the public in the future. The kids appreciated how short and “easy” the trail was.

The trail at Hammons Family Farm Preserve.

Strawberry Point Preserve, located at 2473 Strawberry Point Road in Oak Harbor, is the newest project we have visited with the first phase of the trail opened in May 2022 for walking only. The 208-acre preserve includes pretty forest land, wetland, and meadows. We were disappointed to drive up to the north end only to find that a very short stretch of the trail had been opened to the public this past summer, but it is a beautifully maintained preserve and should be a wonderful spot when fully accessible.

Stop by Bailey’s Corner Store for Burgers, Brews, Trivia, and Live Music 

Bailey’s Corner Store, a small local convenience store and gas station located on 7695 Cultus Bay Road on the south end has long been a favorite pit stop for locals to grab a snack or cold drink on the way down to the boat launch. I recently learned that they have created a family-friendly beer garden and stage, and are now offering food as well as local music and trivia nights. 

We went to check it out with my parents, long-time Whidbey Island locals, and enjoyed burgers and the local music scene. (The menu is fairly minimalistic, but we found tasty options for our veggie and non-veggie needs.) You can place your order right up at the convenience store checkout counter.

Bailey’s Corner Store is well set up for a visit year-round, with outdoor as well as indoor gathering spaces, and you can follow them on Facebook here for information and upcoming performances or call ahead at 360-579-1814 if you are not on Facebook. They were very kid and dog-friendly: bring the family.

Visit Glendale Shepherd Farmstead Sheep’s Milk Cheese

While you can pick up this local cheesemonger’s wares at the Bayview Farmer’s Market and even at farmer’s markets throughout the Seattle area, they also welcome visitors, and we thought it would be fun to visit in person.

Yummy handmade sheep cheeses from Glendale Shepherd Farmstead.

Glendale Shepherd Cheese, located down a long windy dirt road through the forest in Clinton at 7616 Glendale Heights Road, is a family-owned and operated sustainable dairy farm along the eastern coastline of Whidbey Island. On their beautiful farm, which has been in the family for three generations, you’ll find marvelous sheep milk cheeses and pasture-raised lamb. We dropped in unannounced (during their business hours) and were immediately welcomed. They do not offer samples on-site, but we happily made our purchases anyway, and I must say it was some of the best cheese I’ve had in my life. Click here for specific directions to their farm store.

Local tip: Since this is a working farm and farm stand, don’t expect to see the sheep and lambs since they are in a lower pasture, but you may be surprised by the rare appearance of the newborn lambs during the lambing season.

Hike the South Whidbey State Parks Trustland Trails

Another wonderful local resource for hiking trails is the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District’s Trustland Trails, a 200-acre property that has been in public trust since 1895 and is located off of Highway 525 and Craw Road. (The Whidbey Camano Land Trust was instrumental in helping to secure this property on the DNR transfer list starting in 2004.

South Whidbey State Parks Trustland trails are dog-friendly too!

One of the best things about this property is that the trails were designed for accessibility, allowing families of all abilities to enjoy the forest lands of South Whidbey, and the land also features multi-use trails for bicyclists or equestrians. There is also a covered picnic shelter.

Park hours: 7:00 a.m. – dusk daily.

Savor the Seafood at Callen’s Restaurant

If all this exploring is working up your appetite, head up island off of State Route 20 in Coupeville (and right across from the Port Townsend Ferry), where you’ll find local favorite Callen’s Restaurant. (According to my dad, this is the “best seafood on the island,” and he knows his way around a plate of seafood.

At Callens, they serve up “Washington and Whidbey Island inspired real food” in a humble setting with great views of the Admiralty Inlet and the bird sanctuary at Crockett Lake. They aim to serve handmade food at an affordable price and offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They also offer live music on the first and third Wednesdays from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

I hope this blog post has inspired you to do a little more “off the beaten path” exploring of enchanting Whidbey Island. If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy 5 More Fun Outings on Central and North Whidbey Island and Favorite Whidbey Island Excursions in a Day or Longer Stay, and as always I welcome your feedback in the comments below.

Images and content copyright © 2022 Tournesol Adventures. All rights reserved.

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