Updated October 15, 2019
Who says family fun has to be expensive? Escaping to Whidbey and Camano Island can provide the right balance of free time and organized fun for a family trying to extend that vacation dollar.
The Ferry Ride
Your trip to Whidbey Island begins the moment your car stops on the ferry. The kids get to explore one of Washington’s icons, and there are plenty of interpretive signs on the vessel to help your kids (and you) understand the unique nature of our Puget Sound. No first-time-rider, big or small, can resist stepping out onto the deck to enjoy the view.
The Other Ferry Ride
Whichever ferry you ride to get to Whidbey Island, consider walking onto the other ferry to enjoy that ride, as well. The Clinton – Mukilteo run is short, but scenic, while the Coupeville – Port Townsend run is the longest in the ferry system, and crosses one of this country’s busiest shipping lanes.
Escape to the Parks and Beaches
There is no “typical” beach here. Therefore, there’s lots of variety to keep everyone interested. Be sure to buy a Discover Pass. This $30 dollar year-long pass to all of Washington’s 100+ state parks is a great bargain. This parking pass means the whole family gets in for the one price. Otherwise, each park is $10 a day. Also, there are several county and city parks with beaches, and you can use them at no charge. Some parks have barbecue grills and playground equipment. Kid-friendly activities are going on all the time at the state parks, especially Cama Beach State Park, which was designed to keep cars away from the main part of the park.
Exploring the cliffside forts at Fort Casey and Fort Ebey, along with Admiralty Head Lighthouse, is another way to keep you and the kids interested for hours.
One great cost saving way to eat out is pick up something simple to go and eat it at the beach. Picnic tables are available at many of the beaches and there are plenty of places to pick up something tasty without having to corral the kids in a restaurant.
Windjammer Park – Oak Harbor
The freshly renovated Windjammer Park in Oak Harbor is specifically designed for a unique family-friendly adventure. Start with the sweeping water views complete with a beach and then move to Baily’s playground that resembles a schooner and a beachfront walking trail. Nature and adventure are there for parents and kids, alike.
Walks and Hikes
Did you know that childhood obesity increases during the summer months when kids have no structured time and lots of access to snacks? There are easy walks for beginners and more difficult ones if you’re looking for a challenge. Hiking along the bluff trail at Ebey’s Reserve is one of the top hikes in Washington because the view is spectacular.
Paint Your World – Oak Harbor
Paint Your World, where you can “Paint Your Art Out,” is the place to go to for family fun in Oak Harbor. Before settling on the island Ron and Laura Apgar ran a contemporary ceramics studio in the Napa Valley. The believe that all you have to do is to love what you do to be successful. Come on in to paint and have fun with Ron and Laura.
860 Pioneer Way #102
Oak Harbor, WA 98277
Staying with the Family
Your best bet is to book the family into one of the larger Oak Harbor hotels. Most offer great-family-friendly amenities. The largest are The Best Western, The Coachman Inn, and Candlewood Suites. Book well in advance for any summertime stays.
In Coupeville, The Coupeville Inn puts you right downtown.
Elsewhere on the island other options include home rentals and some B&B’s, but many are just for adults.
Check our hotels section for details.
Blue Fox Drive-In, Bratland Go-Karts and Arcade
North Whidbey Island offers a little something different for those looking for old-time fun. Go-carts and track are located at the drive-in movie theatre where nearby you’ll also find a great bowling alley complete with cosmic bowling, miniature golf, and a skating rink located in an historic barn. There’s also an amazing arcade. Read more, below.
1403 Monroe Landing Road
Imagine climbing inside a real gun turret from the World War II era PBY Catalina, the flying boat. Try lifting one of those tail hooks that help aircraft carriers snag landing jets before they go overboard. Or, try the flight simulator and take off in a jet from NAS Whidbey Island. Cross the street and see a real PBY Catalina and a large mock-up of an aircraft carrier.
One of Western Washington’s original zip linking adventures, Canopy Tours Northwest takes you through the trees at zipline speed! Your kids (and your inner kid) will have major thrills over six zip lines, the longest running 660 feet. You also have a suspension bridge to cross and at the end, you rappel 47 feet out of a tree onto the ground!
Eating with the Family
So, you have a family of picky eaters and you’re not sure what to do. Because the area is home to NAS Whidbey, Oak Harbor plays host to many young families. Family-friendly upscale restaurants include Rustica, and Seabolts in Oak Harbor. You’ll find a bit more casual fare at Orlando’s in Oak Harbor, The Crow’s Roost on Camano Island, Ciao in Coupeville, Useless Bay Coffee in Langley and Cozy’s in Clinton. There are a lot more places to eat, of course. Check our restaurant guide for details.
Cama Beach State Park
While Washington state parks are, in general, family friendly, Cama Beach State Park seems specifically so. From the small waterfront cabins that are easy on the budget, to the ban on cars in the main camping area, the reimagined early 20th century fishing camp is ready to spark a kid’s imagination. The Center for Wooden Boats provides boat rentals and on weekends there are often kid-friendly crafts. Naturalists, particularly in the summer, take kids and parents out to the beach at low tide to find mother nature’s sea creatures.
Cama Beach State Park – Photo by Michael Stadler
Flashing lights, noise, joysticks and buttons! It’s old-school entertainment arcade-style! Read more in detail here, but there are “throwback” entertainment options aplenty!