A day trip to Whidbey Island to see Ebey’s Landing has been on my family’s bucket list for quite some time.
My sons and I made our way over to the island, visited the shores of Puget Sound, gazed at the trifecta of mountains in the distance (the Cascades, the Olympics and Mount Baker too!) and hiked on a bluff.
With so much to see and do we highly recommend a trip to Ebey’s Landing. You will not be disappointed.
Whether by bridge or by ferry, getting to Whidbey Island is a hop, skip and a jump away. For this trip, we ventured out to Coupeville on an unusually warm and sunny weekend afternoon, skipping the ferry and driving to go over the bridge at Deception Pass, crossing over to Whidbey. If you take this route, stop at the small parking lot by the pass to walk across this bridge. The views are spectacular.
The trip from the Eastside took a little less than two hours, so you’ll want to pack activities, snacks and music and/or audio books. All were needed for us to survive the trip and avoid making stops along the way. There are two parking areas at the Ebey’s Landing Historical Park. The upper lot has about 12 spots and the lower lot 3 ,with street parking by the cemetery. You may also travel to the Seaside parking lot (a Discover Pass is required there), closer to the beach, if that’s where you want to start your hike. Arriving a little after noon, both lots were full (the Seaside one too) so we waited patiently for other hikers to leave. Because it’s a popular hike with families, I recommend doing this hike earlier in the day or later in the afternoon. Come prepared and bring your masks: Some parts of the trail were narrow and it was difficult in those parts to stay socially distanced from other hikers.
Restrooms are available at the park and are equipped with hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
Check out the Whidbey Island ferry schedule for prices, times and routes. Make reservations early, if you would like to have the ferry experience.
Ebey’s Landing was purchased by Colonel Isaac Neff Ebey in the 1800s and the land has deep (and often turbulent) ties to both Native American and pioneer history. It’s now a sanctuary for wildlife and a national historical reserve. You’ll start your 3-mile hike on the Ebey’s Prairie Trail, where you’ll see acres of tilled dirt, turned soil and sprouting greens. Farmhouses and barns speckle the land — a good reminder that this is not only part of the national park system, but also owned by the farming community that lives there. The trail is well-maintained with some dips along the way. Wear sturdy shoes or boots, dress in layers for brisk weather and bring your mask. We passed many dog walkers, families, runners and solo hikers, making this one of the busiest trails we have been on.
A five- to ten-minute walk on the Prairie Trail takes you past the Ebey home, now a visitor center (and closed for the winter), and then past a blockhouse structure, which was used by the Ebeys as a barricade against Native American attacks. “It’s like a house with no windows,” Nikhil says.
After heading down the path, we arrived at the Bluff Trail, where we were greeted by two extraordinary views. The water views of Puget Sound, with Mount Baker in the distance, and behind us, to the left and right, snow-capped mountains — the Olympic and Cascade ranges. We continued on our hike, stopping for many selfies along the way, while also veering off the path to make room for other hikers. We continued with this dance until we reached a fork in the path. Going left would lead you closer to the beach. Going right would take you on the Bluff Trail, leading up a hill past Perego’s Lagoon and down to the beach, where you can cross back over and up the stairs, back onto the Bluff Trail.
Normally we would have taken the Bluff Trail all the way around to the beach, but because of all the foot traffic, we headed to the beach for a little fun in the sand. Walking down the hill and then two steep flights of stairs, we stepped over many branches and logs, landing right on the sand. Spotting many agates, Dungeness crabs, seagulls and mounds of washed-up bullwhip kelp, we had fun exploring the land. We had worn rain boots this time around, making it easy to walk over the rocks and logs and into the water. “Oh! It’s still so cold!” yelled Simon. “Let’s try to push this driftwood back into the water,” said Nikhil. Feeling the breeze on our faces and the sun on our backs, we rested on washed-up logs and stopped for a snack before heading back up the stairs. At the top, there’s a bench, where we stopped again for water and sat in awe, watching the ferries pass by.
“Look, there’s a huge tanker ship,” observed Simon. We counted 9 cargo ships along the horizon.
Heading back up, we followed the Bluff Trail up the hill to the mountain’s top. The narrowest of all the paths, we found spots to stand, some precariously close to the edge, so others could pass. Many portions of this trail are closed off for plant and vegetation renewal. Be careful to stay on the path and watch young children on the steep climb, especially with hikers passing by.
The views are astounding, especially as you wind around the path to see Perego’s Lagoon, a geologic anomaly. Blue water fills this lagoon, along with driftwood, sand and rocks, with a strip of land dividing it from Puget Sound. Further along, we scrambled down the path to walk on the Beach Trail. This trail will take you along the other side of the lagoon and Puget Sound.
The path probably provides one of the best views to see both bodies of water up close, and will take you to the larger part of the beach. We stopped to collect some interesting rocks, throw stones into the sound, climb over some driftwood, and write our names in the sand. Then we walked along the rocky shore back to the staircase and completed the hike back up on the Bluff Trail. Back at the fork we choose the Prairie Trail to head back to the parking lot.
The sun was setting and the skies turned pink. We trudged back to our car with tired feet, rocks clink-clanking in our pockets and ready for the long trip home. What was your favorite part, boys? “The BEACH!” both agreed. My favorite, “Everything!”
Do not miss a trip to Ebey’s Landing. It’s back on my list to try in the spring and summer too.
This story was first published in December 2020 and updated for 2022.