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Deception Pass & Whidbey Island – a day trip guide

Experience the best of Whidbey Island & Deception Pass with this great day trip guide. Discover all the best things to do in and around Deception Pass. Which naturally includes Whidbey Island.

At the tip of Whidbey & Fidalgo Islands, you’ll find the Deception Pass State Park, joined by the Deception Pass Bridge.  The bridge is a landmark and attraction in itself and it’s not difficult to see why.

Deception Pass Bridge
The iconic Deception Pass Bridge

If you’re travelling from Seattle, my recommendation is to do the trip as a loop, taking a ferry in the morning from Mukilteo, and finishing your day driving over the bridge and back home via the 5.  (This will avoid potentially LONG ferry lines heading home).

The ferry system to the island is one slick operation, that’s both regular and well priced.  I was amazed at how cheap it was.  Click here for all the official ferry info.

Whidbey Island – day trip guide

It’s worth making a few Whidbey Island stops on your way up to Deception Pass.  Langley is a cute little town not far from your landing spot of Clinton, and worth a quick detour off the 525 that heads north.  As is Fort Casey, if you’ve got a history/military buff in amongst you.


The town of Coupeville, Whidbey Island
The cute little town of Coupeville

Our favourite stop was the little town of Coupeville, just off the 20, and well worth a wander.  As you’ll see in the photos, the buildings are quaint, the shops are ‘original’, there’s a couple of nice places to eat, along with a huge pier.

Coupeville Pier
The Coupeville pier

You’re not far now from the Park, so after enjoying a stop in Coupeville, I recommend you head north to enjoy your ‘final’ destination.

Deception Pass Park

Before you enter the park, know you will need a Discover Pass for your vehicle.  It’s $10 for a day, or $30 for an annual pass.  Click here for all the info.

After we entered the park we headed west down Deception Pass State Park road, past Cranberry Lake, to North Beach.

Cranberry Lake
The serenity of Cranberry Lake

The lake was like a mirror, with the sun just bouncing off it.  What a great fresh water resource.

And just a hop skip and jump away, is the shore of the ‘beach’.  Now as a kiwi I loosely call this a beach, because it’s not the soft sandy shores I’m accustomed to, but it is as much of a beach as you’ll find in Washington.  And the water more than makes up for the lack of beach.  The Puget Sound is so protected that we’ve rarely seen any wind here, which makes for unbelievably calm water.  It is a paradise for those who want to get out on to water – suitable for SUPB, kayaks, and traditional boaties.

Deception Pass Day Trip Guide
Looking South towards the Deception Pass Bridge from North Beach

Deception Pass Bridge

After enjoying the beach, we jumped back in the car, and followed Deception Pass Park road back, and then East to the Southern most driveable point.  Park here to start your walk on the Pacific NW trail and head to the Bridge.

Deception Pass State Park
The beginning of the trail to the Bridge, and beyond to Goose Rock

It’s a beautiful walk through the forest, and then up along the coastline, with stunning views.  You’ll reach the bridge at the top – now you have to walk across it.  Make sure you look down (but hold onto your glasses).   Only this will give you the best impression of just how high it is (180ft)!  Make sure when you look down you look closely – we’ve seen seals swimming in the water below.

The view from the trail heading towards the Deception Pass Bridge.
The stunning view from the trail as you head upwards towards the Bridge

If you want to extend your views, you can continue on the trail on the other side of the bridge, up to Goose Rock – which offers views around the other side of the island.  It’s a great place to see and hear the US Navy’s fighter plane traffic.  Now that’s not a sound I’m used to!

Now you’ve walked the bridge, you have to drive across it.  If you didn’t walk the full length, you’ll see the bridge is actually two spans, the first from the South actually crossing Deception Pass, the second crossing Canoe Pass, to Fidalgo Island.

Fidalgo Island

If you’ve still got time for a little sightseeing, take the first road on your left after you’ve crossed the bridge (Rosario Bay Road), and then left again onto Bowman Bay Road.  This will take you down to the beautiful and serene Bowman Bay, where you’ll be able to look across to the North Beach where you were earlier.  This is a beautiful spot to while away an hour or two, or an afternoon!  My recommendation, pack your togs (swimsuit), a picnic, your favourite bevvy and a good book.

Bowman Bay - Deception Pass Park
Looking back at Bowman Bay from its pier

OR instead of / as well as, continue on a little further, and take the next left down to Rosario Beach.  

From here, you can walk (carefully) up around Rosario Head, for fabulous views across the Sound, and further North.  Just don’t go too close to the edge here, as there are no barriers, and it’s a long way down.  

You’ll pass a carved story poll dedicated to the Maiden of Deception Pass –
“Ko-kwahl-alwoot”.  Read the story of her here – I found it quite beautiful.  And I can totally see how the bull kelp could be imagined as her hair.

Rosario Head - Deception Pass
Maiden of Deception Pass – 

And if you want to be more adventurous / active, the Pacific NW trail will walk you all around these bays and the coastline.  Or get out on the water for the best experience.  There can be watersports equipment for hire at Bowman Bay.

So there you have the makings of a great day trip from Seattle.  Head back down the I5 to Seattle.  If you still have time, consider stopping in at La Connor on the way, to experience another cute & simply charming small town of Washington.

Take lots of photos, but don’t forget to soak in the beauty of Deception Pass.

Here’s how I put my story together for my album (because you can’t just hope ‘the computer’ is going to store and save your memories);

I hope this inspires you to hit the road and discover Deception Pass and Whidbey Island for yourself.

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Before you head away, make sure you PIN this now, so you can find it later.


If you have more time in Seattle, you may also want to check out this post, on the Top 5 Most Charming Small towns from Seattle.    We had so much fun visiting these, doing a little boutique shopping, and enjoy the local hospitality.

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  1. I love visiting state parks! I’ve never been to Washington, but this sounds like an awesome state park to visit!

    1. Washington has so many beautiful state parks and hiking trails – you should definitely put it on your list. 🙂

  2. I love the Pacific Northwest but didn’t know about this area before! The park and the lake look so beautiful! and not crowded! I will have to add this to my list of places to check out in the PNW!!

  3. Lovely post! I will have to add this to my list!

  4. Lovely post! I will have to add this to my list, thank you!

  5. I’ve never heard about this state park but it looks really interesting! Will definitely be on my list when I visit Washington! 🙂

  6. The Maiden 0f Deception Pass is located on Fidalgo Island, south of Anacortes, WA.

    1. You’re right. 🙂 The information about her is under Fidalgo Island in the post, I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear.

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