South Whidbey State Park
Easily Whidbey Island’s most underrated park, South Whidbey State Park (360/331-4559, www.parks.wa.gov) on Smuggler’s Cove Road (halfway between Greenbank and Freeland) has outstanding hiking and picnicking, campsites, and striking Olympic views. The narrow, sandy beach was closed for a time due to bluff erosion, but a volunteer group recently replaced the beach stairs and beach access resumed as of March 2009.
As a solace, wander through the park’s 85 acres of old-growth Douglas fir and red cedar, which protect resident black-tailed deer, foxes, raccoons, rabbits, bald eagles, ospreys, and pileated woodpeckers. Be sure to hike Wilbert Trail, a 1.5-mile path that circles through these ancient forests; it starts directly across from the park entrance.
You can also camp at South Whidbey State Park ($17 for tents, or $23 for RVs with hookups, open late Feb.–October). Make reservations ($7 extra) at 888/226-7688 or www.parks.wa.gov. If these campsites are full, Mutiny Bay Resort in Freeland (5856 S. Mutiny Bay Rd., 360/331-4500) also has RV hookups and tent spaces.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition