Travelogue: Whidbey Island Farm Stay

After my solo cabin camping trip with the kids to Deception Pass State Park went well, I immediately wanted to book another relatively easy stay with them before the weather turns cold and it’s harder to spend time outdoors. Our city-centric lives don’t include many opportunities to see animals, so I decided to focus on looking for a farm stay within a 2-hour driving radius of Seattle.

Where We Stayed

I normally prefer getting apartments or hotel rooms through because of the easier filters and more flexible cancellation policies. However, for a stay at a more specialized place that I was booking a week in advance, I checked AirBnB and found the Christopher Robin Writer’s Cabin (sign up here for $35 off your first stay). There are two small cabins on this property that the owners have built using a lot of salvaged and vintage materials. Our cabin had a hot plate, microwave, small fridge and some breakfast supplies (coffee, creamer, butter, etc) as well as a homemade loaf of apple-banana-carrot bread that was delivered to our porch the first afternoon.

Climbing the steps to our cabin’s front porch
Reclaimed and vintage touches made the space very homey

There are several different varieties of chickens (including roosters) and a flock of Sebastopol geese on the property, so the kids loved watching them roam around and even feeding them apple scraps and chicken feed. Beware of the roosters though – they started the day at 4 a.m., and some of the younger roosters with a less attuned sense of time tried to start it at 1:45 a.m. one night. There are earplugs provided, and the kids mostly slept through the noise on the second night, but it’s something to keep in mind.

A trail leads out into the woods, although we didn’t end up using it because we didn’t want to disturb some guest workers camping there. The host’s children were just a bit older than Julia, so there were lots of backyard toys to play with and the kids were welcoming. I appreciated the adirondack chairs around a fire pit and the rocking chair on our little porch for reading after bedtime.

COVID-19 safety: there is a shared bathroom on property, but there was only one other cabin on property and it was only occupied our first night. It so happened that the host had just installed a toilet in a building closer to our cabin for a future guest who has cancer and can’t walk far, so we were were able to use that and wash in our cabin for the most part. Our cabin was cleaned right before our arrival and there were lots of cleaning supplies (sanitizer in wipe/spray form, etc) available for me to touch up during our stay. The hosts have some different ideological views than me about the virus and other issues, but were good about social distancing and never made us feel uncomfortable about wearing masks. There have been very few cases of COVID on Whidbey Island as well, so I felt safe as far as minimizing exposure.

What We Did

With all the space to run around, animals to watch and toys to play with, the kids were pretty happy exploring the property for large chunks of time. However, we still managed to visit a couple of parks.

On the first day, we drove to Possession Beach Waterfront Park. I had meant to go to the Possession Point State Park up the road, but made the wrong turn. This park had ample parking (we were the only people there) and we only saw one other person walking their dog in the two hours we stayed. The beach has a lot of driftwood so we built forts, played drums, hammered “nails” and dumped sand everywhere you wouldn’t want sand dumped. A bald eagle flew right over our heads twice and a pair of herons roamed around catching fish that would occasionally flip out of the water. It was so peaceful and everyone enjoyed it. I ended up driving up to the State Park just to see it and was so glad we ended up where we did – we would have had to hike down a steeper trail from a tiny parking area to get to a beach versus a relatively easy walk down a paved path.

Picking blackberries by the bridge to the beach

James’ nap was too short that day, so I took a scenic route to Fort Casey State Park in an effort to get him to sleep. It backfired because Julia fell asleep and he didn’t. However, the parking lot wasn’t full so I was able to park where James and I could kick a ball back and forth while Julia finished her nap. Fort Casey is one of our favorite all-weather spots on Whidbey Island – there are often kites flying around, a lighthouse to explore (currently undergoing renovation) and you can climb many of the old fort structures and go inside, making it a nice spot to go when it’s rainy. James rode in our toddler carrier on my back while we went to the top level of the fort, and then he and Julia ran around together playing with their echos in the open rooms.

Where We Ate

One of the best features of the AirBnB was that we could gather fresh eggs for breakfast. We ate them fried in butter with sides of homemade bread and blueberries on the porch while I sipped coffee. It saved money on eating out and was a peaceful way to start the day. The kids could also play on the porch area while I cleaned up the dishes.

Counting his chickens before they hatch (or are made into breakfast)
Rocking chairs make the best high chairs.

Whidbey Island Bagel Factory – We picked up bagel sandwiches and a peanut butter cookie from this spot in Clinton for lunch. The turkey club was delicious! I can never turn down a kosher dill, so we also popped into Pickles Deli next door for a couple of pickles straight from the barrel.

The Braeburn – in non-pandemic times, we love eating at this Langley restaurant and then watching the glass blowers at the former firehouse next door. I was planning on just doing take-out and picnicking down by the beach, but was really impressed with the Braeburn’s COVID-19 set-up and decided that eating there would actually be safer and more comfortable. A couple of other places in town had outdoor seating, but the tables were awkwardly spaced and hard to get around other diners. The Braeburn’s space allows for multiple patio areas and we ate early so it never felt busy. The food was so good the first night that Julia requested that we come back on our second night and I didn’t mind at all! We had the fried chicken plate with local sauteed greens and mac ‘n’ cheese both nights, sharing a burger the first night and a reuben the second night. They have a kids’ menu, but with plenty of nutritious sides and two kids to feed, it was easier to get a couple of entrees to share.

Brought our own toys for patio dining at The Braeburn

Sprinklz – on our second night, we picked up ice cream from this little shop in Langley. It’s quite small, so plan on taking your treat to go. The huckleberry ice cream was delicious and creamy, and Julia loved her mint chip.


The property where we stayed is truly beautiful and peaceful, with a nice set-up. The cabins are very cozy, so I wouldn’t recommend them for more than 2 adults or 1 adult and 2 small kids, but the kids and I were fine together. Getting the kids outside during this last lovely bout of Seattle summer weather has really brought me joy and I loved seeing the excitement in their faces doing simple things like watching the chickens or imitating the geese (James’ “honk” sound is hysterical). I definitely plan to look into farm stays, which are more common in Europe for some reason, on a future trip.


Cabin Camping with Kids: Deception Pass State Park

Many of our friends swear by Deception Pass State Park, but I somehow never managed to make a reservation in time for previous summers. When WA State Parks re-opened “roofed accommodations” this year, I immediately hopped onto the reservation site to see if any cabins were available and snagged aspot for a couple of nights. It ended up being just me and the kids because Peter was still recovering from a collapsed lung, so I made it as easy as possible for myself. I packed a lot of “no cook” meals (yogurt, banana zucchini bread, cut vegetables and fruit, cheese, etc) and planned to do take-out for dinner. That strategy ended up working out really well, and I would definitely do another easy solo trip like this, although I’m not sure I’m up to tent camping by myself with young kids yet.


Where: Deception Pass State Park; about 2 hours from Seattle through Anacortes, or between 1.5-3 hrs on the ferry.
When: Early August 2020
Site #: C4, Quarry Pond Campground

Beach and Trail Access

We enjoyed visiting Rosario Head (the north side of the park) – the hike could be up to 1.5 mi round trip if you started in the Bowman Bay area, but we parked by Rosario Beach and the loop around the viewpoint was quite short and easy for little legs. You also get to view a beautiful Samish tribe story pole depicting Ko Kwal Al-Woot, also known as the Maiden of Deception Pass. The story boards are quite weather worn, so you can read the story here.

Rosario Beach has some small, but lovely tidepools just past the picnic area. There is a rope trail to follow so that people’s feet don’t trample the sea creatures. Small anemones abound, but peer under the taller rocky outcroppings for sea stars, red sea cucumbers, and larger anemones.

Exploring tidepools at Rosario Beach
Sea stars, red sea cucumbers and anemones all on one rock!

We also really liked a section of Hoypus Point (right up the road from the Quarry Pond Campground). I believe there are multiple access points, but for a paved trail that’s great for views of the Deception Pass Bridge and kids on bikes/in jogging strollers, we parked near the Cornet Bay Boat Ramp and Julia rode her bike until she got tired. It wasn’t highly trafficked and the ground was flat, so it was a perfect spot to go with little ones.

Cruising down the Hoypus Point trail on her bike
View of Deception Pass bridge from the Hoypus Point trail

Proximity to Amenities

Like many of the state parks on Whidbey Island, you can get to grocery stores, restaurants and coffee shops within 20-30 minutes. For this kind of easy camping trip, I really appreciated letting the kids play as long as possible before tearing them away for dinner.

On the first night, we got take-out pizza from our favorite Coupeville spot, the Oystercatcher. There are some picnic tables right by the wharf and we got to have a waterfront view while eating our fennel salami pizza and pimento cheese with grilled bread. We grabbed ice cream from Kapaw’s Iskreme just before they closed and enjoyed a leisurely walk on the wharf before heading back to the cabin.

Enjoying a picnic from Oystercatcher in Coupeville
Racing on the Coupeville Wharf

For night two, we ate at the Shrimp Shack just north of Deception Pass. I felt a little less comfortable there in light of the COVID pandemic – there wasn’t a picnic area nearby, so we ate at the outdoor tables and I wasn’t impressed with the mask wearing of the employees or fellow customers (not covering noses, etc) and the handwashing station wasn’t working. They were cleaning tables regularly with bleach, however, but I rushed the kids through dinner with the promise of watermelon back at the campsite.

Campground Quality and Layout

Check-in was a comedy of errors – there was no information other than “Register at the kiosk” in my confirmation e-mails, so we looked at the Quarry Pond kiosk, which only had fee envelopes for last minute camping. It turned out our cabin had a numerical key pad for access, but the key code wasn’t in my e-mail or posted on the door clip. I called reservations, but they couldn’t help other than to tell me to check those spots. We went back to the main park entrance and waited in a long line of cars that were hoping to catch sunset at the park and finally got a keycode. The process took about an hour and the kids were troopers, but it was definitely a reminder that our parks are underfunded and overworked.

The cabin itself was spotless and smelled very freshly cleaned. We’ve stayed in a lot of state park cabins and this one seemed newer (i.e., quiet mini split for heat/AC and the aforementioned key pad). The site was pretty small and there was barely enough space to park our Outback, but since we weren’t planning on building a fire, there was enough space for the kids and the restroom was within close walking distance. Julia enjoyed riding her bike down the hill in front of the site and could do a loop around our section without going out of sight for long.

Gently sloping hill in front of our cabin – perfect for bike riding

Regarding accessibility – while our cabin had a few stairs to get in, there was a handicap accessible cabin up the road that had a ramp.

The campground layout wasn’t ideal – the road winds through all the campsites before the cabins at the very end. I really prefer the loops that adjoin a main road so you can get to your site quickly (like Dosewallips State Park). From what I saw, there was only one bathroom, so you could have to walk quite a ways to access it depending on your site location. I did like the cute little namesake pond – there were some benches nearby where we could sit and a few trees to temporarily hang our hammock since our site was so small.

Pretty little waterfront area at Quarry Pond Campground

One critique we had heard from others was that the naval jet flyovers from Oak Harbor can be loud and extended. We saw a couple of jets while we were at the beach, but never heard anything long and it was in the middle of the day, so it didn’t bother our sleep.


I loved the relative ease of enjoying the variety Deception Pass had to offer – tidepools/beach, trails, and access to other parks on Whidbey Island within a short drive. Staying in a cabin and leveraging restaurants allowed us an easy getaway since I could avoid cooking, so it felt more doable as a solo parent than a tent camping trip.

I would probably take the northern route onto Whidbey Island for this trip. We arrived on a Sunday and attempted the ferry, but the line was so long that we would likely have waited 1.5-2 hours just to board, with another 45 minutes of driving after the ferry ride. I ended up turning around and driving the “long” way around because it felt more reliable since the park is at the northern part of the island. There was some traffic going over the Deception Pass bridge, but it gave us a chance to admire the view, so I can’t complain.

We stayed for two nights and never even entered the main part of the park, so I would love to come back and explore some more. There are also some slightly larger cabins that I’d like to try, perhaps for a fall/early spring escape before our Pacific Northwest weather warms up.

Camping With Kids: Camano Island State Park

We booked one of the few remaining campsites at Camano Island State Park when it became clear that Summer 2020 was not going to look normal. A visit to nearby Cama Beach State Park the year before (where there is a Center for Wooden Boats and a number of “neighborly,” but beach side cabins) made this a clear contender because we wouldn’t need to rely on a ferry or drive long distances, but would still have the beach nearby.


Where: Camano Island State Park, about 75 minutes from North Seattle
When: Mid-July 2020
Site #: 62


Distance from Seattle/Amenities

I’m not a backwoodsy camper and James doesn’t particularly love long car rides/his car seat, so campgrounds that aren’t too far from Seattle and have amenities nearby work better for our family. The drive is less than 90 minutes from where we live in North Seattle and no ferries are needed, so it’s a perfect social distancing spot that I would even consider for a day trip. Elger Bay Grocery & Gifts is a couple of miles away and sells gas, basic groceries, some ice cream by the scoop and simple food like pizza, burgers, etc. A bit further from the park (good for a stop on the way home) is Camano Scoopz in the Camano Commons marketplace. We loved the huge portions of their maple walnut and chocolate ice creams.

Beach Access

There are two beaches in this state park – South Beach (nearer to the campgrounds) and North Beach (nearer to the park entrance).

South Beach has the boat launch, smaller rocks/pebbles on the beach, a longer shoreline, bigger parking lot and modernized restrooms (single stall, aerated, etc). There are also a number of picnic tables that are distanced from each other right next to the beach. This is where I would go for kids to play or launch a kayak. We stayed Monday-Wednesday so it wasn’t crowded, but I could see it feeling that way on a weekend.

Picnic tables right next to South Beach

North Beach is (or was during our stay) considerably quieter with a shaded lawn area for picnic tables near the parking lot. You have to descend some long-ish stairs to get to the beach and it’s rockier than South Beach, so you wouldn’t want to launch a kayak here or bring your elderly grandmother, but you will have fewer people around to compete with for space.

Playing on the rocky North Beach

Wildlife Viewing

On our first day, we saw a pair of bald eagles perched atop beach-side trees watching for prey. The second day, a harbor seal happily followed us around on our kayak (from about a 50-75 foot distance, but still fun) and a bald eagle flew about 20 feet directly over us. That same seal was out the following morning (we generally had better luck with seal sightings before noon) and huge purple jellyfish were beached where we could examine their tentacles and interesting frilly insides from a couple of feet away. Bunnies and lots of birds also kept us company.

One of several large (about 3-4 ft diameter) beached jellyfish

Kid-Friendly Trails

James is not a great sleeper at home, let alone when camping. We often find ourselves needing a short hike to get him to nap, but it’s nice when the other parent can take Julia off for some quality time (ahem, keep her noise away from the sleeping toddler).

The Marsh Trail/South Rim Trail combo was excellent for this – it’s only about a mile from South Beach to North Beach, but it follows the bluff and gives beautiful peekaboo views of the water and the Olympics (watch for harbor seals in the water!). Other than the hike up to the bluff from the beach, the trail is pretty flat and has several benches you can pause on. You can tack on more mileage by exploring various offshoots. You could normally use the trail to access South Beach via a short hike from the lower loop campground, but this section was inexplicably closed while we were there so we had to hike along the road.

For another short hike (0.5 mi loop), visit the Al Emerson Trail. It’s a flat loop with about 20 or so signs along the way that tell you about different trees and bushes you might see. It was part of my nap hike with James, but I would love to take Julia back to sample the huckleberries and blackberries along the trail and learn about the different trees.


Campsite Size and Layout

All campsites are not created equal. Unlike some campgrounds that have a main road with small loop offshoots, both the upper and lower campgrounds have long windy roads that loop around themselves. In practical terms, this means you have to drive through most of the campground to get in/out (more traffic) and some campsites have the road on two sides.

Many sites (like ours; site 62) are quite small without trees and are surrounded by blackberry bushes, which limits shade and privacy as well as the ease with which young kids can comfortably play in the campsite. Also, the size of the campsite directly impacts how close you have to sit to your campfire. The combination of close quarters and variable breeze direction meant that our campfire smoke was pretty much in our faces the whole time. That said, we did like that we were at the end of a one-way road where it intersected with another one, so we could watch for oncoming cars fairly easily and get the kids out of the way. For next year, I’ll look into sites with water views in the lower campground so that we can relax and check out the mountains when the kids go to bed.

We might have had better luck getting a campsite, but this was a trip I only booked a month or two in advance during a pandemic, so I felt lucky to grab anything even on a weekday.

Site 62 (corner) – small and no meaningful shade, but a great obstacle course spot!


With a walkable beach, easy trails, nearby stores in case of forgotten staples, and a relatively short drive from Seattle, this will definitely be a repeat stop for our family next year. I’m also really glad we brought the kayak – during this weird time where folks being too close makes me anxious, so it was a wonderful way to experience nature with guaranteed social distancing.