What I learned from bike camping Whidbey Island

After talking about it for over a year, I finally went on my very first ever Bike Camping Trip. I’d been so inspired by my last trip to Whidbey Island, that I decided to turn it into an overnighter. I enlisted the aid of my friend Megan, a bike camping veteran, and we hit the road last weekend.

Megan leads the way.

I knew I was going to like camping with Megan when I saw her packing checklist included bourbon, tequila *and* beer.

Sweet Peas for sale.

Sweet Peas for sale. How adorable is Whidbey?

Since we only had 2 days and wanted to have time to explore the island, we decided to drive to the Mukilteo Ferry, then bike across from there. I’m glad we did! We put in about 70 miles over the course of 2 days: 15 miles from Clinton to South Whidbey State Park, 30 miles tooling around the island after setting up camp, then 25 miles on Sunday taking a meandering route back to the ferry. I marked some of the important roads, hills, and amenities we came across:

View Whidbey Island Bike Camping in a larger map

Despite the fact that it was a gorgeous weekend, we were the only ones camped at the hike-in/bike-in sites. There are four of them at South Whidbey State Park, all non-reservable. The best part is that they’re well-removed from the rest of the campground, so all the shrieking children are but a distant annoyance.

Whidbey is an amazing place to bike! The people are super-friendly, and other than a single agro neanderthal in a pickup truck, the drivers were very courteous.

Now that I’m a veteran bike camper, I’d like to impart some wisdom to you:

Mukilteo doesn’t want you to park overnight

On my last trip to Whidbey, I’d been told that one could find overnight camping by the train station. Turns out that’s no longer true—all parking near the ferry terminal is adamantly not for overnight use. We drove for probably 20 minutes through the neighborhood, greeted by sign after sign warning that we couldn’t park from 2am to 4am.

Finally we found a spot on the side of Highway 525, about a mile ride uphill from the ferry terminal. We scoured the area for No Parking signs, crossed our fingers, locked the Subaru, and dropped down to the ferry.

On our return, we decided that I’d leave all my bags at the bottom of the hill with Megan to watch over them, then ride up solo to get the car. A word of caution: there’s no bike lane up the hill, and the steady stream of cars getting off the ferry can be pretty intimidating. (They just want to run free and fast!)

Loading back up at the Mukilteo Ferry.

Loading back up at the Mukilteo Ferry.

For every climb there’s a descent—and vice versa

Whidbey’s hilly. I knew that from my last trip there, but nothing really drives that home like being fully loaded down with gear and running into something like this:

Didn't we just climb like six of these?

Didn’t we just climb like six of these?

I don’t think we rode on flat ground for more than 30 seconds at a time; we were either climbing or descending. We saw quite a few people on their road bikes, which looked like it must have been fun.

Those bastards.

Panniers are helpful

I definitely need to get a set of panniers if I’m going to keep doing stuff like this. Megan loaned me one, but I carried the rest of my gear in a SealLine drybag that I rigged up to attach to my rack using a series of Velcro straps and bungee cords.

Whidbey Island bike camping - janky pannier

Whidbey Island bike camping - panniers

It totally stayed on. I was so proud.

Clams are delicious

C’mon, we all know clams are delicious. But I’d never actually gone and found my own tasty little guys before.

We asked around at the Freeland Visitor’s Center, and were told that Double Bluff State Park is a favorite local clamming spot. After packing up on Sunday morning, we rolled out there just in time for low tide. Megan showed me how to spot clamsign, and we set to digging.



We got quite the haul of clams, and mussels too.

Whidbey Island bike camping - Jessie with clams

And we cooked them on the beach.

Whidbey Island bike camping - cooking clams3

Let me tell you, folks, if you ever go camping you need to bring a Megan with you. This girl came prepared with a flask full of white wine and garlic for our clamming adventure. White wine and garlic! Steamed clams on the beach! How much more prepared can you be?

Whidbey Island bike camping - Cooking clams2

Leave room for wine

I didn’t come home with nearly as many bottles as I did on my last Whidbey trip, mainly because I didn’t have much room. I did pick up a yummy bottle of Whidbey Island Distillery’s loganberry liqueur, though. I skipped it last time because I didn’t know what I’d do with it. It was yummy, but I just couldn’t see myself putting it on ice cream or brownies, like they suggested.

It’s all about knowing your audience, apparently. Noticing that I wasn’t biting when she talked about loganberry ice cream, owner Beverly suggested mixing the liqueur with whiskey and soda. I was sold instantly.

(That’s delicious, by the way. Especially with some mint muddled in.)

Whidbey Island bike camping - Spoiled Dog Winery

We also stopped by Spoiled Dog Winery, where they offer 10% off if you show up on a bike. We made off with a bottle of their lovely Deception Red for dinner and several others to take home.

Have fun!

I had such a blast—I can’t believe it took me this long to go bike camping. I’m definitely sensing the beginnings of addiction….

Whidbey Island bike camping - campsite2

7 thoughts on “What I learned from bike camping Whidbey Island

  1. How fun! I’ve always thought about bike camping, but usually do car camping trips with a bike strapped on the back for adventuring around my destination. But……bike camping would be PERFECT for the San Juans, or many other PNW destinations. I’m on Vashon Island which like Whidbey, is very hilly 🙂 Great post, thanks for all the useful info!


    • Glad it was helpful! We mostly do car camping, too–it’s easier to carry the cast iron cookware and cooler full of yummy treats. 🙂

      Bike camping is definitely winning me over, though!

  2. Bravo on your first bike camping adventure! I’ve been a long distance tourer in the past, but in the last five years I’ve been sold on overnight trips. You can bring more stuff – if you want – or keep it light. It can be inexpensive or not. Sometimes I leave the stove at home and treat myself to a restaurant meal. Check out Bikeovernights.org for more ideas or to read about others’ adventures.

    • I love Bikeovernights.org–there’s so much good stuff there! I think I was definitely impressed by how little stuff we actually needed, particularly if you can just grab a bite to eat at a restaurant.

  3. Pingback: Joy Ride: Whidbey Island, or Drinking With Strangers Who Are Now Friends | Bicitoro: bikes and crafts

Leave a Reply