Updated: Sep 24, 2019
This post is a series installment of unofficial guides I wrote for those who want to visit the Pacific Northwest, but not necessarily Seattle. If you want more ideas check out the "Not Seattle" tag.
We feel incredibly lucky to live near so much beauty... even luckier to have these cool places right in our backyard. Allow me to introduce you to one of our favorite places to hang out on our fair island. This State Park offers a little bit of everything for everyone. Tent camping? Yep. Cabins? Got 'em. Nice bathrooms? Check. A dock and boat ramp? Yeppers. Hiking, beach picnic tables, whale watching, miles of beach to just park it and hang out? Yeeees. Internet, meet Camano Island State Park. I think you'll get along swimmingly.
Where: Camano Island, Washington. A little island (technically peninsula to the discerning armchair cartographer) sandwiched between the mainland and Whidbey Island. The park is on the western side of the island, meaning amazing sunsets over the Saratoga Passage.
How: Take Interstate 5 North (from Seattle) until you see the signs for Stanwood/Camano Island. Exit and make your way through the tiny little towns. Follow the signs (or your GPS) to Camano Island State Park. Depending on what your activity of choice is you may want to park just before the park's entrance for the trail head that will take you on a little loop through the park. (With great views of the coast.) If the beach is more your speed, you'll drive through the park until you reach a fork in the road. If you go left you'll head straight for the main beach and boat ramp/dock. There are picnic tables, super new (and sparkling clean) bathrooms, with plenty of coast no matter the tide at this particular beach. If you want a bit more of a secluded experience then to right and park accordingly. From there you'll take the stairs down to the beach. Without the boats it makes for a much more quiet experience. *Please note that this particular beach does get absorbed during high tide, so please be aware and careful of that. You can check tides HERE. The entry fee is $10 per vehicle or $30 for the Discover Pass which is good for a year.
When: Summer/Fall are really the best times to be here. The long days and warm sun really make for a magical day. The benefits to coming in the spring and winter is that whales are typically moving through the passage during this time. (Just bring plenty of hot chocolate and rain gear.)
What to do: I touched on this earlier, but I'll try to not repeat myself here... There are plenty of little trails that will take you all throughout the park. Maps of the routes can be found HERE. We enjoy the Loop Trail as it affords gorgeous views with enough hills to leave you feeling tired but not exhausted. Spending time on the beach is a favorite pastime for all of us. The kids love to build forts with the driftwood and playing in the water. We bring a picnic and usually make a day of it. There is a small trail that runs along the coast for a little walk. We've seen harbor seals, porpoises, and a gray whale during our afternoons on the beach.
Things to note: There isn't a lot of shade at either one of these beaches, so be sure to bring a pop-up tent or umbrella with you in the summer. (Be sure to weigh it down as it does get rather windy.) Water and bathrooms are available during the summer. In the winter the bathrooms are still available, but the water fountains are closed. There are plenty of grocery stores in the Stanwood/Camano area if you need to make a supply run. Dogs are welcome at this beach. Just be sure to not be a jerk and pick up poops and keep your dogs leashed.
It probably goes without saying that we love this beach. Our name for it is "the driving beach" because you can drive right up to the water. (Most of the beaches on Camano have some sort of steep-ish trail to get to the water. This place is a favorite mostly for the ease of accessibility (hello! schlepping picnic supplies) and gorgeous sunsets and different diversions available to us in a single visit.