Looking for a great day-trip from Seattle? Head north to Fort Casey on Whidbey Island! What used to be one of the West Coast’s first defenses against a naval attack, Fort Casey is now a fun place to explore with your family. Here is our guide for exploring Fort Casey!

Go: Fort Casey is best enjoyed on a sunny day for a few reasons – first, it’s located on a bluff overlooking the ocean, so it can be super windy here on a day that is just overcast anywhere else. Also, you’ll be spending the entire day outside when exploring Fort Casey, so even a little drizzle won’t make this day-trip as fun.

Get there: From Seattle, there are two options for getting to Fort Casey. The first option is to drive north on I-5 and take the ferry from Mukilteo across the water to Clinton on Whidbey Island (it takes about 15 minutes to get across). When you get off the ferry, stay right and follow the highway for approximately 30-miles – you’ll see signs for Fort Casey. This is typically the best option, unless you are going on a summer weekend day when the ferry line can be very long (sometimes hours). If this is the case, stay on I-5 Northbound to Burlington (about an hour north of Seattle) where you’ll follow the signs to Anacortes and Deception Pass. Once you are on Whidbey Island, head south to get to Fort Casey. This route will take you about two-hours (and, you can always take the ferry back to Seattle!).

What to bring: Pack for a day-trip – snacks for the car, water for thirsty kids and sunscreen. Plus, bring flashlights for exploring, toys for the beach and a kite! If you have little ones, packs are recommended over strollers.

How to dress: Even on the sunniest day, it’s going to be breezy at Fort Casey – bring an extra layer for the entire family to keep the chills away. Hats would be a good choice since there is not much shade here and shoes that are good for running around and climbing. Don’t forget a change of clothes for everyone (including yourself!).

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What to do: Fort Casey is a true spot to do some exploring – the park itself is over 400-acres and is filled with old barracks and concrete buildings that are abandoned, but safe to walk around in. All of the buildings are open and are full of sneakable tunnels. On top of the main structure are the spots that used to hold heavy artillery to keep the coast safe – now, they are fun for climbing on! The more and more you walk around Fort Casey, the more you will discover – besides the main structures that you see when you drive in, there are dozens of smaller spots tucked throughout the park. Beware that some of them are quite dark and spooky for even the bravest of little explorers, so hold hands tight and keep your flashlights shining!

There is also an incredible stretch of beach at Fort Casey, which you can access from the wide trails that lead down the bluff. It’s worth checking out, especially if the wind is calm and the tide is low.

Don’t miss the Admiralty Head Lighthouse, which now houses a historical museum. You’ll all love taking the spiral staircase all the way to the top observation deck and taking a tour to hear more about the history of the lighthouse and Fort Casey – it’s even entertaining to little ones!

Lunch spots: For lunch, we highly recommend packing your own to bring to Fort Casey – there’s no doubt that everyone will be starved from exploring this huge park! If you do want to stop for a meal – either before or after spending time at Fort Casey, head into Coupeville, just a few minutes north of Fort Casey on the highway. You’ll be able to choose from a variety of dining options from seafood spots to sandwich cafes to Mexican restaurants – all of which are family-friendly in this charming waterfront tourist town.

Cost: The cost of this day-trip could be minimal – if you take the ferry, expect to pay about $20 in both directions. Otherwise, there is no admission fee for visiting Fort Casey.

Bonus: Continue your adventure on Whidbey Island with a stop at Useless Bay, located on the south end of the island, near where the ferry docks.

— Katie Kavulla