South Whidbey State Park calls to tree-lovers everywhere. This day-use park on the west side of Whidbey Island is a scenic drive away from Anacortes or a short ferry ride from Mukilteo. The park offers east-facing views of the Olympic Mountains and rare old-growth stands.
Walk among the giants: Douglas-fir, Sitka spruce, western hemlock and western red-cedar trees, including a 500-year old cedar.
Camping in the park has been closed due to tree diseases, which pose a tree-fall risk. This development has helped many to understand the life cycle of old-growth trees. Picnic shelters and unsheltered tables remain open to visitors and provide excellent lunch spots for day-trippers and travelers en-route to such nearby camping parks as Deception Pass and Fort Ebey. To sit and walk beneath this canopy of ancient trees overlooking the Puget Sound is a pleasure and a privilege.
South Whidbey State Park is a 347-acre day use park with 4,500 feet of saltwater shoreline on Admiralty Inlet. The park features include old-growth forest, lush undergrowth and tidelands.
Automated pay station: This park is equipped with an automated pay station for visitors to purchase a one-day or annual Discover Pass.
Please note: U.S. Navy jets from nearby Naval Air Station Whidbey Island may fly over at any time for several hours. Navy personnel conduct training missions at various times during the day and night. Depending on the direction of the wind, their flight pattern may put them above the park, creating noisy conditions. Although State Parks cannot be responsible for the jet noise, we do share visitor concerns with representatives of Naval Air Station Whidbey.
Planning project: South Whidbey State Park is currently undergoing State Parks' long-term land-use planning through a Classification and Management Plan (CAMP) process. For information on the CAMP process, please view the project planning page.
South Whidbey Island, including current-day South Whidbey State Park, lies within the traditional territory of multiple Southern Coast Salish tribes, who have inhabited the region for more than 10,000 years. The Native population was decimated by diseases brought in by European settlers in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
The island was charted by Captain George Vancouver, a British explorer, in 1792. Vancouver named the island after one of his crew members, Joseph Whidbey, who, along with Peter Puget, circumnavigated the entire island in a small vessel. The United States Exploring Expedition, led by Captain Charles Wilkes, also mapped Whidbey Island after sailing into Penn Cove north of the park in 1841.
The land that is now South Whidbey State Park was originally set aside as school trust land held by the Washington Department of Natural Resources on behalf of the University of Washington. In the late 1950s, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission entered into negotiations with the University of Washington to acquire some of the trust land for use as a state park. In 1963, State Parks purchased the park’s first 85 acres on the west side of Smuggler’s Cove Road.
In 1977, controversy erupted when the Department of Natural Resources announced plans to clear-cut 255 acres of trust land forest, known as the “Classic-U” tract, bordering South Whidbey State Park to the east of Smuggler’s Cove Road. Local small-scale logger Jack Noel recognized the forest’s value as the last remnant of old growth on South Whidbey Island. He contacted Charles Ehlert, a young Seattle environmental law attorney, who filed a landmark lawsuit — Noel v. Cole. Ehlert argued in court that forests were not exempt from environmental rules.
Noel rallied the community, and a group called Save the Trees was formed to support the effort. The case was widely publicized, and in 1978, the court ruled in favor of Noel, forever changing the way the state manages forests. In an August 1981 ceremony, Public Lands Commissioner Brian Boyle signed an agreement with Save the Trees and others to work together to preserve the forest. It was finally transferred to State Parks in 1991.