Fort Casey State Park: The Complete Guide

Fort Casey State Park

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Fort Casey State Park

Address
1280 Engle Rd, Coupeville, WA 98239, USA
Phone +1 360-678-4519

The Puget Sound area of Washington State isn’t known for its war history, but war has touched the region and the evidence remains in Fort Casey State Park on Whidbey Island.

Fort Casey was built in the late 1800s and used for training all the way up until the mid-1940s. Between those time points, it was part of a trio of forts, including Fort Worden and Fort Flagler, designed to defend the entrance to the Puget Sound. Today, Fort Casey State Park showcases the fort’s original defense purposes, but it also makes a stellar place to hike, camp, explore the historic structures and lighthouse, and enjoy some pretty sweet views of the Puget Sound.

Things to Do

First and foremost, just explore. Fort Casey State Park is located on the inherently picturesque Whidbey Island, so views of the Puget Sound, Cascades, and Olympics are wide open. The large stretches of grass are perfect for relaxing or flying a kite and there’s a stretch of beach where you can stroll and watch for orcas offshore.

The Admiralty Head Lighthouse, built in 1903, is a highlight for many as well. By 1922 the lighthouse was out of use as other nearby lighthouses at Point Wilson and Marrowstone Point were more useful. You can get a guided tour when the lighthouse is open or visit the Interpretive Center (it’s closed during some colder months). You’ll learn not only about the fort, the lighthouse, and their history, but also about the Native American tribes who lived in the area and their history.

Exploring the old fort is interesting even if you don’t have a penchant for military history. You’ll find plenty of plaques explaining the significance of the structures and, during the summer months, you can join in on a guided tour to learn more. Even if you simply walk around on your own, the twisting passages and gun batteries are fascinating.

Fort Casey is a great outdoorsy destination, too. There are 1.8 miles of trails that are relatively easy and family-friendly. And be sure to stay for the sunset—this is one of the prettiest places to watch the sun dip below the horizon.

Fort Casey Guns
John Elk / Getty Images

Water Sports

Boaters can find two saltwater watercraft launches, which opens up a chance to fish or otherwise enjoy the water. A group of orcas takes up residence in the waters around Fort Casey, so you may get lucky and come across a few while you're out on Puget Sound. Boaters do need a launch permit before heading out, but you can purchase a day permit from the pay station next to the docks.

To reach some of the most spectacular parts of the state park, you'll need to don a wetsuit and head below the surface. Part of Fort Casey is the surrounding Underwater Park, which is a favorite for scuba divers in the area. The lush kelp forests are home to all kinds of fish, wolf eels, and giant Pacific octopuses, to name a few. Just make sure you have a thick wetsuit or even a drysuit, since these waters are cold all year long.

Where to Camp

If you’re looking for a place to go camping that offers more than just a beautiful, natural place to get away from it all, Fort Casey is ideal. Fort Casey State Park has 22 standard campsites, 13 partial hookup sites with water and electricity, and one shower. The campsites located next to the ferry terminal are popular in the summer, and reservations are a good idea.

From the campground, you can watch the Port Townsend Ferry come and go while spotting plenty of wildlife and birds. The bathrooms are well-kept and clean.

Navy jets sometimes fly over from the Naval Air Station Whidbey and navy personnel conduct training missions during some days and nights, which can be quite loud for campers. You can look at the upcoming navy training schedule to confirm that nothing is scheduled during your trip.

Where to Stay Nearby

If camping is not your thing, Whidbey Island is also home to plenty of other places to stay, mostly in the form of B&Bs and small inns.

  • Fort Casey Inn: The closest lodging option to the state park is just a 10-minute walk away. These individual cabins with full kitchens are great for visiting families, although the gorgeous scenery and wandering deer are the true highlights of this charming inn.
  • The Inn at Penn Cove: This homey bed and breakfast is located in the town of Coupeville and just 10 minutes away from Fort Casey State Park by car. The historic home that it's located in dates back to the end of the 19th century, and each of the four rooms has its own distinctive charm.
  • Captain Whidbey Inn: Scandinavian-themed cabins and a big timber lodge overlook Penn Cove at the Captain Whidbey Inn. The entire property is surrounded by a forest of fir trees and the foliage against the coastline is quintessential Pacific Northwest scenery. Plus, it's just a 15-minute drive from the inn to Fort Casey.
Fort Casey Whidbey Island
Panoramic Images / Getty Images

How to Get There

Fort Casey State Park is on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, and most visitors will need to take a ferry to reach it. Coming from Seattle, the most direct way to reach the park is to ferry across Puget Sound and then drive up to Port Townsend, where you can catch another ferry directly to Fort Casey State Park. You can also avoid the ferry completely by driving north around the island to the Deception Pass Bridge, and then drive south to the state park from there. Whichever route you choose, it will take at least two to three hours to get there from Seattle.

Accessibility

The park isn't large and is easy to access for all visitors, including the ferry ride from Port Townsend. There are also ADA-compliant restrooms and a picnic area within the park.

Tips for Your Visit

  • As with all Washington state parks, you will need a Discover Pass to visit. The cost is $10 for a single day or $30 for a year. If you don’t already have a pass, you can buy one on-premise at an automated pay station or online.
  • There are a handful of free days throughout the year where all of the state parks are open to visitors without needing to purchase a pass.
  • You can visit Fort Casey State Park on its own, but it makes a great feature on a wider Whidbey Island itinerary, too. Visit the park one day and then enjoy Whidbey Island’s idyllic natural scenery, including the nearby Ebey's Landing National Reserve.
  • For a true wilderness getaway, Olympic National Park is just a short ferry ride and an hour's drive away from Fort Casey.
  • Orcas hang out around these waters year-round, but a group of gray whales also stops by Puget Sound during their annual migration, usually between March and May.
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Fort Casey State Park: The Complete Guide