Frequently Asked Questions
1. If I only have a short amount of time to visit the Reserve, what should I do?
Be sure to visit historic Front Street in the town of Coupeville, and the beach at Ebey’s Landing, where you can hike the Bluff Trail and experience scenic and historic vistas overlooking Admiralty Inlet and Ebey’s Prairie.
2. Why is the Reserve special?
The Reserve is a unique national park unit that preserves features and patterns of settlement and development associated with Native American use and occupation, early pioneer emigration, New England sea captains’ settlement, and military encampments, all within the context of a working, viable community. History is alive in the landscape of the Reserve.
3. Are there trails to enjoy?
There are many walking and biking trails throughout the Reserve that provide opportunities for visitors to observe agricultural activities and natural and cultural resources. There is a free driving/bicycling tour brochure available that leads a visitor through 44 miles of the Reserve’s various landscapes. A walking tour brochure introduces visitors to the history of Coupeville. Some trails cross private property. Please respect the crops and fields of farmers and the privacy of residents.
4. When is the best time to visit the Reserve?
It is possible to visit the Reserve year round due to its mild maritime climate and location on central Whidbey Island. The rain shadow effect of the nearby Olympic Mountains means little rain falls in the Reserve. There are more visitors in the summer months, so parking may be more difficult and trails and roads more crowded, especially on the weekends. Winter months and mid-week are always quieter times.
5. Where can I get my NPS Passport stamped?
The Coupeville Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, the Island County Museum, Coupeville Town Hall, and the Admiralty Head Lighthouse in Fort Casey State Park are all places with Passport Stations.
6. How big is the Reserve?
The Reserve covers the entire central Whidbey Island area, including Penn Cove, the town of Coupeville (Island County’s seat of government), and encompasses over 17,000 acres, most of which is privately owned land.
7. What is the old house near Ebey’s Landing beach?
The Ferry House is located above the beach at Ebey’s Landing. Some mistakenly think this is the Ebey House, but that structure no longer stands. The historic Ferry House, built c. 1858, was a place where early travelers to the island, arriving by boat, could get lodging, food, postal services, supplies, and overland transportation to Penn Cove, where they could continue their journey by ship. The NPS is working on restoring the Ferry House to preserve it for future generations.
8. Why is it called Ebey’s Landing?
Isaac Ebey was a person important in early territorial history and chose land on the west side of the island for his homestead in 1850. The spot he chose is a low area where it is easy to land a boat and gain access to the upland part of the Island. Ebey’s beach became a popular location for travelers to cross to the waters east of Whidbey Island. Eventually the spot became known as Ebey’s Landing.
9. Where is the visitor center?
The Reserve does not have a formal visitor center. Visitor information is available at the Island County Historical Museum and the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, both located in Coupeville.
10. Can I bring my dog to the Reserve?
Dogs are welcome in the Reserve’s beaches, trails and most public parks provided they are on leashes. There is an off-leash dog park located in the Reserve. Check with the Island County Parks Department for hours of operation and location.
11. Is camping allowed in the Reserve?
Campgrounds are located at Fort Ebey and Fort Casey state parks, as well as in Rhododendron Park. Fees for camping are charged at the state park areas.
12. How do I take the ferry to the Reserve?
Two different ferries serve Whidbey Island. The Mukilteo (mainland) to Clinton (Whidbey Island) ferry runs regularly every half hour on the hour and half hour beginning early in the morning and going well into the evening. The Pt. Townsend (Olympic Penninsula) to Keystone (Whidbey Island) runs every 45 minutes during the peak summer season and less frequently in winter. During spring and fall, sailings of the Pt. Townsend / Keystone ferry are often delayed or candelled due to low tides or strong currents. No reservations are necessary or available. Summer months are busy and delays will occur. Check with Washington State Ferries for restrictions on vehicle size and height, and transporting flammable liquids. There is a fee for the car and driver in both directions; charges for passengers and bicycles also apply.
13. Can I buy gas and food in the Reserve?
The town of Coupeville has stores and shops where food, gas, and other necessities can be purchased. There are a few banks in town providing ATMs.
14. Are there guided tours of the Reserve?
For the most part, visitors enjoy the Reserve on their own. However, the Island County Museum periodically offers tours of Coupeville, and seasonally, there are private operators who often offer tours for a charge. Contact the Chamber of Commerce and the Museum for information about tours.
Did You Know?
The Reserve's saltwater lagoons and adjacent wetland marshes offer prime bird-watching opportunities. Shallow and weather-protected, they attract numerous species of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds.