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. If you like Endicott Era sea coastal defense forts and lighthouses, you will enjoy Fort Casey State Park and the Admiralty Head Lighthouse on the southern tip of the Reserve.
2. Why is the Reserve special?
The Reserve is a unique unit of the National Park Service - a partnership (federal, state, town & county) that offers support to the current community in the preservation of their cultural and natural legacy. Most of the Reserve (85%) is privately owned, yet evidence of historic land traditions are everywhere. No landscape in the Puget Sound country preserves such direct connections to as many layers of Northwest history as Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve - Coast Salish peoples, English explorers & traders, American farmers and sea captains, and even Chinese farmers.
Once transportation in the region shifted from water to roads in the early 20th century, Whidbey Island fell off the map, and as a result is relatively untrammeled by the modernizing effects of the 20th century. Thus Ebey's Reserve still retains landscapes, panoramas and at least two dozen heritage buildings from the earliest days of the Washington Territory, enabling visitors to step back in time in the midst of a living community.
3. Are there trails to enjoy?
There are many walking and biking trails throughout the Reserve that provide opportunities for visitors to enjoy farmlands and natural vistas. Ebey's Landing State Park and Sunnyside Cemetery both offer trailheads for the stunning Bluff Trail, which overlooks the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Fort Ebey State Park also offers beautiful trails along the water and in wild rhododendron woods. Mountain biking trails are also found in Mountain biking trails can also be found in Fort Ebey and the adjacent Kettles Recreation Area.
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.
A new multi-purpose recreation map will be available by June 1. Please check our "Brochures" page as a downloadable PDF will be available sooner. Please notify us if you would like to receive a paper copy by mail, or pick one up when you arrive.
Please keep in mind that 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 Whidbey Island's mild maritime climate. The rain shadow effect of the nearby Olympic Mountains means little annual rain falls in the Reserve, yet it spreads itself out remarkably. Our dry and sunny season is July through September, so expect more visitors in the summer months. Parking may be more difficult and trails and roads more crowded, especially on the weekends. Winter months and mid-week are quieter times, but in fall, winter and spring, it pays to be prepared for cloud cover and/or wet weather. Roaring good winds can blow in any season.
5. Where can I get my NPS Passport stamped?
The Coupeville Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, the Island County Museum, Coupeville Town Hall, the Admiralty Head Lighthouse and park office in Fort Casey State Park, Fort Ebey State Park, the Captain Whidbey Inn, the Ebey's Reserve Trust Board Office (on Cemetery Road), and the Jacob Ebey House on the Prairie Trail 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 Isaac Ebey House, but that structure no longer stands. The historic Ferry House, built in 1860 by Isaac's relatives, was a place where early travelers to the island, arriving by boat, could get lodging, food, postal services, supplies, and overland transportation to the Island County seat at Penn Cove,. 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 yet 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 Port Townsend (Olympic Penninsula) to Coupeville (Whidbey Island - formerly called Keystone) runs every 45 minutes during the peak summer season and less frequently in winter. During spring and fall, sailings of the Port Townsend / Coupeville ferry are often delayed or cancelled due to low tides or strong currents. Reservations are recommended on the Port Townsend ferry during the busy summer season. 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.
Please note that the "Coupeville" Ferry Terminal is actually at the Keystone Spit, which is four miles from downtown Coupeville. Since public transportation into the town is in frequent, walking on the ferry in Port Townsend to visit Coupeville is not advised.
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.
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Thursdays through Sundays, 10-4, docents are available to answer your questions at the Jacob Ebey House on the Ebey's Prairie Trail. This visitor contact station is located .2 miles down the trail from the Prairie Overlook at Sunnyside Cemetery.
Did You Know?
Many historic summer cottages remain around Penn Cove. The picturesque character of the cove, surrounded by the beach cottages, reflects the recreational development that flourished in the early decades of the 20th century.