Top 8 Locations for Family Pictures on Whidbey Island (and beyond) | Kara Chappell Photography
I remember when I first moved to Whidbey Island and was slightly (okay really) overwhelmed by the number of gorgeous locations for family pictures. There were so many beautiful spots - but which had the features I was looking for and access to the type of views I needed?
Well friends, I’m happy to say that after living on Whidbey Island for nearly five(!) years, I have worked at most of the locations on or around the island, and am so excited to share my absolute favorite locations for pictures on Whidbey Island and beyond.
(Photographers - look for the “Pro Tips” for advice on where to start and what to look for/look out for).
Pro Tip - Because Whidbey Island is so far north, the position of the sun changes dramatically throughout the year. The light at one location in the spring will be completely different in the fall, so it’s always a good idea to scout a location around sunset if you haven’t shot there in a while.
(p.s. Stay tuned at the end of the post where I’m highlighting another awesome photographer who gives tips on how to include your dog in family pictures!)
#1 - Deception Pass State Park
Located at the northern-most point of Whidbey Island, Deception Pass State Park is Washington’s most visited state park for a reason.
Features include long rocky beaches, sunsets overlooking the Puget Sound, forests, fields, dunes, tall grasses, and driftwood.
FYI - You’ll need a Discover Pass to park, or pay a daily fee.
Pro Tip - Park at the West Beach parking lot and head through the woods to North Beach to start your session if it’s too sunny. After about 15-20 minutes walk back through the parking lot and down the gravel turned paved path along West Beach. Stop to admire the 850-year old tree, and finish your session at the beach.
#2 - Rosario Bay (Anacortes)
Rosario Bay can’t be beat for a dramatic sunset view. Located just over the bridge on the Anacortes side, Rosario’s meadowy bluff and elevated vantage point provide the perfect backdrop for an epic family photo session.
Features include dramatic cliffs overlooking the Puget Sound, islands in the distance, a pier, rocky beaches, and tide pools.
FYI - You’ll need a Discover Pass to park, or pay a daily fee. You can also park just outside of the lot and avoid the fee. The bluff has steep drop-offs, so I make sure there is at least one grown-up per young child.
Pro Tip - Walk up the steep path to the left of the large pole carving of Kwuh-kwal-uhl-wut (the Maiden of Deception Pass), and use the bluff to block the sun at the beginning of your session. Wildflowers bloom in the spring and create a meadow-like look. Give yourself 10-15 minutes to wrap the session at the small beach and tide pools at the bottom of the hill.
#3 - Fort Ebey State Park
Set on the western side of Whidbey Island, Fort Ebey’s beautiful bluff overlooks the Sound and offers unbeatable sunsets on a clear evening (Mt. Rainier is even visible!).
Features include a large bluff overlooking the Puget Sound, tall grasses (though sometimes mowed), forests, limited trees on the bluff, and a short drive to the beach.
FYI - You’ll need a Discover Pass to park, or pay a daily fee. The wind can kick in and make it feel colder than it is. I avoid shooting here if the forecast calls for winds in excess of 10-15 mph.
Pro Tip - Meet at the Gun Battery parking lot. Shoot at the edge of the forest if the sun is too bright, then make your way down to the main bluff overlooking the water. If there’s time, drive down to the beach (<5 minutes) for sunset.
#4 - Fort Casey State Park
Step back in time at Fort Casey State Park, as you take in the 1903-vintage lighthouse and military fort bunkers and batteries. Beyond the fort a large meadow overlooks the Sound and gives a wonderful view of the Olympic Mountains. Beyond the bluff is access to a rocky beach littered with beautiful driftwood and vegetation.
Features include industrial elements, a lighthouse, a large bluff overlooking the Puget Sound, tall grasses (sometimes mowed), and a long rocky beach with lots of driftwood (often arranged in playful ways).
FYI - You’ll need a Discover Pass to park, or pay a daily fee. The distance to walk from the parking lot to the fort, the fort up to the bluff, and the bluff down to the beach can be too much for those with limited mobility. The wind can kick in and make it feel colder than it is. I avoid shooting here if the forecast calls for winds in excess of 10 mph.
Pro Tip - Fort Casey is the perfect location for clients living/visiting south of Coupeville. Start at the fort and use the industrial elements for a different twist to your session (plus the fort blocks harsher light), walk up and around to the field overlooking the water, then take either the left or right paths down to the beach for sunset. Can be cold if windy! Good spot for families living/visiting on the southern end of Whidbey Island.
#5 - Rocky Point Beach
Rocky Point Beach is my favorite spot for a full beach session. The sand is soft, the beach often features sandbars, and there is nothing to do but PLAY! This is my favorite spot for families with two or more small (and energetic!) kiddos.
Features include a long, sandy beach, gorgeous sunset views, small dunes, forests in the distance, driftwood, and a field that sometimes blooms with daisies and other wildflowers. Sandbars are also visible at low-tide.
FYI - There is no restroom, and the NAS Whidbey Island base has signs posted that only military personal are allowed on beach, but there is no gate or guard and the community still treats the beach as if it is public.
Pro Tip - Rocky Point Beach is a beautiful spot for a fun and playful session. Start in the field to the side of the parking lot (grass, trees - some prickly plants), then move to the beach and use the dunes to block the sun. Sandbars for the win!
#6 - Bowman Bay (Anacortes)
The Lighthouse Point trail at Bowman Bay will not only take you to several dreamy photo spots, but you’ll also be closer to hitting your steps for the day! The mile-long hike is steep at times, but offers numerous sandy beaches, driftwood, rocks, and meadows that will add fun and variety to your family photo session.
Features include a long pier, forests, a variety of sandy and rocky beaches, and a hidden beach with a view of the Deception Pass bridge.
FYI - You’ll need a Discover Pass to park, or pay a daily fee. A 10-15 minute moderate hike (at times steep) takes you to the most picturesque beaches and overlooks. Advise your clients to bring walking/hiking shoes to change into if they’re considering wearing wedges or heels.
Pro Tip - Meet 90 minutes before sunset and follow the trail signs for Lighthouse Point. After the first 5-10 minute hike, stop at the connecting beach and take advantage of both sides of the area (to the right of the trail is a beach, to the left more of a lake vibe). Continue through the forest to the hidden beach and play on the bluff just beyond for a beautiful shot of Deception Pass State Park and the bridge. Depending on the time of year, you may want to hike directly to the hidden beach and then work your way back as the sun dips down.
#7 - Washington Park (Anacortes)
Washington Park sits on a peninsula at the west end of Fidalgo Island. While the surrounding forest is dense, a scenic paved 2.2-mile loop road winds through the park and opens at the top of the hill with serene meadows and views of the San Juan Islands and Olympic Mountains.
Features include a high overlook with beautiful views of surrounding islands and the Sound. A small rocky beach is nestled in next to the playground at the bottom of the loop.
FYI - There is a 5-10 minute slow and windy drive up the paved loop to the highest vantage point. The beach at the bottom of the hill is somewhat small, but typically not overly crowded.
Pro Tip - Meet your clients at the restrooms just before the loop and drive up to the top (there is a small parking lot next to a gnarly-looking tree). Drive back down the loop and park next to the boat ramp for a few beach shots before the sun sets.
#8 - Monroe Landing
Just down the road from the Blue Fox Drive-In, Monroe Landing offers a beautiful view of Penn Cove from the north side of the cove. This is a great spot for short mini sessions or for families needing an earlier start time.
Features include a rocky beach, large driftwood, mixed vegetation, and great blue hour light once the sun dips below the bluff.
FYI - Limited parking, restrooms limited to port-a-potty. Houses may be visible in the background.
Pro Tip - Great spot if you have to meet before golden hour. Walk down the beach to the right when the sun is high and move back towards the parking lot as it drops.
BONUS Location - The Port Townsend Ferry
If you’re looking for something a little different for your family pictures, a ferry session provides a fun evening out with the fam and a variety of unique backdrops your photographer will love to take advantage of. Walk on the ferry at the Coupeville terminal and enjoy the thirty minute ride to Port Townsend. Move freely around the boat, and explore the roof deck for beautiful views of the Sound. Downtown Port Townsend is steps away from the terminal, and the Nifty Fifty’s Soda Fountain is the perfect stop for a quick milkshake before heading back to the terminal to catch the ferry home.
Features include the ferry itself, which you are free to move around during the trip. Port Townsend has a variety of backgrounds, including brick buildings, colored doorways, and piers.
FYI - There is a small fee to walk on. Check the ferry schedule beforehand! Plan your return trip during golden hour.
Pro Tip - Your clients will have so much fun, they’ll forget they’re getting their pictures taken. Bring snacks and bribe kiddos with a milkshake on the way home.
Whidbey Island is truly a photographer’s paradise! With multiple state parks, beautiful vistas overlooking the water, and long stretches of both sandy and rocky beaches, Whidbey Island is the perfect spot to take your family photo session to the next level.
I feel so lucky to live here and admit freely that having easy access to Whidbey Island locations has helped my photography business so much! With that said however, I always tell my clients that the right location and wardrobe are just there to highlight the real focus of your family’s photo session - connection and love.
I’d love to hear which location is your favorite spot on Whidbey Island and why. Are there any spots I missed? Any hidden gems worth adding? Comment below!
And don’t forget to check out this post from Twin Cities Family Photographer Michele Quattrin about how to include your dog in your family photos. I love her first tip so much!