There are a couple things that I don’t tell my friends – we all have our secrets, right? One of mine is my love of forts. Not the kind of fort that you make in your living room on a rainy day, but the big concrete and metal kind that are usually on a cliff.
I have been to (almost) every fort in Washington, a couple in California, even to a few on the Eastern seaboard. I know, it sounds really nerdy, but I love the history and the beauty that surrounds them. Although I don’t have kids yet, forts are high on the list of places I want to take them.
Here is a little history about the forts in Washington. There are about 100 forts in Washington State that were built as early as the 1800s through World War II. Although most of them are now merely historical markers, there are still a handful that still have their original structures.
If you are looking for a fun day trip or a close to home overnight – Whidbey Island has both! For a day trip I suggest doing the loop: start by taking the Mukilteo ferry over to Whidbey Island and driving up to Fort Casey. You, or your kids, may know it as Camp Casey – one of my favorite memories is playing ultimate Frisbee at Camp Casey on a school camping trip. Fort Casey has concrete bunkers to explore complete with two remaining mounted guns – a rare find! It also has a lighthouse that was built in 1903 that you can explore. To top it off, Fort Casey and all of the forts in the area have big grass fields and a long shoreline!
After leaving Fort Casey, keep going north up the island and you will soon come upon Fort Ebey. Fort Ebey also has concrete bunkers and platforms where the guns used to be mounted. Random fact about Fort Ebey State Park: you can harvest the seaweed in April and May (Yeah, I didn’t know that was a thing either).
Side note: if you happen to Google “forts on Whidbey Island”, don’t be fooled, like I was, about “Fort Knox”. It turns out that Fort Knox in Oak Harbor is actually a mobile home park, not a real park.
Your next stop should be Deception Pass, even though there is no fort. The bridge alone is something to behold. My husband says you should walk across it, but if you have a fear of heights like I do, you will see no reason to do so. There are lots of fun hikes there as well – one in particular called the Summit Trail leads you to a look out where you can watch planes and helicopters take off and land at NAS Whidbey Island; very kid friendly.
As opposed to driving back down the island to the ferry, I suggest coming home on I-5. My only must stop on the way down is Snow Goose Produce, just south of Mount Vernon, in Conway. After a long day of exploring, you owe it to yourself to refuel with the best ice cream in the state (I’m not exaggerating). My husband always gets “Swiss Chocolate Cherry” – I prefer strawberry. You can also buy fresh produce, locally made bread, wine, jam and lots of other goodies. Two important notes: you must have cash for ice cream and they give you “supersized” scoops. Seriously, I get the kid scoop and it’s still too much.
If you are feeling more adventurous and want to make it a full weekend of forts (and why wouldn’t you?), I recommend doing the “Triangle of Fire”: Fort Flagler, Fort Warden, and Fort Casey. These three forts are said to guard the entrance of Puget Sound.
Start at Fort Flagler which not only has concrete bunkers with at least one mounted gun but it also has a hospital – built in 1905 – that you can tour. Fort Warden is next on the route, it is mostly known for its hiking. Yes, they have concrete bunkers as well but while you are hiking, you never know what you are going to find! There are lots of hidden gems (hint: think secret bunkers). To end the trifecta, take the ferry over to Fort Casey from Port Townsend – it literally docks at the fort!
A couple of important notes for your adventure: all of the forts in our area are Washington State Parks so make sure to pack your Discover Pass, otherwise you have to pay $10 at each park. No road trip is complete without something to listen to – either make a rockin’ playlist or if you’re nerdy like me an audio book. Be sure to pack kites, sand toys, Frisbees, etc. to fully enjoy the open space and beach front that enable your imagination to be your only limitation. Lastly, make sure you pack plenty of snacks, a picnic lunch, plenty of water, and maybe something special for you (think: wine).
After your adventure, be sure to come back and let us know about your trip in the comment section below!