A very rocky hike with breaks of sandy beach along a beautiful coast that's full of marine life between the towns of Oak Harbor and Coupeville on Whidbey Island.
Be sure to do this trail at low tide or within one to two hours of low tide -- to find the best information, check the Penn Cove tide tables before going.
Hiking at high tide can leave you stranded near a please hike at low tide. From the gravel parking lot, walk slightly down the embankment across a little stream at low tide and on to the spit. This area is part of Penn Cove Bay and Ebey's National Historical Reserve. It is also called Grasser's Lagoon.
As you hike out the spit you will gradually veer left in a northerly direction along the coast toward San De Fuca Pier. This area can be rough; take your time and find the smoothest path along this rocky beach. While it can be trying due to the rock, a break awaits you in about 1.2 miles at Monroe Landing with a nice sandy beach.
Once around the bend from Monroe Landing, the cliffs soar higher overhead, making it nearly impossible to climb up over them should the tide come in. You'll either go back here, or if you've determined you have enough time, keep moving forward for the last 3.5 miles to Oak Harbor. Along this area you will see many bald eagles in the trees above. You may even catch some of them diving for fish.
About 4 miles from the trailhead, you get a glimpse of Oak Harbor in the distance just after you past the largest boulder along this section of the beach. Big as a garage, this monolith is truly impressive, and nature's noticed, too. You may spot an eagle's nest atop it. Of course, do not approach the nest; it's best to admire wildlife from a distance.
At the boulder is a great place for a lunch break, since behind it you'll find some shade. From here, you can watch the boats leaving Oak Harbor bay for fishing and sailing.
A small bootpath leading up from the beach through the neighborhood of Oak Harbor makes it possible to do this hike as a traverse. But if you're not getting a pickup at the other end, be sure that your outing here leaves you enough time to recross that beachy section near the cliffs before the tide comes in.
WTA Pro Tip: Island County Transit does have a free bus system at Flintstone Park on SE Bay Shore Drive about a half a mile from here that you can catch back to your car.