Real Estate April 8, 2024

Freebies on Whidbey

Free? Such a fine idea. Whether because of benefactors, enlightened management, or simply because it is simpler, many things are free on Whidbey.


Thank you, Island Transit! Bus rides on Whidbey and Camano are free. Someone realized that the cost of putting cash boxes, providing security, and generally managing the system cost so much that it was easier and possibly cheaper to let folks ride for free. Free definitely makes life easier. There’s no need for folks to wait for someone else to search for exact change. It is easier for kids to ride. Generally, things are more congenial all around. A bonus: in the more rural sections, you can wave at the bus to get them to stop. They’ll also drop you off along the route, no bus stop required. An extra bonus: Island Transit also provides special customized services for paratransit or destinations that aren’t on normal routes. They even conduct special bus tours to hikes and dedicated events. There are so many options that you should call for details.


Read all about it! Or listen, or watch, or talk about it. The libraries on the island are part of the Sno-Isle Library system, a collection of libraries in Snohomish (Sno) and Island (Isle) counties that joined to benefit from numbers as they try to provide services to their neighborhoods from the mountains to the islands. Library cards are free, which isn’t much of a surprise, but they also supply movies on DVD, a streaming service, meeting rooms, events, and a repository of local information. Check them out for printing, too. They can also provide professional researchers who know there’s more to research than ‘Googling it’. Don’t be surprised to see people and cars near the libraries, even after hours. Wi-fi is free and has been known to leak out beyond the walls. Don’t stress about that book you forgot to return, no fees! Just bring it on in.

Free Wi-Fi

The libraries are a nice entry to free wi-fi, but various establishments have turned some public areas into free wi-fi zones. Very handy if you’re trying to figure out where you are, how to get to where you want to go, and whether there’s food along the way. The good news is that such zones are growing, so keep checking for those signals.

Phone Booths

One business that offers free public wi-fi is Whidbey Tel, which also offers that increasingly rare service – phone booths. Mostly, if not exclusively, on the south end of the island are the old-style phone booths that still work. Local calls are free. How many phone numbers have you memorized? By the way, old-style goes all the way back to a phone with a dial on the wall, a handheld speaker on a cord, and a mouthpiece that’s basically a horn mounted to a wall. Check the foyer of the Cash Store in Bayview for that experience.


Free parking is not just a spot on a Monopoly board. Parking on the island is easy to take for granted, but a trip to The Big City on the mainland is a reminder that finding a place to safely get out of traffic can cost money. There are places where there’s a fee to be paid, like near the Clinton ferry, but even there the price per day gets close to the mainland’s price per hour.


Riding the ferry for free? Yep, sort of. On most routes and most ways of traveling cost money to use the ferry. But, if you want to be a walk-on traveling from Clinton to Mukilteo, you won’t have to pay. There may be some message in the fact that you have to pay to get back onto the island, but at least the price is right for half the trip. Check it out here


Parks, Whidbey’s got them. Some of the most popular parks on the island are free to use. County and state parks may require Discover Passes, but that’s for cars. Walk, bike, or bus your way to the local parks and enjoy a lot of nature and the outdoors for no charge. A few local organizations have also provided access to trails and such. Whidbey Camano Land Trust  and Island County  Parks & Trails offer dozens of sites to wander around.

Outdoor Art

From sidewalk sculptures to murals to sculpture gardens there is art about. Some sites request a donation, which is only appropriate, but Whidbey’s downtown streets host art that is worthy of galleries and museums, and may be for sale. Artists appreciate the interest, the compliments, and the business. Price Sculpture Garden proves that the art doesn’t have to be in town. Oak Harbor Main Street, Langley Main Street, and the Sculpture Forest are just a couple of great sites to check out if your looking to enjoy outdoor art.


Listen for them. Several times a year, there are music and dance festivals in the streets and in the parks. Watch the signs and find there are free indoor performances, too. If not free, they may be ‘pay-what-you-can’, and they mean it. World-class performers live here. Be thankful and applaud them, as appropriate. Windermere is a proud sponsor of the 4 free community concerts held in Windjammer Park every August as a bit of a pre-game to the full meal deal 3 day free Oak Harbor Music Festival!


Nature isn’t only in the parks. Nature is everywhere; we just happen to put some buildings and roads on top of it. Birders know there are constantly shifting visitors to watch. Whales come closer to shore than boats can legally do. One ferry worker got on the intercom to point out that the boat was slowing for whale traffic, which was a sight that would cost a lot of money from a whale-watching boat. Wander the public beaches and be a beachcomber. The beaches aren’t just sand. There are agates underfoot, and occasionally bigger items like mammoth bones and fossils. 


Boats aren’t free, but find the right spot and launch your kayak from the beach and explore.


Check out our article about the swimming options here. Got a wetsuit? Swimming in the ocean takes some care, but there’s no pay booth, either.


Basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis, frisbee golf, pickle ball the list goes on of sports at the parks. Fortunately, the outdoor ones are easiest to spot. Play nice. And play!

Senior and Youth Centers

Seniors and youth have organizations supporting them with entertainment, but also support for the basics of getting through life. It isn’t always easy to find food and shelter. Advice about those essentials as well as job searches, Medicare information, and technologies, are available. There’s more. Ask. They may have what you need. A couple f great resources here on Whidbey are The Boys and Girls Club, The Hub After School, and Senior Resources. 


Food banks can be essential, or at least handy. Fortunately, Whidbey’s rural nature means the choices have been known to include fresh produce and fish. A meal made from food bank food can be better than what’s served in some restaurants, and is easier to fit your dietary needs. Dropping by in season can also mean picking from the local gleaners who pick fresh fruit from peoples’ yards who provided access to fruit trees. North Whidbey Help House, Gifts From The Heart Food Bank, and Good Cheer are  a few here on Whidbey. 


For almost every topic, there are opportunities to help by showing up. Being a part connects you to resources that may not be obvious otherwise. Who knows? In addition to finding free stuff, you might actually be asked to help and get paid to do it!

That is not all. There’s help with maintaining a home (Habitat for Humanity, Hearts & Hammers). Raising a family is hard, but it is made easier by Mother Mentors. Starting a business has many avenues (EDC, SBA, etc.). One reason for Whidbey’s long list of freebies is because Whidbey residents care, knowing that sometimes the best things are free, and know how to have a good time. The more the merrier – and if you can, chip in a bit. A little can help a lot.

Often times local events are free to attend. Keep an eye out for local events happening on Whidbey here. 

CoupevilleEventsNeighborhoodsPlacesThings to Do on Whidbey January 31, 2022

Penn Cove Mussels

Every city or county has that one thing they are famous for. Their claim to fame that puts them on the world map. For some it is a world-famous sports team, others it is a historical location, still some gain fame from the presence of rare exotic animals.

For Island County, it is our mussels.

Muscles, Emerald Cup, Washington

No, not the Emerald Cup kind of muscles we didn’t make a typo, we mean our Penn Cove mussels.

Penn Cove Mussels, Whidbey island, Coupeville, Washington






The History of Penn Cove Mussels

You may not know this, but Island county is home to the oldest and largest mussel farm in the United States (and maybe the world).  Penn Cove Mussels, Inc. began culturing mussels in 1975 with the desire to harness the cove’s naturally nutrient-rich water to harvest bigger and better mussels than the ones currently available. The results were incredible! Penn Cove mussels grow at a remarkable rate, enabling the mussels to reach harvest size within one year. This rapid growth rate causes Penn Cove mussels to have a firmer texture, sweeter flavor, and a thinner shell with more meat. As you can imagine, it makes them quite a crowd-pleaser.

Whidbey Island’s proximity to Seattle and the Sea-Tac Airport mean these wonderful shellfish don’t have to be a local secret. Instead, these mussels are quickly air-shipped all over the world for others to experience and enjoy. Mussels harvested in the morning are on the lunch plates of Seattle seafood lovers by that afternoon and dinner entrees in Houston by the evening.

Celebrated with a Festival

35 years our Penn Cove Mussels have been celebrated with a festival. The original celebrations consisted of a community chowder contest that has morphed over the years into 3 days’ worth of activities and fun. The most recent events have attracted more than 6,000 mussels enthusiasts from far and wide. This event alone significantly helps the local merchants recover from the slow winter months.

Musselfest festivities typically kick off on a Friday with the “Mussel Mingle.” This is a time where people gather at the Coupeville Recreational Hall to enjoy food, drink, and music. The next two days are packed full of mussel cooking demonstrations from incredible Seattle chefs, the massive mussel chowder competition involving 16 different local restaurants, the mussel eating competition, tours of Penn Cove Shellfish, Inc., a mountain bike event (“Mussels in the Kettles”) and more!

Musselfest is a massive community affair that requires all hands on deck to pull off. Dozens of volunteers from all over Coupeville donate their time, finances, and resources to make this festival work. For the past few years, Windermere Whidbey agents have volunteered their time at the Waterfront Beer Garden where they serve up some great local ale while listening to amazing local musicians.

musselfest, Coupeville, Whidbey Island

Unfortunately, like most events, the Penn Cove Musselfest was canceled due to Covid this past year, but the long-standing love for the festival carried on with the traditional T-Shirt and posters for all of the collectors. Past posters can be purchased here while supplies last. 

The 2022 Musselfest is anticipated to take place March 4th, 5th, and 6th pending the state of Covid and guidance from the state and county. Click here to check the status.