Top 20 Seattle day trips

Meerkerk Gardens

Meerkerk Gardens

Visit a stunning rhododendron garden with ocean views on Whidbey Island.

Meerkerk Gardens is on central Whidbey Island, roughly 13-miles from the charming waterfront towns of Coupeville and Langley.

To get to Whidbey Island, drive to the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal north of Seattle, take the short ferry crossing, then drive another 20-minutes up to the Meerkerk Gardens.

Meerkerk Gardens has a 12-acre display garden resplendent with azaleas, rhododendrons, and magnolias, encircled by 43-acres of undeveloped coastal woodland. Explore 4.5 miles of trails that take you deep into this woodland, with glimpses of the Saratoga Passage from a rotunda. 

The rhododendrons are in full bloom during spring, and summertime brings pathways lined with gorgeous perennials like flowering buttercups, daisies and poppies. The dazzling red leaves of the maple trees erupt in fall, before the garden settles into its winter slumber.

See a wide variety of exotic trees at the Meerkerk Gardens, like a Tibetan cherry, purple leaf Indian bean tree, Mt Fuji Cherry, Monkey Puzzle and gingko tree.

Meerkerk Gardens is open year-round (check hours & admission), at 3531 Meerkerk Lane, Whidbey Island.  Dogs are permitted on leash. 

10 best things to do at Meerkerk Gardens

1. Pick up a map at the gatehouse at the entrance to Meerkerk Gardens.

The gatehouse at Meerkerk Gardens is a replica of a stone structure at the Royal Gardens at Highgrove in England. Pick up a map or brochure at the gatehouse, and pay admission.

2. See a dazzling array of rhododendrons at the Meerkerk Gardens, planted by Ann and Max Meerkerk in the 1960s.

Meerkerk Gardens was founded by Ann and Max Meerkerk, who moved to Whidbey Island in 1953 after instantly falling in love with the island on an earlier visit to see a friend.  The Meerkerks built a house and began planting rhododendrons on the 12 acres they purchased. Their source of inspiration was the Exbury Garden in England belonging to the Rothschild Family. Another 43 acres of woodland forest was later added to Meerkerk Gardens, encircling the original display garden.

Max died in 1969, followed by Ann's death ten years later 1979.  Ann bequeathed the garden to the Seattle Rhododendron Society, leaving behind a beautiful legacy. Their home still stands on the northeastern side of the property with views of Holmes Harbor, and is used for education events.

3. Visit during early to late spring, when the rhododendrons are in full bloom.

There are so many varieties of rhododendrons at the Meerkerk Gardens, with names like Edith Boulter, Fairweather Rex, April Rose, and Lucy Lou.

4. Purchase rhododendrons at the nursery (open spring and fall).

5. Visit Cherry Tree Alley in late March and early April, when the Mount Fuji Cherry trees are in full bloom.

6. Stroll along grassy terraces at the Meerkerk Gardens, lined with flowering buttercups in spring.

7. Stroll from the formal gardens, into the 43-acres of wild coastal forest with Douglas Fir, Hemlock, Red Alder and Cedar.

8. Explore 4.5 miles of trails in the coastal forest area, past a gazebo with beautiful water views of Saratoga Passage and the Cascade Mountains.

9. Picnic in the woodland section of the garden, beneath a moss laden shelter.

10. On your way out, stop to admire the striking Bloodgood Japanese Maple at the right of the gatehouse.

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