The wildlife, the golden hour (now I see what a true golden hour actually is!), the endless views of cliff-sides meeting the ocean, the Penn Cove mussels… oh, I could go on!
I’m talking about Whidbey Island. Earlier this summer, we kicked off our annual “Summer out of a Suitcase” by heading to the Pacific Northwest to visit two sets of friends. As mentioned, we started in Portland, Oregon, and then took a train from Portland to Seattle to meet my best friend (since second grade!), her husband, and their sweet little boy. We then caravanned to Whidbey Island, off the Washington Coast for a about a week-long vacation. Being an ocean lover, I had imagined I would love exploring this corner of the U.S. However, I was blown away by how beautiful and untouched it all was. Here are a few notes and recommendations on where to eat, stay, and play for anyone wanting to re-create their own Whidbey Island trip. And as usual, lots of photos of our travel buddies. I highly recommend exploring this area if you are a family who loves nature and adventure and enjoy exploring the lesser-traveled destinations.
Whidbey Island is made up of several small quaint towns. We stayed in Coupeville and chose this for its central location on the island, and its surrounding historic nature reserve. Apparently Coupeville is the second oldest town in the state of Washington! This meant lots of hikes, views, parks, beaches, and more to explore.
- Fresh Penn Cove mussels many times. You can read about the discovery and uniqueness of these delicious delicacies here. I loved that we were eating them as fresh as you could get.
- Oyster Catcher – A standout place that you must try if you go to Whidbey Island and want a delicately crafted meal. Super artisan and unique creations – we had pea sorbet as palate cleansers, oysters with a hazelnut chutney, roasted sunflowers, ceviche, and more. The staff were so friendly considering we had very tiny guests with us. I’d recommend making a reservation.
- Hot Dogs at Coupe’s Last Stand. This hot dog stand is right in front of the Coupeville Wharf and made for a nice picnic on our first day. They had kielbasa and polish sausage options too. In fact, it was just after this hot dog stand while walking down to the Wharf on our first day that Grace declared, “This is the best day ever!” We had just spotted a seal in the water 🙂
- We ran out of time but would have loved to experience Orchard Kitchen which looked amazing.
- Baked goods and coffee from Useless Bay Coffee Shop in Langley.
Note: We stopped in a local grocery store and bought items for picnics and breakfast. While there is great food on the island, there’s not a ton of varied options, the hours of restaurants can be tricky, and the popular places fill up. Plus with all the wonderful views and small kids, relaxed meals at our houses seemed the obvious best choice.
- Rosario Beach at Deception Pass – such a beautiful bridge with a beautiful view. Our first adventure of this leg of our trip was heading to Rosario Beach to check out the tide pools. We spent hours seal searching, stone collecting and checking out the tide pools.
- Ebey’s Landing – Likely my favorite outing was the long walk we did here along the bluff, with open fields to our left and views of the Puget Sound to our right. A great fairly flat hike for a sunny day, even though our middle child insisted on being carried 😉
- Fort Casey – If you love history like my husband, there’s an old light house here you can climb up, as well as a huge fort to explore, and a beach at the base with loads of drift wood for kids to play on.
- Pelican Bay Books in Anacorters (which is technically on Fidalgo Island). I’m a sucker for a good used bookstore and I could have spent hours in this one. I’m so glad our friends recommended we make the drive to check it out. There’s a coffee shop in here too which was helpful for those of us still adjusting to the time zone. The exposed wood walls and shelves made me feel like I was in a cozy log cabin.
- Langley (mentioned earlier) is a charming little town on Whidbey with lots of little shops and art galleries.
We stayed here:
While I usually like to find a local hotel or bed and breakfast, we decided on this simple vacation rental and were so happy with it. Its garden was so beautiful to look at every day and we were next door to the small downtown area and could see the water from just outside the driveway. It fit our family of 5 just fine with the two oldest sharing the upstairs and the baby tucked in the pack and play in the closet. And our friends were just a short walk away. However, we’ve heard wonderful things and are eager to check Captain Whidbey’s out next time we come!
Getting to and from Whidbey Island:
We were coming from Portland via the Amtrak Cascades line (highly recommend – a trip favorite!), then drove and caught the Mukilteo Ferry to Whidbey. On our way out of Whidbey en route to Seattle, we enjoyed a long scenic drive through Skagit County, exploring the sweetest little creative town, Edison and Mount Vernon, where we picked up Dungeness crab and other goodies from Snowgoose Produce.
Perhaps one of the best overall things about being on Whidbey was just that- being on the island and enjoying its natural state. Sharing that with my family and our friends (who are so lucky to live to close to there!) was totally priceless. The pastel-colored stones collected at the beaches, the deer that aren’t scared of humans at all and just mosey about the island, the cherry trees, the seal pups… It was so great just to be there. In fact, more than once, we opted out of naps to be able to just drive around and explore the island. It’s all very accessible. And a highlight for me personally, was taking a dip in the Puget Sound. I think I’ve mentioned this but I have this little running bucket list of sorts where I like to swim in as many bodies of water as possible. While it was understandably too cold for the rest of our group, I’m excited to add the Puget Sound to my running list of waters along with the Red Sea, the Aegean, the Caribbean and a handful of others! Even though with how cold it was, it was a very quick swim. Definitely keep this area on your radar for a trip and I hope you enjoyed the photos. Below are some recent writing clips.
For Raleigh folks, you might enjoy learning about where Stanbury owner Joseph Jeffers eats and plays in this interview I got to do. I loved getting to know this local abstract artist and mother. I’m also super excited to kick off a local food finds column which I think even non-Raleigh area residents might enjoy reading. And I’ve been been steadily contributing to the wonderful Babyccino community where this Whidbey Post actually first appeared on.
Busy but good times! Thanks for tuning in. -Addie