Explore Whidbey Island For an Escape That Feels So Far Away
South Whidbey IslandLangley stands out for the city’s timeless seaside charm. Bookstores, galleries, cafes and bistros in its shingled and shiplap buildings reflect the island’s creative, artisan vibes and tap into the bounty of island farms and food producers. The Braeburn is a perennial favorite for its corned beef mash and other scratch-made comfort food. The Braeburn introduced Thursday through Saturday dinner service in spring 2019, with additional nights to be added in the summer. Saltwater Fish House & Oyster Bar brings the flavors of local waters to a cozy, casual setting. Opened in 2018 by the family that owns the neighboring Prima Bistro, Saltwater focuses on fresh seafood, including mussels, clams and oysters harvested from nearby waters by Coupeville-based Penn Cove Shellfish. Langley’s downtown is home to about a half-dozen art galleries, including the Whidbey Art Gallery (which has a sculpture garden and a staff of nearly 40 island artists) and Callahan’s Firehouse Studio & Gallery (pictured above), where renowned artist Callahan Campbell McVay sells decorative glass and offers glass-blowing classes (reservations recommended). The Seawall Park beach has views across Saratoga Passage, while Langley’s marina is popular for kayak launches. Whidbey Island Kayaking offers rentals and tours, including nighttime bioluminescence-viewing excursions. The 2-mile stretch of driftwood-covered sand at Double Bluff Beach follows the base of two massive bluffs and offers views stretching out to Mount Rainier. It is also a popular shellfish-harvesting spot (get a license and gear at Ace Hardware in Freeland) and off-leash dog area. Rinse off your sandy pooch for $20 at Healthy Pet’s self-service dog-washing station in Freeland. The 26-unit Inn at Langley stands out as a couples retreat. Cascading down a bluff overlooking the shore, the property has an onsite spa and jetted or soaking tubs in each room, suite and cottage. Its highly rated restaurant serves dinner in one nightly seating (reservations recommended).
Central Whidbey IslandWhen Congress established Ebey’s Landing as the first National Historical Reserve in 1978, it ensured that the 17,500-acre area encompassing Coupeville, Penn Cove, and Fort Ebey and Fort Casey state parks would retain its historic character in perpetuity. History lives throughout the district, particularly along Coupeville’s waterfront (pictured above), where false-front buildings from the late 19th century are now restaurants, cafes, galleries and gift shops. Start the day with a thick cinnamon roll from the Knead & Feed bakery and restaurant before hiking the Bluff Loop Trail, accessible at Ebey’s Beach. You can choose between a walk along the beach or a moderately strenuous climb up the bluff overlooking Admiralty Inlet. The two paths form a 3.5-mile loop, which you can also access from Sunnyside Cemetery via Ebey’s Prairie Ridge Trail. Fort Ebey State Park offers about 35 more miles of hiking trails (including another Bluff Trail), 51 campsites and a never-used gun battery established to help defend Puget Sound during World War II. The attractions at Fort Casey Historical State Park include 10-inch coastal artillery guns and a 1903-built lighthouse. (Consider purchasing a Discover Pass to avoid multiple state park day-use fees.) Central Whidbey’s lodging options consist primarily of small inns, such as the Anchorage Inn. The Victorian–style B&B overlooks Coupeville’s waterfront and is near restaurants such as Toby’s Tavern, The Oystercatcher, Ciao and the Kapaws Iskreme ice cream shop. Built in 1907, the Captain Whidbey Inn reopened in 2019 after a renovation by new owners. Between Langley and Coupeville, Greenbank Farm was founded as a dairy farm in the early 1900s and later became the largest loganberry farm in the U.S. Today, it offers open spaces, trails, gardens, art galleries and food shops such as Whidbey Pies café.
North Whidbey IslandThanks to its proximity to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Oak Harbor is the island’s largest city, and lodging options include national brands. The roar of fighter jets is common in spring and summer. Aviation and history buffs won’t want to miss the PBY Naval Air Museum, named for the PBY-Catalina “flying boats” used during World War II. With scenic forests, lakes and shoreline, Deception Pass State Park is North Whidbey’s most popular natural attraction. The Cranberry Lake area is a family favorite, with a sandy swimming beach and 230 campsites. Popular activities include boat rides from Deception Pass Tours and AdventureTerra tree-climbing (pictured above) from spring through fall. Goose Rock, the highest point on Whidbey Island, is assessible via a steep-but-short trail from the south end of the Deception Pass bridge. On clear days, you’ll get a bird’s-eye perspective of Cranberry Lake and Deception Island, with views to the San Juan Islands.
–Written by Rob Bhatt
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