Whidbey Island charm is close to the citySpend some time exploring Puget Sound and you'll be both surprised and enchanted by the islands, waterways and hundreds of miles of shoreline that provide visitors a thousand opportunities for scenic photographs that they will treasure for a lifetime.
And the amazing thing is you don’t have to journey far from Seattle to experience some of the best island scenery Washington has to offer. The San Juans, of course, are a prime destination. But if you don't want to travel more than an hour from the Seattle area, many of the same attributes are found on Whidbey Island. From Seattle, it's just a half-hour drive or so north to Mukilteo, where the ferry landing serves as a portal to Puget Sound's island culture. The ferries run every half hour from Mukilteo to the southern tip of Whidbey Island.
Once on the ferry, it's maybe a 20-minute voyage across the channel and, before you know it, you've arrived on the island. Signs point you to destinations further north on the island and you realize you have very quickly exchanged the busy bustle of Seattle traffic for the country roads that slither through the forested hills and valleys of Whidbey.
Now, instead of row houses and endless population, you see farm houses and open fields planted with gardens or crops, with barns and fancy 4X4's that hint there are more than a few gentlemen farmers in residence here. Take a look at your watch, and you'll find that the second hand is moving just a little bit more slowly now – or so it seems. You're on "island time" now – time to unwind and thoroughly enjoy your stay on Whidbey.
The island has three main cities or towns that are of interest to travelers – Langley in the southern part of the island, Coupeville about half way up the island, and Oak Harbor, toward the northern end of the island.
Langley is a quaint and exceedingly small coastal town about a dozen miles from the ferry terminal. With its historic main street and eclectic shops, it's no surprise that this little berg is a magnet for artists. There are great downtown viewpoints across Saratoga Passage to Camano Island and, with the availability of several fine lodgings, this is a perfect overnight escape.
If you take the time to stroll the town, you'll find interesting and eclectic shops, and plenty of places to enjoy a cold brew or some seafood and gaze out onto the water.
From Langley it’s about 20 minutes to South Whidbey State Park, where you can take a hike down to the beach and explore a half-mile trail with picturesque views of Puget Sound.
Further north on the island is Coupeville, a quiet waterfront community that still reflects the character of a frontier seaport when Puget Sound was first settled. This is the heart of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve – but in addition to history, Coupeville is known for its dramatic views, beaches and a bluff overlooking some of the region’s most colorful scenery. There is lots of wildlife in these parts – eagles, herons, otters and, at the right time of the year, gray whales.
Like Langley, Coupeville is a mecca for artists and you’ll enjoy visiting their studios. There also are great accommodations in the area as well as exquisite local dining.
A lot of folks may not realize it but there is a major Naval air base on Whidbey Island so don’t be surprised if you see fighter jets and other military aircraft skimming over the gorgeous island landscape as you visit the island’s largest city, Oak Harbor.
One big local attraction is the historical downtown. And just outside of town there are many great parks. Including Joseph Whidbey State Park, a great day-use park just three miles from town. Fort Ebey State Park is just eight miles south of Oak Harbor and was originally built as a coastal defense fort during World War II.
At the northern end of Whidbey is Deception Pass where you’ll discover incredible views from the famous bridge that connects Whidbey with the mainland.
For more information on Whidbey island, go to www.whidbeycamanoislands.com/whidbey or phone 360-579-1425.
RECOMMENDED LODGING: Whidbey Island lodging
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