Washington’s Whidbey Island: A relaxing place for browsing, lazing and nature-gazing
By Wynne Crombie
Salt air wafted across the narrow channel between the mainland and Whidbey Island in Washington state.
Eighty-five degrees, sunny and not a rain cloud in sight. This dispelled the, It always rains in Seattle myth…at least for now.
My husband Kent and I munched contentedly on seafood takeout from, Ivar’s wharfside stand and watched the oncoming ferry maneuver into its moorings. Car engines revved up. No one seems to mind the ½ hour plus wait between ferries. (think: Island Time).
This August weekend, the Island County Fair was in full swing. People snatched a nap, read or took advantage of Ivar’s snacks.
On to Langley, Washington
We were the last ones on the ferry. A flag-waving attendant placed blocks behind our wheels. Langley (pop.1022) is a ten- minute drive from the Whidbey ferry landing at Clinton. Fairgoers had parked on both sides of the road for blocks. The Boy Scouts had taken over the Fair’s parking lot business. For $5. you could park all day.
The quaint artist community of Langley, at Whidbey’s southern tip, is a stroller’s paradise. Nary a Target nor McDonalds and the residents want to keep it that way. You can find specialized small shops devoted to chocolate, books, twig furniture, handmade rugs, or art.
One doesn’t hurry along Langley’s two main streets or the tempting back lanes and alleys.
County Fair Parade
The County Fair parade was just rounding the corner. as we sat down to nibble at The Langley Village Bakery where fantastic muffins, croissants, and coffee are dispensed daily.
Two male ponytailed bikers, well past retirement age, were sipping the last of their lattes. They both sported, I Climbed Mt. Rainier t-shirts.
Outside horse-drawn wagons from yesteryear were followed by the high school band, a Boy Scout regiment, clowns and plenty of banners.
As with every visit to Whidbey, we had to browse in Moonraker’s Books… two floors of best sellers and hard-to-find volumes. The Star Store, a few doors down, was one of a kind. It not only supplies residents with organic food, but kitchen gadgets, wines and mountain clothing.
It was time out. A few minutes to sit on one of the many benches overlooking Puget Sound. Camano Island lay in front of us, The Cascades Mountain Range was to the left and Mt. Baker to the right.
The Chocolate Flower and Garden Shed features all things with any hint of brown, mostly antiques and plants. And, naturally, chocolate candy of all kinds and shapes. Up the road, on Saratoga, Street they have commandeered a field where they grow their sepia-toned flowers.
On the corner. The Dog House Tavern, best for a hamburger, chili deluxe, or fish and chips, had recently become a victim of the Recession. It is now being proposed for historic status. We crossed the street and had lunch at Mike’s Place, who still serves the best marionberry pie ever. (a Pacific Northwest staple).
Wine Tasting Room
We poked along the back lane next to, Moonraker’s and came out on 2nd Street. The Second Street Wine Shop and Tasting Room serve only Washington State wines. “The best,” smiled the owner, Laurel Davis.
Down the street, the band at the Useless Bay Coffee Co. was just starting its outdoor gig. Next door, the former Langley Fire Station had been turned into a, Blow Your Own Glass enterprise. Some of their items were selling for over a thousand dollars.
Many B and B’s share the charm of Whidbey. We spent three nights at the Country Cottage in their “Creamery Suite”.
We had previously stayed in their, “Captain’s Cove Cottage”. Ewers and washstands, step-up beds, and down comforters. Ah, wonderful. This is only a prelude to Tom and Jacki’s spectacular. breakfasts.
Heading for Coupeville
Our three days in Langley ended far too soon. We propelled our rental car northwards out of Langley and headed for Coupeville in the north. Along the way were endless farms with grazing cows, a llama or two, colorful barns, and spectacular water and mountain views. One thing struck us…the absence of billboards.
Just south of Coupeville, (The landslide took place in this area in April 2013) We dropped in on, Greenbank Farm. It’s a forest, field, and wetland all rolled into one. Most importantly, it is the location of the Whidbey Pies Café…purveyor of loganberry pies, and local artwork.
A Long Pier
Reaching Coupeville, we perused the tavern and shop-lined Front Street before heading out on the long pier amidst screaming gulls and a seal, or two. If you have an interest in 19th-century homes, Coupeville has them. Just outside of town, we visited Fort Casey, an old World War I facility complete with rusty gun emplacements.
Did I mention whale watching? Unfortunately, not during our stay, but they are sighted from late February to May.
If a jet roars overhead, it’s from the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. The film, “An Officer and Gentlemen”, was filmed there.
From there we reached Oak Harbor, Whidbey’s largest community. Then, it was off to cross the Deception Pass bridge and back to the mainland.
The Island, just north of Seattle, is accessible by the twenty-minute ferry ride from the south, or the Deception Pass Bridge, an hour’s drive to the north.
Getting to Whidbey Island
From the South: Drive north on I-5 to exit 189 (Mukilteo/Whidbey Island ferry)here:
From the North: Drive south on I-5 to Anacortes. You will see signs for the Deception Pass Bridge.
Ashington Manor – 5023 Langley Rd. Langley. (866/456/5006) $129 84GBP (Fri. and Sat.) $109 70GBP (Sun. through Thurs.)
Bell’s Beach B and B- 3778 Bell’s Beach Rd. Langley (360/730-1450) $95-$115 61-74GBP
The Inn at Langley: (Hotel and Spa) 400 First Street, Langley. (360/221/3033) waterfront guestroom $250 162GBP
Country Cottage of Langley. 6 private cottages ranging from $140 91GBP to $190 123GBP tel. 800/713-3860
215 6th Street Langley, Wash. 98260 www.acountrycottage.com
Prima www.primabistro.com 360/221-4060 expensive
Mike’s Place 219 1st Street 360/221/6575 moderate
Places to browse
The Greenbank Farm www.greenbankfarm.com (360/678/7710
The Garden shed www.chocolateflowerfarm.com
Moonraker’s Book Store 209 1st Street 360/221/6962
The Star Store www.starstorewhidbey.com 360/221/5222