Coupeville, Whidbey Island
The views are spectacular—but the Penn Cove mussels steamed in wine? Divine.
DRIVE TIME: 4.5 HOURS, including ferry from Mukilteo
Find it on the map
FORMING THE NORTHERN boundary of Puget Sound, 58-mile-long Whidbey Island, only a 20-minute ferry ride from Mukilteo (a suburb of Seattle), is one of the most accessible island escapes for Portlanders. But that’s only part of what makes it a great weekend destination. Whidbey’s pebble-covered beaches, quaint towns, and limitless ocean views manage to transport you (mentally, at least) out of the Northwest. (Indeed, the island stood in for Massachusetts during the filming of the 1998 witch-flick Practical Magic.) From the island’s “waistline,” a narrow neck of sand near the town of Greenbank, to the frothy waters churning beneath Deception Pass Bridge, which overlooks the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Whidbey is a place where you can choose to do a lot or choose to do nothing but stare at the sea. No matter how you spend your days, the historic port village of Coupeville (Washington’s second-oldest town, after Steilacoom) makes the best home base, since its central location puts you within easy striking distance of the island’s northern and southern sights. —AH
Friday, 5 p.m.
Check-In: The Captain Whidbey Inn
Torn between a B&B perfumed by Whidbey’s spruce forests or one with a view of the sea? Have it both ways by staying at the Captain Whidbey Inn. The 101-year-old inn sits on the shores of Penn Cove, nestled in the heart of the Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve—a swath of agricultural land that Congress set aside to protect the area’s rural heritage. Whether you book a wood-paneled room in the inn itself or one of the rustic cabins that encircle an open-air hot tub, you’ll have a view of the cove. And if, perchance, the sight of the sun dropping into the sea keeps you rooted to your spot on the outdoor deck a little longer than you’d planned, the roaring fire inside the lodge’s main room is just the thing to chase away that coastal chill. $95–$240; 800-366-4097; www.captainwhidbey.com
Friday, 7 p.m.
Dinner at Toby’s Tavern
By this time the salt air probably has your stomach screaming, “Deep-fried halibut. Now!” Look no further than Toby’s Tavern. The fish-and-chips at this small, shorefront pub housed in an 1890 mercantile building have been consistently voted the best in Whidbey by the local press. Which might explain why you’ll find so many islanders here, toasting pints of Toby’s Parrot Red Ale, the tavern’s celebrated house-made microbrew. In fact, this place is so popular that the pool table is used for additional place settings on busy nights, so you may have to forgo plans for that post-meal game. 360-678-4222; www.tobysuds.com
Saturday, 10 a.m.
Explore the Arts Scene
If last night’s sunset awakened your inner artist (and those hues most definitely will), you won’t want to miss the chance to see what might happen when inspiration meets canvas. Spend the day touring the handful of galleries along Coupeville’s Front Street. (You can also watch Whidbey’s artists in their element during the tour of 75 open artists’ studios, from September 25 to 27.) Still jonesing to wield a brush of your own? Sign up for a stint with Coupeville Arts Center, a nationally recognized art school that hosts weekend-long workshops with renowned artists like Gerald Bromer (advance reservations required). 866-678-3396; www.coupeville arts.org arts.org
Saturday, 6 p.m.
Dinner at the Oystercatcher
A trip to Whidbey isn’t complete without savoring a steaming heap of Penn Cove mussels. Get yours at this newly remodeled restaurant a block from the water in Coupeville. Originally opened by Susan Vanderbeek, the first chef at Seattle’s lauded Campagne restaurant, the Oystercatcher was purchased in 2007 by chefs Joe and Jamie Scott, who remain committed to continuing its tradition of serving “simply good food.” Dishes prepared with locally grown ingredients, like steak with braised fennel and Cougar Gold cheese, feature prominently on the menu—though the Penn Cove mussels steamed in white wine, herbs, lemon, and butter are arguably the most delicious. 360-678-0683; www.oystercatcherwhidbey.com
Sunday, 10 a.m.
Fort Ebey State Park
In 1942, Fort Ebey protected Whidbey Island from potential maritime invasions; now, Fort Ebey State Park helps protect the island’s natural beauty. Fourteen miles of inland trails crisscross the 645-acre park, including a three-mile loop to Lake Pondilla, where a spruce forest hugs the banks of the lily-pad-covered lake. The views are even more dramatic from the three-mile-long shoreline, which is strewn with driftwood—and from the bluffs, where you can spy Vancouver Island across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. www.parks.wa.gov