Whidbey Island

Overview

Introduction

With its secluded beaches, charming small towns and relaxing atmosphere, this large island (45 mi/72 km in length) at the northern end of Puget Sound is a popular weekend getaway for Seattle residents. You can also see it on a day trip.

The easiest way to get there from Seattle is to take the ferry from Mukilteo on Interstate 5 (another ferry departs from Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula). The island is also accessible by car: Take Deception Pass Bridge at the island's north end. On Whidbey, take scenic Highway 20, which runs the length of the island. Make a stop in Langley, a charming waterfront town with lots of antiques shops, art galleries and eateries. Then head north to Greenbank to tour the loganberry vineyard. The town is operating the farm as a tourist attraction while trying to revitalize the land through organic farming methods. Sample some loganberry wine while you're there.

Next stop is Coupeville, one of the oldest cities in Washington, which has many Victorian buildings in a large historic district. Just west of Coupeville is Ebey's Landing National Historic Reserve, which encompasses 17,000 acres/6,885 hectares of farmland, parks and historic buildings. It's a great place for bicycling. The town also has a number of old blockhouses that were built to protect settlers against Native American attacks.

Heavier artillery was kept at what's now Fort Casey State Park, just west of Coupeville. From the beginning of the 20th century up to the start of World War II, this fort served as part of a coastal defense network. Your last stop before leaving Whidbey Island should be Deception Pass State Park, a dramatic coastal cliff. Stroll along the shoreline or go scuba diving in the underwater marine park (watersports may be challenging because of the swift currents). The rocks are covered with a mind-boggling assortment of colorful anemones, soft corals and sponges.

If you take the bridge at Deception Pass, you will cross to Fidalgo Island and can get back to the mainland without taking a ferry. Along the way is La Conner, a picturesque fishing port that has 161 historic buildings, many unique shops and working canneries. Walk along the docks at the harbor, and see the Victorian Gaches Mansion. The Victorian Tudor houses a quilt museum. Phone 360-466-4288. http://www.laconnerquilts.org.

The surrounding area, the Skagit Valley, is full of flower farms, vegetable fields and produce stands. Fields of brilliant tulips unfold each spring, and there is a festival to celebrate them in April. The valley stretches from Puget Sound to the rugged peaks. Eagles congregate along the upper river in winter.

If you head back to Seattle on I-5, consider a stop in Snohomish, which calls itself the Antique Capital of the Northwest. Whether or not you buy anything from the city's more than 100 antiques shops, linger long enough to see the Victorian homes and commercial buildings. Whidbey Island is 45 mi/70 km north of Seattle.

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