Whidbey Island, Washington - A Weekend Getaway
Activity:Our kids had a day off school so Kelvin and I planned a mystery weekend getaway. Our two teenagers had high hopes for some binge shopping in Seattle, but we had other plans-Whidbey Island. I can still see Nathan's face when we pulled into the town of Coupeville, "you must be joking," he laughed. Okay, so it's not Seattle, but I think (and my kids will agree after the fact) Whidbey Island was a refreshing change from shopping malls and people.
We left Vancouver around 8:30 AM, got stuck at the US-Canada border for about 20 minutes, and arrived at our first destination, the Mount Vernon Calico Cupboard, just in time for an early lunch. If you've never been there, check it out, it's perfect for breakfast eaters. The only dilemma for Coleman was--no fries on the menu. I swear he's going to turn into a potato one day; he eats so many potatoes. Coleman settled for pan-fries which he polished off with no problem. As we headed west out of Mount Vernon we passed a muscle car dealership called Motor City. Jen and I groaned as loud as we could, but it wasn't loud enough to deter the boys in the family from turning back. What I couldn't get over was that, Nathan, our son, was actually talking cars. Where has the time gone?
It didn't take long before we crossed Deception Pass. It has an amazing view, but the sidewalk on the bridge is a little tight. I was a bit nervous with Coleman (our rambunctious 6-yr-old) at my side. We didn't stay long, but there is a huge park and some trails you can explore.
Our next stop was Oak Harbor, a military town with Dutch heritage. Oak Harbor is the biggest of all the towns on Whidbey Island. It has the most hotels, stores, and services, but I wouldn't say it was the most picturesque. One of the career's Nathan is mulling over is joining the air force. We made a pit stop on a ridge near the airfield so he could watch the jetfighters flying in and out. (For those of you who like planes, the Naval Air Station at Oak Harbor is home to the Navy's electronic warfare squadrons flying the Grumman EA-6B Prowler.) I kept thinking back to the days when Nathan played with toy airplanes and dinky cars, exactly what our youngest is doing now. Given the choice, I'd rather have my child playing with airplanes than flying them. We also stopped at the city park, which had a paved walkway, 3 playgrounds, outdoor swimming pool, and a windmill. Too bad it had a bad smell-like rotten eggs. Why they chose to put a sewage processing plant right next to a park is beyond me.
Fort Ebey State Park held a few surprises for us. Who ever heard of surfing in Puget Sound? We saw about a dozen surfers catching Hawaiian style waves. Some were even riding the inside curl of the wave. I don't however think the wave action was a regular event; someone would have set up a surf shop by now. As we continued along the bluff trail we stumbled across a military turret. If you don't know what that is, don't feel bad-I didn't know either, even when I was standing inside it. A turret is a hiding spot where troops can shoot guns or missiles from. What surprised us is that it looked like new. Apparently Fort Ebey was originally built as a defense fort during World War II. We decided that was enough excitement and headed for our overnight destination, the quaint town of Coupeville.
By the time we arrived in Coupeville the shops were closing and it was getting dark. We snuck into the ice-cream place just before closing and ordered three cones. I think it made the owners day; business looked slow. To be honest with you, there wasn't a whole lot to do except go out for dinner. Our choices were Christopher's (across the street from our hotel, The Coupeville Inn) and the Mad Crab. Our kids aren't big on seafood; can you guess where we ended up? I totally enjoyed my meal, except there was a lot of pasta on my plate, which I felt compelled to eat. In our family we have only one dining rule, "You order it, you eat it." Usually this isn't a problem with Nathan around: he's 6'3" and has a hollow leg, but that night all of us broke the golden rule.
Saturday was another glorious day; not a cloud in the sky (once the fog burned off) and 16 degrees Celsius. After making about a dozen trips to the Continental Breakfast being served across the hall from our room we set off. It's amazing what kids will try eating, just because it's free. Jen even tried a cup of Chai tea, which she drowned in sugar and hazelnut cream. At first it was "Yummy," but later I caught her pouring it down the sink.
Our destination was the Kettle Trail, which supposedly led to kettles up to a mile wide carved out of the ground. These are geographic phenomenon created by the Vashon Glacier of the last Ice Age. Anyway to make a long story short, park your car at the trail entrance and save yourself the two-mile walk alongside a busy road. We passed all of one kettle, and by the time we got to the trailhead everybody was too tired to pursue the kettles any further. I'm not sure how you'd find them in the midst of all those trees anyway. Jen was a little disturbed by the sign warning us it was hunting season and we should wear bright orange. Who wears bright orange anyway? Believe it or not, my husband. Anyway we all felt a little safer walking alongside him. The kettles turned out to be a wild goose chase for us, but you may have more luck. Maybe try riding your bikes.
All was not lost: five-minutes away by car was Ebey Road. We drove down and stumbled across Sherman Farm. I'd just finished telling Kelvin we hadn't bought any pumpkins yet for our house, and there we were staring at a big sign, "Pumpkins, $2." Perfect. We bought 3 pumpkins and 3 gourds for $7. Kelvin felt a little sheepish. He ran into a lady whom he'd rather not of seen. She'd just asked us about ten minutes prior for directions to Sherman Farm. He explained we were from out of town and had no idea where Sherman Farm was. Oh well, you can't win them all.
We followed Ebey Road to the end. The countryside is beautiful. Apparently the farmland and beach are part of a 17,000 acre National Historical Reserve. It's too bad we didn't have time to walk along the bluff by the water. It reminded me of the Scottish highlands. We capped off our visit to Coupeville with a ten-minute shopping spree in the town. Unfortunately we started at the toy store and didn't make it much further. Jen used up all our time deciding which toy to buy. I managed to zip into "A Touch of Dutch" where I bought my Mom a plaque saying, "It's tough being Dutch, but somebody's gotta do it." Kelvin said the shop on the wharf looked interesting. Apparently there's a whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling that was reconstructed from a whale, which actually beached on their shoreline.
The town I liked most was Langley, on the southern end of Whidbey Island. We didn't arrive till 2:00, long after feeding time for our gang. As you may have guessed, our first order of the day was finding a restaurant. Nathan's radar honed in on a pizza place. The food passed the taste test; the only problem was no credit cards accepted-a major consideration with Nathan's appetite. Jen and I had to sandwich an afternoon of shopping into 45 minutes. If you like clothes, art, and gifts that are out-of-the-ordinary Langley is the place to go. I couldn't resist two standing pumpkin head brothers grinning from ear to ear. I also bought Kelvin a T-shirt at the Star Store, which I thought was a grocery store, but found out when I stepped inside, sold much more than food and wine. Finally, I'll just mention the puppet and dress-up hat store: I've never seen so many captivating hats. If your kids (or you) like imaginative play, don't miss Act II.
We managed to catch the 4:00 PM ferry out of Clinton. It only took 20 minutes before we docked in Mukilteo. The total cost of our car and us was $6-a bargain in comparison to B.C. Ferries rates. Jen and Nathan wanted to do some "real" shopping, so we obliged them with a stop at the Tulalip Prime Outlets Mall. Unfortunately one hour turned into two before we knew it, but the kids seemed happy with their bargains. We took the "Truck" crossing at the Canada-US border (with only a five minute wait) and stopped in at the Fog & Suds in Richmond for dinner. Arrival time home was 10:30 PM. Needless to say we didn't make the 7:00 AM hockey practice the next morning.
When I thought about it later, I realized we'd done and seen a lot for an overnight trip, and better yet, we didn't need to spend the better part of a day getting there. I'd like to go back to Whidbey Island in the spring and see some of the sites we missed like Meerkeek Rhododendron Gardens in Greenbank, Fort Casey, more of Ebey Landing and Langley.
Age group:Whidbey Island has something for everyone: hiking, history, watching the surfers, magnificent scenery, and of course, great shopping.
Expense rating:Whidbey Island is the kind of place where the laid-back feeling is part of the attraction. I guess you could make it a day trip, but why rush it. We stayed overnight at The Coupeville Inn, and had the entire next day available to explore more of the island. There are also many Bed & Breakfast accommodations available that might suit your budget.
:Whidbey Island has it all: casual pace, quaint charm, one-of-a-kind shops, incredible scenery, and it only takes about the same time to get there as it does to drive to Whistler.
:If I had to say something negative about Whidbey Island, it would be the aggravation of crossing the border.
Details:Whidbey Island is about two hours south of Vancouver, in Washington State. You can get there by following the I-5 freeway south to exit 230 in Burlington, continuing west on State Route 20, and crossing the scenic Deception Pass bridge onto Whidbey Island. Website: www.whidbeycamanoislands.com
Educational highlights:Did you know that Whidbey Island is the longest island in the continental United States?
Fun for the adult?:I enjoy spending time with my family, expecially when I'm not competing with a million distractions.