by Jack Penland
We get it. Your couch-surfing days are so over. You and your house need a couple of days… apart. With Whidbey and Camano Islands now in phase 3, leisure travel is again okay.
So, how can you get away? Where should you go? Where do you stay?
Piled Zen Rocks at Fort Ebey.
Whidbey and Camano Islands are perfect for the idea of social distancing. With miles of wide-open beaches and trails, and state and regional parks, even in the busy season, there’s plenty of space.
Yes, you’ll need masks. They’re required by the state for all businesses.
There are small hotels and B and B’s that are being carefully re-imagined with social distancing in mind. Restaurants are reopening while still offering take-out along with shops and galleries.
So, with the idea that things are changing daily, here’s our 3-Day Getaway to Whidbey Island to the amazing places the tourists usually don’t see!
Admiralty Head Lighthouse is a favorite stop.
ROAD TRIP RULES
The beautiful thing about a road trip, especially this road trip, is there are no deadlines and no schedules to keep.
We’re going to fill your days but it’s also okay to just spend a few hours on the beach reading a book!
This itinerary also works backwards (or any other way you want).
Bring (and wear) a mask.
Plan Your Hideout
Any good escape needs a good hideout and with our small Inns, and B&B’s, we have plenty. Use our hotel listings to find the right place and make your reservations early!
One beach overlooked by tourists is Possession Point.
DAY ONE – GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY
Let’s pretend that you actually got up and got on the road by 10 a.m. But, if you don’t that’s okay, too. It’s your vacation and it’s on your schedule.
Let’s start this leisurely trip with a boat ride and take the ferry to get here. The number of people using the ferry is way down, so the state is running the ferries on a slightly reduced schedule. Staying in your car will keep you socially distant. Be patient, you’ll have some quality beach time in just a few minutes.
Use the time waiting for or riding the ferry to place a to-go order. There are lots of can’t miss choices for your to-go lunch including Cozy’s Roadhouse, Whidbey Island Bagel Factory, Pickle’s Deli and even a Dairy Queen. If you didn’t bring bottled water, order some to-go for later.
Then, on to the beach!
Dave Mackie County Park
Inside a driftwood fort
Take Maxwelton Road through easy rolling land for 5 miles to the beach community of Maxwelton and Dave Mackie County Park, where there are picnic tables spaced widely apart. Eat your lunch and let the sound of the waves do their magic. The beach is a bit wild here. Storms can chew up the beach and block the boat ramp, but it tends to add to the feeling that you’re not in the city anymore.
Now, it’s some time for some quality woods walking. Put into your Google Maps “Lone Lake Road & East Keller Road”. ½ mile north of that intersection is parking for the Putney Woods County Park. There are miles of trails with names lie, “Rocky Road,” “Canter Berry Trail” and “Jane Eyre.” Take plenty of water, because you’re out of the city, now!
Keep an eye peeled for farm stands. There are two on your drive from the beach to the woods. They are open several days a week and are operating under social distancing rules.
Whatever you choose, give yourself some time to just sit and think. Let the island relax you.
By now it’s time for check-in and some thoughts about dinner.
If you’re staying at the southern end of the island, you’ll have plenty of choices. Just remember to keep things casual and distant.
Some restaurants are only a few days a week and some are still only offering take-out. If you just have to sit, The Braeburn and Prima Bistro offer limited seating. Intriguing take-out options include The Orchard Kitchen (limited days) and Saltwater Fish House and Oyster Bar.
You could again head to the beach as sunset is late. Double Bluff Beach County Park is quiet late in the day and open until dusk.
You’re going to want a Discover Pass, because you’ll be visiting several state parks, and this is a money-saver, especially since it’s good for all state parks for a year. You can learn more here…
If you’re staying in Central Whidbey, you’ll be dining in Coupeville. But one great option just outside of Coupeville is the family-style restaurant Callen’s. Located at the Coupeville ferry terminal, the dining room is open but they’re still offering curbside pickup. Choose pickup and head less than a half mile to Fort Casey State Park. There’s lots of space here and the view from atop the fort is truly special. Be sure to pack kites, because this is a perfect place to fly them! There’s a new ADA-compliant trail from the parking lot to the fort, as well. The lighthouse is being renovated, but they hope to have it open to the public by late July or August.
In historic Coupeville, itself, Front Street Grill has limited dine-in service every day while Ciao offers a take home “3 Days of Deliciousness” with 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 3 dinners ready to eat, or refrigerate. Their Facebook page has the details, but you really need to plan ahead for this.
If you’re staying at the north end, where Oak Harbor has larger family-friendly places to stay, you have lots of choices. I’d probably order take out from El Cazedor, or even a drive-thru and head to the city’s completely revamped Windjammer Park. It’s right on the water with a playground and a paved beach-side walk that goes for miles.
These shoes are more than one-story tall!
DAY TWO – SOME BEACHES, SOME SHOPPING
Breakfast begins with Whidbey Doughnuts in Bayview. Or, breakfast begins with Sunshine Drip in Coupeville. Or, breakfast begins with wherever you didn’t eat yesterday in Clinton. Or, breakfast begins with Chris’ Bakery in Oak Harbor.
Regardless, it’s time to head to Oak Harbor for downtown shopping and the amazing outdoor art.
Your eye will certainly catch The Allgire Project, a series of murals painted on the outside of several buildings. There are several murals in place now. Eventually, new talent will cover those spaces with new murals, so things will keep changing. Look along the sidewalks for additional art like “The Kraken” that guards the entrance to downtown, or the larger than life “Stumbly Ducks” that no child can resist.
The shops are opening under social distancing rules with limits on how many customers can be inside at any time. New and very intriguing shops have opened downtown. There’s one devoted to all things Whidbey Island, while Frieda's dares call itself “a beautiful mess” a quaint bookstore and the Garry Oak Gallery, an artist’s co-op of ever-changing fine art.
For lunch, let’s head to the other end of Oak Harbor. You get two choices here. One is Flyers Restaurant and Brewery with award-winning craft beer and a menu of comforting American classics. The other is Seabolt’s Smokehouse for seafood. Flyers is open for seating, Seabolt’s for take-out.
Sunset View from Fort Casey
If you order take-out, then head south a few miles to Fort Ebey State Park. Park by the WW II-era bunker, find a picnic table and relax. There’s just something about eating where the only sounds you hear are the ocean and the birds.
After lunch, besides exploring the bunker, there’s a bluff trail where the views of Admiralty Inlet are really beautiful. If you’d like, you could make an afternoon of hiking this trail, but you will really get some exercise. This trail is a great alternative to the very busy bluff trail at Ebey’s Landing.
The park is rather large and the trails around Lake Pondilla are fun without being too difficult. Follow the right trail and it opens up onto the beach.
If you didn’t eat “al fresco” last night at Ft. Casey, you owe it to yourself to make that your next stop. If you’re “shopped out,” take time to really explore the fort from end to end. It’s really quite enormous.
Fort Ebey Bluff Trail
What About Deception Pass?
Deception Pass State Park is the state’s most popular state park. This sea canyon is breathtaking, and the bridge is beautiful. But the trails get crowded on weekends and so do the beaches.
A limited contact alternative is Deception Pass Jet Boat Tours. They’re operating under social distancing rules and the open-air jet boat trip under the bridge could be the highlight of your weekend! Get your tickets in advance because seats are very limited.
Even if you don’t go shopping, you’ll want to walk out on the wharf. The historic wharf is plenty wide for social distancing and the view back towards the waterfront is picture-perfect.
Next, if everyone is over 21 years of age, you owe yourself a stop at Toby’s Tavern for their mussels. Otherwise, do take-out.
Finally, on day two let’s do something so old, it’s new again; going to the drive-in.
Oak Harbor’s Blue Fox is open but requiring extra space between cars. The Blue Fox entered the digital-projection era a few years ago, but everything else, including the menu, feels like it’s on loan from the ‘60’s.
You’ll need a reservation well in advance because right now, this is the thing to do. You can read more about visiting the drive-in on our blog, here.
Kayaking near Langley
DAY THREE – “The Village by the Sea”
There’s nothing like a kayak for exploring the water’s edge. And even if you’ve never kayaked before, this is your perfect opportunity.
Whidbey Island Kayaking takes everyone from novices to experienced kayakers and paddle boarders into the sheltered waters off Langley.
The trip is not about adventure or covering great distances, it’s about exploring your world in a new and different way. And kayaking is just naturally social distancing.
Many people who come to Whidbey Island, come just to Langley to explore the shops. They’re attracted by the fine fashion in a shop like .edit for textiles from around the world at Music for the Eyes, or the Art at the Rob Schouten Gallery or … well you get the idea. There are lots of shops and galleries to fit all tastes and styles.
Artists have been busy on the streets of Langley, as well. You’ll find statues, metalwork, glass art and more scattered in gardens and around buildings. Shops are open under social distancing rules.
For lunch before heading home, we offer pizza. Village Pizzeria is downtown and is offering take out only. Walk down the stairs next to it and eat at Seawall Park.
Finally, you need something to snack on for your drive home. Sweet Mona’s, also in downtown Langley, offers homemade chocolate goodies. What better way to end your 3-day getaway than with a little dessert?
Seawall Park Sunrise
Like the menu at your favorite restaurant, our little itinerary offered up far more than what you could do in 3 days. Down time, the foundation for all great vacations, was nonexistent, and there simply is enough hours in a day to do everything.
We also missed things, a lot of things. But, that’s why we have this website.
So, we hope you’ll take our little itinerary as an idea of what could be done, not what must be done. And, as we weave our way through this crisis, additional things like the Whidbey island Center for the Arts, the Clyde Theatre, and more restaurants will open up. Events will eventually repopulate our calendar, and you’ll have still more reasons to return.