I’d like to think my exploration of Whidbey Island wasn’t that unlike that of the island’s namesake – sailing master Joseph Whidbey. While his most treasured find was Deception Pass, my finds were undoubtedly more plentiful and included nearly a dozen delicious restaurants, countless friendly locals, and endless stellar viewpoints. This delicious destination is one less than an hour north of Seattle. Few communities have as many culinary resources right on their doorstep as the folks on Whidbey Island – with local farmers, vast agricultural fields, and an abundance of seafood all within reach.
The island is accessible from the south via the Washington State Ferries (operating nearly every half-hour throughout the day). Within minutes of the terminal I found Pickle’s Deli. While non-descript from the streetside, this local gem had as much personality as it did selections on their menu. I chose an intriguing-sounding, non-traditional banh mi from the menu – stuffed with warm chicken, ham, basil and fried jalapenos. With limited seating inside, I chose Double Bluff Beach as a perfect little beach spot where my furry pal Anjou could enjoy the beach while I devoured my lunch. This sandwich really set the tone for what would be a delicious four days on Whidbey. With limited seating inside, I chose Double Bluff Beach as a perfect little beach spot where my furry pal Anjou could enjoy the beach while I devoured my lunch.
Pro tip: Call ahead and place an order for pickup as you’re heading off the ferry!
There’s no shortage of things to see and do on Whidbey. If you’re into a little retail-therapy, they’ve got you covered with oodles of adorable local shops in Langley, Coupeville and Freeland. Take in the aromas at Lavender Wind Farm’s store in Coupeville. Browze adorable The Crow’s Roost or Aqua Gifts just down the street, or grab a bite at Little Red Hen Bakery. Just outside of Langley is Chocolate Flower Farm (can’t wait to plant my cosmo seeds in the Spring!). Along with having seeds for sale for their beautiful “chocolate” cosmos, they offer a farmstand of adorable housewares, notecards and knick-knacks. Langley’s downtown includes favorites for your sweet tooth at Sweet Mona’s, island-inspired Foamy Wader (with QR codes you can scan and purchase items at your leisure, and The Star Store – with a little something for everyone. Forgot something at home? Want to grab wine and makings for a surf-side picnic? They’ve got you covered! Love to bike? Whidbey’s miles of trails have views that’ll knock your socks off! Into hiking? Parks and beaches are around nearly every corner!
And then, there’s the food. With everything from elevated pub fare at local breweries, to destination dining, Whidbey’s culinary scene is truly drive-worthy. As a food-driven traveler (as indicated in my ‘Delicious Destination’ posts), Whidbey is now on the top of my list for travel destinations with outstanding dining options. Orchard Restaurant offers multi-coursed farm-to-table dining options in the heart of their gardens a short drive from Langley. Mark Laska’s Ciao Food and Wine in Coupeville may have been my biggest island surprise – from a culinary standpoint. Expecting a cozy Italian market with a hearty menu, I was wowed by the depth and breadth of Mark’s knowledge, skill, and dedication to traditional Italian cooking methods. With a smile about as wide as the island itself, his promise of an “excellent pizza” completely blew my expectations. I was delighted with their Neapolitan pizza’s light crust and local ingredients. The savory mix of ricotta, their 5-cheese mix, fresh figs, arugula and prosciutto made for one of the best pizza’s in my lifetime. Seriously!
Back to Langley, their restaurant scene is nothing short of spectacular. From Prima Bistro’s rooftop dining with hearty PNW specials, to Saltwater’s finger-licking lobster roll and streetside vibe, these two restaurants are clearly the anchor to the town’s dining – and raise the bar for others to do the same. Just across the street I found Savory’s menu to offer an abundance of fresh, local ingredients on their waterfront dining menu. And even lunch at Penn Cove Brewing’s island location felt just a little more interesting than what one might expected. My Korean pork belly tacos went down easy with one of their cold IPA’s amidst their huge grassy lawn and abundance of relaxing chairs to sit a spell.
If you’re thinking about a trip to this PNW gem, you’re in luck – Whidbey offers everything from hotels to B&B’s, with plenty of historic gems like Fort Casey, too. We opted for Whidbey’s Country Cottages, and couldn’t have been happier. Along with being dog-friendly and a stone’s-throw from Langley, we enjoyed spectacular breakfasts daily, a choice of a handful of cozy (and private) cabins, and a real sense of the island’s community-feel in our friendly hosts. However you do Whidbey … enjoy!