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How you can Plan a Solo Journey to Whidbey Island, Washington

Rivulets streamed down the within of my head-to-toe rain gear. I stood on a promontory, gleeful as a toddler, watching harbor seals dart about within the chilly water beneath. Farther offshore, a lone elephant seal fished for its lunch, and, in a rocky inlet, an otter bobbed alongside on its again, a crab clutched between its entrance paws. It was the beginning of the wet season, and I used to be looking for solitude on Whidbey Island.

Situated about 35 miles north of Seattle, the island is usually overshadowed by the San Juan Islands, the archipelago farther north in Puget Sound that’s higher recognized, and fewer developed. However it shouldn’t be. Whidbey is less complicated to get to — simply take the 20-minute ferry experience from the mainland city of Mukilteo — and has fewer crowds. 

I wished to expertise the whole size of the island with out doubling again, so as an alternative of the ferry, which fits to the southern tip, I drove two hours from Seattle and crossed the Deception Move Bridge, a historic span that connects Whidbey from the north. It was a dramatic entrance, with the fog thick and the rain coming down in sheets. Somewhat than going on to my lodge, I made a detour to Deception Move State Park and stopped at a car parking zone that neglected a shallow bay, relieved to see no different vehicles. 

From left: The seafood shack on the inn; visitors floating in Penn Cove.

Belathée Pictures/Courtesy of Captain Whidbey

This was my first aircraft journey because the pandemic. I used to be additionally newly separated from my companion and had left our younger twins at residence in New York’s Hudson Valley. Now that I’d flown throughout the nation, I wished to commune with the woods and the water, alone.

I adopted the path markers, crossed a pebbled seaside, and climbed a steep cliff hugged by Douglas firs. The bushes have been no protection in opposition to the rain, however I used to be already soaked and had ceased to care. I clambered throughout rocky outcroppings till I got here to a clearing. And it was there that I noticed the primary seal. I don’t understand how lengthy I stayed, solely that, with the ocean mammals unaware of my presence, I felt blissfully small. When my fingers grew numb, I wended my method again to the automobile and drove south, my home windows fogged from the damp. 

From left: Salmon with salad on the Captain Whidbey; a cabin with a fire.

Belathée Pictures/Courtesy of Captain Whidbey; Lexi Ribar/Courtesy of Captain Whidbey

Whidbey Island is just about 40 miles lengthy, however with principally winding two-lane roads, it feels a lot bigger. I drove a couple of half-hour, previous the primary city of Oak Harbor, and arrived on the Captain Whidbey, a 1907 inn on Penn Cove that was just lately modernized. I stayed within the Glasswing cabin, which has wooden paneling, a fire, and a balcony overlooking the cove. I wrapped my still-damp physique in a wool blanket and took within the view. An ideal blue heron stood stock-still on the lodge’s lengthy dock. I used to be amazed by its means to remain immobile.

The heron remained there even after I become dry garments and walked to the primary lodge for an early dinner on the bar. I’d introduced a e-book to sign to the bartender I wasn’t looking for firm; she graciously left me alone after bringing an ideal rye Manhattan and several other small plates. Again in my cabin, I took a scorching bathtub and fell into an extended sleep. 

An art-filled cabin on the Captain Whidbey.

Lexi Ribar/Courtesy of Captain Whidbey

Within the morning, I took my espresso on the balcony. The heron was there once more. (Had it been there all evening?) The day unfolded slowly and blessedly freed from plans. I spent the morning on the 151-acre Greenbank Farm, which has a café and miles of dog-friendly trails. Simply as I reached the highest of the primary rise, the clouds moved apart to disclose the snowy tops of the Cascade Mountains on the mainland. Then I headed into the woods and walked for hours, rising solely after I realized how hungry I had develop into. 

Fortunately, it was solely a 15-minute drive to the sleepy village of Coupeville. I ate a heaping bowl of Penn Cove mussels with fries and drank a beer at Toby’s Tavern. I meandered by city, popping into the Kingfisher Bookstore (the island has a flourishing literary group) and throughout the road to Briggs Shore Ceramics, which occupies a slim home. I discovered myself questioning concerning the heron, which I’d come to consider as a steward of the cove. I returned to the Captain Whidbey to search out it nonetheless on the dock. 

The Inn at Langley.

Courtesy of The Inn at Langley

The next day, I bade farewell to the fowl and continued south alongside a highway flanked by small farms. The rain had returned, however I hardly observed it beneath the towering cover at Trustland Trails Park, the place I spent the morning on the lookout for mushrooms. I walked till I used to be ravenous, then drove into Langley, a small metropolis with a few wineries and an arts heart. On the Saltwater Fish Home & Oyster Bar, I ordered uncooked oysters, a inexperienced salad, and a hearty chowder, together with a flinty white wine. 

Full and drained, I walked a couple of minutes to the Inn at Langley, the place I’d spend my last evening. My room was flooded with mild and had unobstructed views of Puget Sound. I made a day of soaking within the tub and cooling off within the briny air of my balcony. The sky had cleared by then, so I walked to the seaside, stopping to take a look at starfish and driftwood. A trio of older ladies emerged from the sound in cold-water moist fits. I admired their bodily power and grit; they appeared as a lot creatures of the island because the heron did. 

I woke to sunshine on my last morning. After lingering over the inn’s luxurious breakfast, I drove to the Deer Lagoon Protect, a fowl sanctuary flanked by steep cliffs. The solar was so shiny I may hardly see the goldeneyes, grebes, and sandpipers by my binoculars. I wished to remain, however I had a ferry to catch. My time on the island had pulled me out of my narrowed world, and introduced me again to myself. Unusual, how being distant can convey a couple of feeling of homecoming. Like that heron, I wanted to return to my group, my household, my perch.  

A model of this story first appeared within the February 2024 challenge of Journey + Leisure beneath the headline “Breaking Away.

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