Part 2 Central/North Whidbey; Coupeville-and Beyond (read Part 1 here).
Just 15 minutes from Greenbank, we arrived at our next destination: The Coupeville Inn. The Inn is a beautiful sky-blue French mansard-style building just a block from Front Street, where you will find many shopping and dining options. Our room was delightful, with a view of Penn Cove and Mount Baker towering in the background. Penn Cove is where you will find some of the best mussels in the world. Indeed Penn Cove mussels are world-famous and found in excellent restaurants around the globe.
The mussels have a distinct buttery flavor and lots of plump meat! What makes them so unique and tasty? Penn Cove is right near the mouth of the mineral-rich Skagit River; combined with being in a rain shadow caused by the Olympic Mountains; it creates a growing environment with just the right combination of algae and nutrients.
Of course, you will want to enjoy these delicacies while in Coupeville. You won't have to go far! Choose from Toby's, The Front Street Grill, or the Oystercatcher. If you stop at Toby's, try Toby's Parrot Red Ale which pairs well with the mussels.
When you are ready for a break from the mussels, go for some great pizza and Italian food at Ciao! Owner Mark Laska has a secret ingredient for all of his dishes – the love of cooking great food for people! Mark grew up outside of Minnesota's Twin Cities and worked as a teen in a Jewish Deli in the center of his neighborhood. A bit later in life, he moved to Italy to learn the art of making authentic Neapolitan pizza and became a certified "Pizzaiola," conferred by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture. We ordered the Ciao Pesto, a white pizza with a delicious five-cheese blend, sliced tomatoes, roasted garlic, and nut-free pesto. It was amazing! The produce and cheese are local, but the flour is from Italy – and it made a difference in the crust. After lunch, we browsed awhile in the store downstairs filled with wine, Italian spices, and many different kinds of pasta. If I thought I could come close to replicating Mark's pizza, I would have taken some supplies home.
After our big lunch, our thoughts turned toward getting some exercise, and the waters of Penn Cove were calling. Captain Coupe Park is a great place to launch our kayak, just five minutes from downtown. We paddled east toward Long Point about 2 miles.
The brisk winds slowed us down going out but sure made it easy on the way back! Next time we will head west toward the Coupeville Wharf and beyond to the famous Penn Cove Mussel Farms.
Later that afternoon, we took a short drive out to Price Sculpture Garden, a vertitable art museum in the middle of a beautiful forest. The land was initially purchased in 2008 by the Scott Price family with the intention of building a home, but they ended up building elsewhere in Coupeville and started thinking about what to do with the land. The commercial option would have meant cutting down most of the Forest, to make way for subdividing the property – so the eventual homes would have views of the water and Mount Baker. But the Price family wanted better for this beautiful 16.3 acres of land. They reached out to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust and eventually partnered with the US Navy to preserve the property into the future. They currently work with area sculptors, volunteers, local community groups, and arts organizations to bring the Sculpture Forest alive. This "art museum in a forest" opened to the public on Oct. 23, 2020, and is free of charge. (They do ask for free-will donations.)
If you want to add a stretch of the legs to your visit to the Forest, it's just a 2-mile walk from downtown Coupeville, mainly along a gravel path with just a tiny bit on the shoulder of a quiet country road.
It was time to drive north for some hikes, and on the way, we went through Oak Harbor and past Rustica Italian Restaurant and Bar. From our visit there several years ago, we remember that we enjoyed their seasonal menu based on the "farm-to-fork" philosophy. They feature classics such as Baked Ziti, to the more adventurous Ricotta Cavatelli, with asparagus, English pea, lemon, and a light white wine sauce. However, hiking came first today and food later!
So about 40 minutes from Coupeville, we arrived at Dugualla State Park. There are six trails in the park, including a 4-mile (round trip) wetland trail. All of the trails intersect, making an interesting web to explore. The trails are well marked, but it is recommended that you also bring a map.
Ready for another hike? Drive 15 minutes to the north, and you will arrive at Ala Spit. The 1 mile Spit is best at low tide and offers excellent views of Mt. Baker, Mt. Erie, and Hope Island, check out these hikes.
With time for one more kayak adventure (for this trip) on Whidbey Island, we headed the short 20 minute drive to Lake Campbell. We had heard of a great launch site on the north side of the lake. It was a bit tricky to find but well worth it. This map should help.
Lake Campbell has often been referred to as Washington's most underrated lake. It is a gem and a beautiful place for kayaking, stand-up paddle boards, fishing, or other water sports. As a bonus, the drive to the boat launch included a trip over Deception Pass bridge, with its beautiful view.
While we were sad to be leaving Whidbey Island – we were also looking forward to our next stop – Camano Island! Continue reading Island Hopping Part 3 for a description of the fun we had there!
Editorial disclosure: lodging, beverages, and food generously provided.