Skagit Valley and Whidbey Island

Andrew and I woke up at my friend Brendan’s parents’ house on San Juan Island. The day before we had been invited over for wine and dinner which turned into a place to stay!

Unfortunately, I had pre-booked the ferry back to Anacortes and it left at 8:05 am. So we packed up and left the house at 7:15 and arrived in Friday Harbor at 7:30 just in time to line up for the ferry. It left right on time at 8:05 and we got to Anacortes right around 9:15.

We maneuvered the ferry traffic and arrived in the Skagit Valley just 20 minutes east of town. The Skagit Valley is world famous for its tulip bloom and each April hosts the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. This year, the bloom happened late so the tulip farms stayed open during the first weekend in May. This was the last day.

There are about 5 tulip farms open to the public, but the largest one is called Roozengaarde. We parked, paid $7 admission/person and walked over to the enormous multi-colored field of tulips! Each color was planted in a band 500 feet long and 40-50 feet wide. There were maybe 10 bands of tulips.IMG_3111

It was so beautiful!!!

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Andrew and I then drove west and south to Deception Pass, a steep and narrow strait separating two island: Fidalgo (where Anacortes is) and Whidbey. Spanning Deception Pass is the narrow Deception Pass Bridge. It towers 180 feet above the surprisingly tumultuous water and is the only road access to the island.

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Whidbey Island felt much more developed than San Juan Island. There are multiple towns with more than 1,000 people. We noticed a lot of cars on the road. Most of the northern part of the island is occupied by a Naval base.

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In the central part of the island is Fort Ebey State Park. There we got our NPS Passports stamped as part of Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve (more on that soon) and headed out for a hike on the beautiful bluffs overlooking the water. We could see the Olympic Peninsula, Vancouver Island and the San Juan Islands!! The view was so incredible and the weather was perfect. I truly believe that this is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

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It was now almost 1pm so we drove into the nearby town of Coupeville, the second oldest town in Washington. The town has a wharf, small main street and is surrounded by farmland. Coupeville is also the headquarters of Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve, a unique unit of the National Park Service.

In 1978, the farmland surrounding Coupeville was going to be the site of a massive development. The locals rose up and created the Reserve to protect the natural and historical significance of the area as well as the agricultural landscape of the community. The site is actually 85% privately owned and is a mixture of private land, state parks, the entire town of Coupeville, land owned by the state and about a square mile owned by the National Park Service. Unlike other sites that are managed by the Department of the Interior, this site is managed by a trust that includes the Park Service but also includes all the stakeholders.

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In practice, the site appears to have very little connection to the Park Service. The only information I found on the park was a poster in town describing the unique history of the park itself. However, I still do not know who Ebey was or why he landed on Whidbey Island.

According to Google Maps, there was a spot called Ebey’s Landing about 2 miles west of town. We drove down there and went for a beautiful hike on the beach. It was also very beautiful!

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We drove further south to the Whidbey Island Winery near the town of Langley. Both Andrew and I were surprised to find wineries on this island- the Salish Sea doesn’t seem like a good place to grow grapes. It turns out that there are eight wineries on the island! The Whidbey Island Winery is the oldest winery on the island- it opened in 1992.

The tasting room was cute and we got a flight of 6 wines for $6. While our tasting has two estate-grown wines, the vast majority of the winery’s grapes were sourced from Eastern Washington which has a good climate for growing grapes.

After the winery, we drove for 10 more minutes and finally reached Clinton at the southern end of the 40-mile-long island. Here we caught a ferry to the town of Mukilteo on the mainland. This ferry does not take reservations, but ferries show up every 30 minutes.

Mukilteo had a comically short lighthouse with a very nice staff that is worth 10 minutes of your time.

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It was now about 4:30 pm so we had some spare time before our flights back. We drove into Seattle and celebrated a great trip with beers at Ruben’s Brews and a burger at the old-school Red Mill Burgers.

I really liked Whidbey Island! It’s a very easy day trip from Seattle, but feels very remote.

 

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