If the Seattle heat is getting you down, and the idea of waiting in line for a ferry out to the San Juans is too much to contemplate, then you could do a lot worse than take a day trip to Coupeville, out on Whidbey Island. Founded in 1852 and the second oldest town in our state, this charming slice of history offers the perfect taste of island life, despite being an easy two hours out of Seattle via the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry.
I've been staying in a beach house here with my family for the last week and Coupeville really does have everything you need for a fun-filled day out - beautiful beaches, the historic unspoilt farmland of Ebey's Landing, quaint houses and churches in its tiny downtown, quirky shops and great places to eat thanks to the wonderful local produce and seafood (Coupeville is situated on Penn Cove with its famous mussel, clam and oyster beds).
Get up early and you can be here in time for breakfast. Knead & Feed on Front Street is a Coupeville institution and serves epic cinnamon rolls in the upstairs coffee shop and and equally epic pancakes and breakfast scrambles in their cute downstairs dining room overlooking Penn Cove. The Front Street Grill also serves a hearty breakfast featuring excellent bloody marys and eggs benedict.
Spend some time wandering through Coupeville's historic streets, and poking about in the gift and antique shops and you'll be ready for a mid-morning coffee. Local Grown, the little coffee shop at the end of the wharf serves up spectacular views with good coffee made from beans from Mukilteo Roasters, pastries, and a selection of local food and wine products (pro tip, get the toffee from Just Toffee). Newly-opened Emily's Sweets & Treats serves a truly delectable custom roast coffee from Jenny Bean's Custom Coffee, a local Coupeville micro-roaster and divine cupcakes, brownies and other baked goods (or pre-order a whole cake).
If you're here on a Saturday check out the Coupeville Farmers' Market or visit the local art galleries. The Island County museum at the foot of the wharf is worth a peek and from there you can stroll along the cliffs to the Town Park. A walk out along the wharf is a must for fabulous views and a quirky gift shop. Kim's Café on the wharf features local seafood and Asian specialties and makes a great stop for lunch with plenty of outside seating, while Bayleaf will prepare gourmet sandwiches to eat in or to go from their extensive range of charcuterie and cheeses. They also sell a range of specialty food products and wines.
The afternoon is a good time to do something more strenuous. Rent kayaks from the gift shop on the wharf and paddle off through the calm waters of Penn Cove to visit the mussel beds. If you have your ASA certification, you can rent a yacht from Captain Mark or else see if the historic schooner Suva is taking people out. Drive a few short miles across the island to Ebey's Landing and walk up the sandy bluff to take in magnificent views over towards Port Townsend. If you're feeling energetic you can do the 3.7 mile circular walk along the cliff top and back along the beach around the Perego's Lagoon. If you're remotely scared of heights though, be warned that the path, though smooth and well-maintained, gets quite narrow in places and there are no barriers between you and a precipitously steep drop. (I was petrified, my husband and daughter loved it.) It's also a steep descent down to the beach for the walk back.
After all that exertion, an ice cream is definitely in order. We liked the chocolate mousse and strawberry cheesecake ice cream flavors from Kapaw's Iskreme back in Coupeville. If you've had a terrifying walk along the cliff, a glass or several of wine is definitely called for (ask me how I know). The Vail Wine Shop and Tasting Room offers a vast selection of local wines and offers evening wine tastings accompanied by delicious charcuterie and cheeses with indoor and outside seating. Bayleaf also offers winetasting on Thursday evenings. If you're staying longer in the area and self-catering or if you just want to take some amazing local foodstuffs back to the mainland with you, you may want to drive fifteen minutes around Penn Cove to the Three Sisters farm store, where they sell their own grassfed beef, pork and chicken and an amazing selection of artisanal foodstuffs crafted by small local producers.
In the evening, Coupeville offers some of the best dining to be found on Whidbey. Kneed & Feed serves simple meals of local seafood, chowder and Penn Cove mussels with their housemade pies and cobblers for dessert and is great for families. Drive a little way around the cove and the historic Captain Whidbey Inn offers wonderful local seafood and local lamb and steak in a charming 100 year old log house, full of antiques and offering great views of the cove. If you're in the mood for fine dining The Oystercatcher back in Coupeville is one of the best restaurants on the island highlighting foods from island producers.
Tired but happy, you can linger over dinner, safe in the knowledge that you are just two hours from Seattle and realising, as we did, that next time you really ought to stay a lot longer than a day.