Buckle up Seattleites, summer road trip season is upon us! The islands of Whidbey and Camano look like they could be spooning on a map, but in fact - they’re hardly joined at the hip. With different population sizes (Whidbey is home to roughly 64.000 people, while Camano Island comes in at approximately 16,000) and options for visiting mainlanders, the question is: Which destination is right for you to plug into your GPS this season? Find out below!
Fresh Air or Town Squares?
With zero official towns, Camano is the more quiet of the pair. The closest you’ll get to some action is the commons area located at Terry’s Corner where you can check out a few spots including the local farmer’s market, a bakery and mercantile offering Camano Island Coffee Roasters or a beer flight sample at Naked City. Generally speaking though, Camano leans outdoorsy with several spots to bask in nature. Camano Island State Park boasts lush hiking trails in the forest, as well as scenic rocky coastline for beach-combing. Head to Matzke Fine Art Gallery’s ten-acre outdoor sculpture park on a weekend day to view the work of artists from both near and far for an inspiring stroll.
For those wanting a little more hustle and bustle - island style of course - Whidbey has a handful of picturesque waterfront villages to wander, including Langley. Spruce up your wardrobe at The Star Store, browse two stories of titles at Moonraker Books and finish with a cocktail and plate of smoked salmon nuggets (trust us) at Saltwater Fish House and Oyster Bar - all on Langley’s First Street - complete with a view of Saratoga Passage (be sure to ring the bell if you spot a whale swimming by!).
Jumper or Climber?
For thrill seekers, each island offers its own twist. Those with a need for speed should head to Camano for a zip through the trees with Canopy Tours Northwest, located on family-run Kristoferson Farm. With six ziplines of varying heights and lengths, a log bridge and final descent, the two and a half hour course is accompanied by two guides to get you safely from Point A to Point B ($65 - $103). Come fall, if you’re feeling extra daring, sign up for Canopy Tours’ night zip.
If you don’t mind some serious height, travel to Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island and give AdventureTerra’s canopy climbing a shot. This four-hour adventure ($149 - $165) is no scale up your favorite childhood tree. Instead, expect to ascend Coastal Douglas-firs up to 20 stories high - gulp! Sprouting up in Deception Pass State Park last spring, this unique outdoor activity offers unparalleled views that are well worth the butterflies in your stomach. Sign up for a sunset climb to make it extra memorable and don’t forget to pack drinks and snacks.
Simple Pleasures or Creature Comforts?
For a rustic overnight stay, look no further than Cama Beach’s 32 Cedar beach cabins ($57-$190) in a vintage fishing resort atmosphere with plenty of historical treasures. A peaceful place to disconnect, it’s also a great place for kids to roam and reconnect with the outdoors. Nestled on the grounds is The Center for Wooden Boats (yep, it’s related to the Lake Union location) where the whole family can take to the water for a fishing excursion or relaxing row. Come prepared, as the cabins are BYOB (Bring Your Own Bedding—plus towels and cookware) and if outdoor communal bathrooms aren’t your thing, be sure to book a deluxe cabin or beach bungalow. Think of it as glamping with a top-notch café onsite (the wild mushroom and sausage biscuits and gravy are what dreams are made of).
Whidbey Island is a hotspot for vacation lodging and has plenty of charming overnight stays to choose from. If you dig a woodsy feel, but still want that plushy bathrobe treatment, the Captain Whidbey Inn is just the ticket. Dating back to 1907, the Captain Whidbey offers a variety of accommodations, but we suggest the private waterfront cabins for the ultimate stay ($255-$295). After a long day of touring the delightful shops and eateries of Coupeville, kick back and take in the views of Penn Cove or cozy up next to an indoor wood-burning fireplace. Be sure to visit the dining room and order the Inn’s delectable, award-winning chowder.
Lets face it, island time is always a good idea, but it never hurts to know before you go. Maybe skipping ferry lines and unplugging makes Camano your kind of vacation, or maybe your idea of zen involves some Whidbey window shopping and community hopping, or maybe, just maybe, you’re down for both. There are no wrong answers here, so pick the experience that's right for you and get packing while the weather's good.