Tax refund not quite enough to get you on a plane to some exotic isle? Never fear, sailor – there’s a getaway island just a few miles north of here that won’t break the bank. Hear us out: it’s Whidbey Island. We know! We know! It’s not a far-flung beach with palm trees. It is, however, close, gorgeous, and cheap. Hear us out.
What to Do
Hike. The island boasts some incredible scenery – we see you, Deception Pass – and just shy of 50 miles worth of hiking trails to help you get there. We recommend picking up a Discover Pass for $30 (you can use it for the rest of the year in Washington State Parks) and visiting, well, a ton of them. Aside from Deception Pass State Park, which has a handy parking area and easy-enough hike down to the beach. Perch atop the pass – the two bridges are a great spot – and you might luck out and spot a whale or two. And we can’t say enough good things about Fort Casey.
Learn. There’s nowhere cooler to start your Whidbey education than Fort Casey. The state park is the site of a defensive fort from the early 1900s, featuring massive guns built right into the hillside and designed to protect Puget Sound from enemies. The invention of the airplane made the fort obsolete almost immediately, but you’re in luck; it’s now the site of an interpretive center housed in a 1903-vintage lighthouse, and you can catch a free tour on the weekends for most of the summer. Not down with all that maritime history? Just pick up some art – Whidbey’s been dubbed “Puget Sound’s Largest Artist’s Colony," and gift shops scattered around the island feature impressive work from resident painters, sculptors, jewelry-makers and more. Want something a little more organized? Try out the Whidbey Art Trail to check out some of the top galleries.
Taste. Let’s get down to business: there’s wine. Langley, Coupeville, Clinton, Freeland, Oak Harbor, and Greenbank all have wineries and brewing companies that hose tastings – that means no matter where you stay on the island you should plan to grab a drink. You’re your fancy beverage with a bivalve: Coupeville is famous for Penn Cove Mussels, and Whidbey Island has some killer oyster access. Pick up the world-famous mussels at Christopher’s on Whidbey, a crazy-delicious bistro in Coupeville.
Where to Stay
The AirBnB market on Whidbey is stacked – tons of fancy Seattleites rent their out-of-town pads for low prices, so a little hunting typically turns up some gems. Want something a little more traditional? The Captain Whidbey and Blue Goose Inn are good go-tos.
When to Go
Literally any weekend. The drive from Seattle is easy – either take I-5 north and hang a left at Route 20 or head to Mukilteo and grab a ferry. Either way, you’ll be there in two or three hours. It’s the perfect trip for a Friday post-work getaway that has you back at your desk Monday morning.