Day 9 – Our home on Whidbey Island is at the Auld Holland Inn in Oak Harbor, which is towards the northern end of the island. So today we spent most of our time exploring towards the south, in the towns of Coupeville, Langley, and the surrounding areas. We also managed to fit in a farmers market and three farm stands! The best thing about the farm stands here on the island is that they really focus on highlighting locally-grown produce and locally-created items. Over the course of the day we stopped in at the 3 Sisters Market, the Whidbey Farm and Market, and the South Whidbey Tilth Farmers Market. In each location we found preserves, bread, cheese, seasonings, ice cream, arts and crafts that were made by small and family-run companies in the surrounding areas. And what was really fun was that you didn’t find the same products in each of the stores. So stopping in and browsing was always new and different.
Coupeville is a small quaint seaside town, most famous because it produces the highly-regarded Penn Cove mussels that are exported to variety of cities around the United States and the world. More about these mussels a little bit later, since they featured importantly in our dinner today! But it’s also known for its artist community.
The Price Sculpture Forest is located in Coupeville, and this quirky destination is definitely worth a visit. It is a trail through the forest in the form of a figure 8. One half of the figure 8 is completely level and the second part of the figure 8 is a gentle slope of about 100 feet elevation. In total, the trail is about 1 km long. So it’s not a strenuous hike by any stretch of the imagination. But what makes trail really special is the fact that it is also an outdoor art gallery. As you walk the trail, it’s important to pay attention because around every corner, there is another piece of sculptured artwork. Sometimes it’s on the ground, sometimes you have to look up, some pieces are abstract, some are whimsical, and all express creativity and talent. As odd as it may sound, visiting this short trail was one of our highlights of the day. Free, donation requested.
Langley is another small town on Whidbey Island, and just as interesting to visit as Coupeville. It is home to a lot of artists including the popular Callahan’s Firehouse and Gallery that specializes in glassblowing art. It’s name comes from the fact that it is located in the building that previously housed the Langley Fire Department, the sign of which is still on the building. We had planned to have lunch at the Braeburn restaurant in Langley. We arrived at 1:30 PM only to discover a sign on the front door that said they were no longer taking any seating at the restaurant as they were full and they planned to close at 2 PM. It seems that they too are a victim of short-staffing. Pity! instead we went across the street to a lovely little restaurant called The Common Café and Books. The staff here too were running off their feet, but they managed to rustle up a quick meal for both of us.
Whidbey Island is also known for its wine and spirits manufacturing, so now that our bellies were full, we made our way to the Whidbey Island Distillery. Dena Marie welcomed us in from the heat, and set us to sampling their famous Whidbey Island Rye Whid-key (Get it?!! 🙂). Followed by just as delicious samples of blackberry, loganberry, and raspberry liqueurs. Topped off with an ice-cold cocktail taster of whidkey-loganberry-lemonade. Mmmmmm ….. Free samples.
Fruit-ified, our next stop was the Double Bluff Beach. When we got there the tide was out, and you could see flat beach for miles. In fact we saw several boats that looked like they were completely stranded on the sand, but of course that was just because the tide was out. When the tide was in, of course those boats would be on water. It was very hot when we were there, about 35°C, so we didn’t stay long.
We headed back to our hotel in Oak Harbor to freshen up and change because we had big plans for the evening. Today just happens to be Merge‘s birthday, we’re not saying how old, but to celebrate we went to the Front Street Grill in Coupeville. And guess what they’re famous for? Yes, if you guessed Penn Cove mussels, you’re absolutely correct! We shared a plate of coconut green curry mussels, their signature preparation, and they were absolutely delicious! There were about 40 mussels in that plate, and quite frankly they should’ve been a meal on their own. But of course since we were celebrating we ordered some more food. Merge had the pesto prawn and garlic linguine, and Al had the fish and chips. You might think we would stop after that, but of course not! Our very pleasant server, Colleen, brought over some berry crisp with ice cream for dessert. Yummy! And if you’re wondering, yes, it was very slow walking back to the car 😀.
Since we spent today exploring the south, tomorrow we’re going to head primarily north, towards Deception Pass and then Fidalgo Island.