I Ate the State – Klickitat County

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Greetings!

Washington State packs a powerful punch when it comes to celebrating diversity. Whether it be via environment, culture or history, Washington fully represents and Klickitat County is no slouch. Within a single afternoon of exploring the area, I took in towering volcanoes (plural!), spacious forests, sweeping plains, grand rivers and ancient canyons. I enjoyed delicious bounty, learned of amazing history, hiked beautiful trails and even wandered around an abbey shared by Buddhists and Druids. All this in just one afternoon – and that was truly just the tip of the volcano! Join me while I discover what spectacular adventures Klickitat County has to offer. (And I’ll still only be scratching the surface!)

Named for the Klickitat Tribe, now part of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, Klickitat County is located in the south-central area of the state. Falling near the middle in size, the population sits closer towards the bottom of the list. (29th out of 39 in population, to be exact) In a nutshell, it’s very easy to stretch out in Klickitat County – and to possibly not see anyone around for miles. And miles… It’s quite something to be able to stop in the middle of the road to take a picture and not be worried about someone driving up behind.

Bickleton Hwy
The Bickleton Highway after a spring rain. Not a car in sight…

Klickitat County is a very accessible county, from both Washington and Oregon. It neighbors Yakima, Skamania and Benton Counties and sits directly across the mighty Columbia River from Oregon. There are many routes in and out of the county within Washington as well as several bridges over the Columbia River to Oregon. This can make for many great quick-trips! It also has the benefit of being in the south-central part of the state, so it’s a relatively doable day trip from many parts of Washington. That said, as there are so many amazing things to see and do, I’d definitely recommend at least an overnight stay.

As I live in the western part of the state, I typically take I-90 to Yakima via I-82 and then Exit 37 onto US-97 towards Bend and Goldendale. I love heading over Satus Pass and enjoy the change of forest from the firs and spruce of the west side to the Ponderosa pines of the east. This route also allows me to stop at the very unique St. John’s Monastery & Bakery, located just off US-97 near the lovely Brooks Memorial State Park. The resident nuns and novices make the most delicious traditional Greek pastries, candies, soups, handcrafted candles and more. A must stop! (Open Monday – Saturday, 9am – 6pm)

For my most recent foray into Klickitat County, however, I was coming from nearby Sunnyside, so I headed towards Bickleton via WA-22 to Mabton and then onto the Mabton-Bickleton Road. Tiny Bickleton is reached via quiet, winding backroads and the drive is well worth the effort. Stunning vistas, rolling fields and high desert plains are de rigueur and it’s hard not to see beauty in every turn of the road. (And there are many turns!) If you happen to visit during the spring, there are the added glories of wildflowers, fresh sage brush and possibly spring rain. (Spring sage in the spring rain is one of the dreamiest smells ever!) If you take this route, be sure to pull over randomly and take in the scene. And the air. And the silence. Beautiful

Pro tip: Reception can be spotty along the roads to and from Bickleton – and the roads are often very, very quiet. (In many parts of Klickitat County in general.) Be sure to get that oil change and tire check before venturing off into the wilds and always bring along an old-school paper map. And snacks. Always bring snacks. And probably some water.

Known as theBluebird Capitol of the World, Bickleton is a tiny, but lovely jewel in the high desert of the county. (Population 90!) Thousands of bluebirds spend much of their year in the area, making their homes in the lovely birdhouses dotting area fence lines. If you are coming to the area via Mabton, Ponderosa pines begin to pop up just outside of town and wildflowers cheerfully dot the landscape. It truly is a gorgeous drive and ends with a step back in time once you’ve arrived in Bickleton proper.

As mentioned, Bickleton is quite small, but there are definitely places to explore and several events throughout the year to check out. On your next high desert adventure, consider these great options:

  • Should you be interested in wetting your whistle in the oldest operating tavern in the state (c. 1887), be sure to sidle up at the Bluebird Inn. Grab a drink and great burger and relax in this nostalgia-filled gem. (Open Wednesday – 7am to 8pm, Thursday-Saturday – 10am to 8pm and Sunday – 8am to 6pm. Closed Mondays, Tuesdays and the entire month of December.) NOTE: Not to be confused with The Brick Saloon in Kittitas County, which lays claim to the oldest, continuously operating bar in the state. (c. 1889) DON’T MIX THEM UP! Fight, fight, FIGHT! Bar/Saloon/Tavern brawl anyone?
  • Grab food to go or take a seat in the café at the charming Bickleton Market Street Café & Grocery. Offering tasty burgers, hot and cold sandwiches and more, they’re a great stop in the area. (Open Monday – Friday, 7am to 6pm and Saturday, 7am to 11am. Closed Sunday.)
  • Be sure to make a stop at the Bickleton Carousel Museum and take in the festive scene. The museum features a lovely Herschell-Spillman Carousel (c. 1900) as well as area history. It is one of only three of its type still working, which is amazing when you consider 121 years of rowdy fair-goers. (Open Friday & Saturday, 10am – 3pm and Sunday, Noon – 4pm. Open spring through late fall.)
  • You can find the aforementioned carousel in full operation once a year at the… Alder Creek Pioneer Picnic & Rodeo (June 12-13, 2021, 10th – 12th for 2022) It is Washington’s oldest rodeo and this year marked its impressive 110th anniversary. (c. 1910) Located in nearby Cleveland Park, it’s a classic rodeo scene set amidst Ponderosa pines and a rustic park scene. I recently attended and had the pleasure of riding the carousel and eating a GIANT corndog and elephant ear. It was a great time, indeed. (Hot Tip: Cleveland Park is also known as Alder Creek Pioneer Rodeo and Picnic Area if you happen to be searching on Google. If you’re lucky enough to have reception, that is!)
  • If you have a penchant for classic cars and flea markets, be sure to hit up the Bickleton Classic Car Show – and flea market! Taking place at the Carousel Museum over Labor Day weekend, it’s a fun way to wrap up the summer. (My dad has attended and gives it his seal of approval. 😉 The event was cancelled for 2020, but hopefully 2021 will be a go.

One of my favorite stretches of road in the state lies between Bickleton and the nearby town of Goldendale. Traveling west out of town on the Bickleton-Goldendale Highway will take you through Ponderosa-filled forest and into high plains brimming with wildflowers and sage brush. (And the occasional, lonely tumbleweed blowing across the road.) I love pulling over along the way and just standing outside. The smell of the flowers and sage is amazing and on a recent trip, there was a bit of spring rain to bring it all out. No one on the road, the only sound the wind and a sense that this scene has remained exactly the same for a very long time… Sublime.

As the high plains begin to lose elevation, the road starts to wind and twist into an absolutely stunning area known as Badger Gulch. As the road descends into the deep valley, switchbacks and hairpin turns compete with impressive views for your attention. On my last drive through the area, the sun was shining, but at the same time it was raining. Amazing rainbows and god-rays sifting through the clouds accompanied me as I navigated my way through the switchbacks. Glorious! (Pro Tip: Keep your eyes on the road, or just occasionally pull over. I hate to admit that I’m prone to taking pictures out of my window as I drive, but not in this area. Nope. EYES ON THE ROAD, please.)

Once out of the dastardly, but beautiful, Badger Gulch the road calms down as you make your way towards Goldendale, the county seat of Klickitat County. Nestled in the foothills of the Simcoe Mountains, Goldendale is known for its wheat, cattle, alfalfa and hay. (Which means I get to bust out my classic “Hay!” joke whenever in the area. You’re welcome.) It is easy to breeze through the area if you’re traveling on US-97, but the town is well worth a stop. Interesting history, good barbeque and a night sky chock-full of stars are just a few of its draws. Throw in an amazing view of nearby Mount Adams and I’m never disappointed with my time in Goldendale.

Klickitat Valley
Hay!! And alfalfa, wheat, sheep and cattle!

If you find yourself in this lovely part of the state, there are many things to occupy your time and imagination. A few places to check out while in the area:

  • Goldendale is famous for its dark skies and up until recently carried the ‘Dark Sky’ designation. Sadly, this has since been removed, but hopefully Washington State will rally to have it re-established. Nevertheless, the area skies are indeed still very dark and magnificently showcase the night sky. One of the nation’s largest public observatories, Goldendale Observatory (and state park) offers an amazing look into the cosmos and a beautiful opportunity to explore the area surrounding the observatory. Newly renovated and state of the art, the observatory offers both day and night time viewings and is a must-stop if you’re visiting the area. They are currently requiring reservations until Covid restrictions are further lifted, so look online before you go. (Regular schedule resumes August 13th and drop-in visits will be allowed.) While in the area, be sure to take a quick hike through the nearby Observatory Hills Trails to enjoy the local flora and fauna. (Discover Pass required for observatory parking.) Author’s Note: The observatory was closed on my most recent visit to the area, but I’ll be returning in August and will update with pictures. I’ve visited the observatory in the past and am very excited to check out the updates! And that spectacular night sky…
  • Set back from the quaint downtown area, the Presby Museum – and Klickitat County Historical Society offers a well-curated look into the yesteryears of Goldendale and the surrounding area. Set inside the stately Presby Mansion, it’s a fine way to spend an afternoon. (May 1st – October 15th, 10am – 4pm daily)
  • There are several standard hotels in the area, but why not go big? Check out The Red House on Airbnb for a step back in time. Featured on both state and federal Historic Registers, you get the whole house to explore and imagine life in late 1800s Goldendale. (c. 1890. Originally the home of Charles Newell, the Horse King of the Northwest.) Author’s Note: I haven’t stayed there yet, but I’ll be taking care of that in August. Pictures coming soon!
  • If you’re looking for an opportunity to don those boots and polish that belt buckle, or the chance to eat A LOT of fair food, the Klickitat County Fair & Rodeo is the place to be. Given the opportunity, I’m pretty sure I could eat my weight in delicious corn dogs and elephant ears. Mmmm… (August 19-22, 2021)

What’s that? You didn’t fill up on corndogs and elephant ears at the fair?? Hmmm… Well, lucky for you, there are some great dining options in the area. Stop in at one of these fine spots the next time you’re in town:

  • If you’re a fan of BBQ (Yes, please!) head directly to The Dirty Cowgirl. Originally a food truck, Chef Kory Geddes has grown her operation into a full-service restaurant. On my recent visit, I was fortunate enough to get the very last order of brisket for the day. Moowahahahaha… SO GOOD! (Open daily, 11am – 9pm; 10pm on Friday/Saturday and 8pm on Sunday)
  • For a great breakfast, lunch or dinner, head to the Town House Café in the downtown area. This charming spot is very popular for its tasty, home-style cooking. (Wednesday to Sunday, 7am – 2pm with dinners to 7pm on Fridays. Closed Monday/Tuesday.)
  • Dwinell Country Ales offers an impressive line of craft beer and cider. The tasting room is currently closed, but private tastings are available by reservation on their tasting room patio. They are also open Saturday and Sunday from 1-4pm for beer-to-go.
  • Should you be in the mood for an old-school tavern and café experience, check out the Simcoe Café located in the heart of downtown. If those walls could talk… (Daily, 11am to 12pm, 2am on Friday/Saturday.)
  • The Goldendale has a bounty of produce and tasty treats to offer. If that sounds delicious, stop by the Goldendale Farmers Market and grab some goodies! (Saturdays at the Goldendale Chamber Grounds from May – September, 9am – 2pm)

After staying the night in one of the chain hotels off of US-97, I was very ready to head further south and do some wine-tasting and exploring along the Columbia River Gorge. And do some tasting of wine… (Did I mention doing some wine tasting?) As I headed south on US-97, the morning was brilliantly sunny and the windmills dotting the hills were in full swing. It’s amazing how large they are from a distance and this part of the drive allowed me to see just how large they actually are. Suffice to say, there’s quite a bit of energy being created by these behemoths. Klickitat County hosts several wind farms throughout the county, thoroughly utilizing the constant, sweeping winds of the area. Some may find them a challenge to the landscape and view, but I’ve always thought them strangely scenic. And hey, clean energy sources are always good!

Another sight along the way offers a prime opportunity to take in four founding members of the Pacific Northwest’s “Ring of Fire.” Should the day be sunny, which is often the case in this area, be sure to pull over at the Cascade Volcanoes Viewpoint, located shortly outside of Goldendale. Showcasing one of the state’s most splendid vistas, this humble pull-over spot on the side of US-97 allows you to see, in one fell swoop, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Hood, Mount Adams and Mount Rainier. Granted, Hood and Adams clearly dominate the scene, but Saint Helens and Rainier nicely tip their caps on either side of this family picture. Don’t miss the chance to stand in awe of these magnificent mountains.

While the western names of these noble guardians of the Northwest have been in place since early, western exploration of the area, their original Native American names have been known for thousands of years:

  • Mount Adams Native American name: Pahto or Klickitat
  • Mount Hood Native American name: Wy’east or Wyeast
  • Mount Rainier Native American name: Tahoma or Takhoma
  • Mount St. Helens Native American name: Louwala-Clough or Loowit to the Klickitat

Continuing south on US-97 brings you up and over a ridge and down into the just-plain-amazing Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. I truly can’t say enough good about this area. It has mesmerized me my entire life and with each visit, I love and appreciate it all the more. Even if you are just passing through on your way to Oregon or beyond, it’s hard not to thoroughly admire nature’s handiwork as you descend into the gorge.

Travel Tip: If you’re pining to do a bicycle trip through the area, the Mt. Adams Bus – Mt. Adams Transportation Services (MATS) goes from Goldendale and all through the gorge. (It also goes over bridges to The Dalles and Hood River.) Put that bike on the rack and take a break from the uphill! $1 for adults and kids five and under are free. Sweet!

Should you indeed only be passing through, you can continue heading south on US-97 towards the nearby Sam Hill Memorial Bridge and into Oregon. A large truck-stop area, Biggs Junction, lies just past the bridge and continuing south will bring you to beautiful Bend, Oregon. Further south and into California, it is possible to hook up with I-5 in the city of Weed near Mount Shasta. (Travel bonus: If you were to reverse course on US-97 and head through Okanogan County and into British Columbia, Canada (BC Highway 97), you could drive all the way to Alaska via the ALCAN Highway. (#LifeGoals) US-97 in a pretty epic highway!

For this trip, however, my travels remained firmly in Washington as I followed along the path of the Lewis and Clark Expedition via SR-14 west. This natural wonder of an area features amazing history and spectacular geology, not to mention breathtaking views. Ice age flood plains, millennia-old Native American history, towering basalt cliffs and the mighty Columbia River are just a few of the attractions. It’s not hard to understand why the area has been a major hub of activity for thousands and thousands of years. It can also be a bit difficult to take it all in while simply driving along the winding road. Keep those eyes on the road while driving, but be sure to pull over many times along the way to revel in the fantastic scenery.

Columbia River Gorge
Yep. That’s a pretty amazing view.

Not too far into my journey on SR-14, I stopped for a visit at the lovely Maryhill State Park. A sprawling, scenic area along the Columbia, it’s a great spot for a picnic or camping adventure. Bring your boat and do some fishing or perhaps a little waterskiing. (I have the fondest memories of waterskiing on the Columbia. Major fuel for my I must have a boat plan…) On a windy day, it’s likely windsurfers will be also sailing the river and defying the laws of gravity. (Discover Pass required for parking and a Launch Permit is required for boating.)

Just up the road from the park sits one of the county’s, nay state’s, most interesting sites, the Stonehenge Memorial & Klickitat County Veterans Memorial. Designed by prolific highway builder, Sam Hill, it sits on a bluff overlooking the Columbia as a monument to soldiers killed in WWI. (Sam Hill was also a businessman, lawyer and railroad exec and quite influential to the area’s development in the early 1900s) While not quite Salisbury Plain, the view is stunning and the structure a truly unique tribute. Sam Hill’s crypt is located just a short walk below the monument on a bluff overlooking the river.

Additional unique and interesting spots to check out in the area:

  • In operation since 1936, the excellent Gunkel Orchards & Fruit Stand is just down the road from the Stonehenge memorial. Open seasonally, they offer delicious fresh fruit and more. Cherries, peaches, nectarines… Go get ‘em! (Monday – Thursday, 8am – 6pm and Friday – Sunday, 8am – 6pm)
  • Visit the Waving Tree Vineyard for a bit of wine tasting bliss. They’re located down from the memorial and east of the historic Maryhill Community Church (c.1888) on Maryhill Highway. They also have a tasting room at the entrance of Maryville State Park, but it is currently closed due to COVID. (Winery open daily from 10am – 5pm, but they do suggest making an appointment.)
  • The Maryhill Loops Road goes between US-97 (just past Goldendale) and connects with SR-14 near the Stonehenge Drive turn-off. Now only open to bikes and pedestrians, it is part of the original, ten-mile asphalt road Sam Hill personally financed in the early 1900s and is the first such road in the northwest. It was originally used it to experiment with paving techniques and also provided an invigorating drive for early motorists. (Pro Tip: They do open the road twice a year to motorists. Gotta check out those hairpin turns!)

Heading a little further west on SR-14 continues the celebration of Sam Hill and his significance to the region. Enter the fabulous Maryhill Museum, a crown jewel in the extraordinary beauty of the area. Built by Sam Hill, the name is a tribute to his wife, daughter and mother-in-law, all named “Mary” and the opening was dedicated by Queen Marie of Romania in 1926. Featuring an excellent art collection both in the galleries and throughout the grounds, it is a must-stop when visiting the area. It also offers a gorgeous, expansive view of the area’s amazing geology. (March 15th – November 15th, 10am – 5pm daily.)

Sam Hill’s Legacy: As he was an extensive international traveler, Sam Hill’s contributions extend beyond the area. He is also responsible for the Peace Arch monument in Blaine, between the US and Canadian border and built a golf course and restaurant at Semiahmoo, just north of Blaine. During Prohibition, the restaurant could serve alcohol as it was on the Canadian side. Well played, Sam. Well played. Additionally, if you’re in the Seattle area, take a drive through the neighborhood of the Sam Hill house, located on Capitol Hill.

After luxuriating in the artistic grandeur of Maryhill Museum, it was time to find a bit of lunch – and maybe do a little wine-tasting. (Art, food and wine… A perfect afternoon!) Located just west of the museum, off of SR-14, lives the wonderful Maryhill Winery. Featuring award-winning wine, a delicious menu and spectacular views, a visit to Maryhill Winery is always a good idea. Their famous amphitheater is unfortunately closed these days, but they do still feature live music on their lovely terrace. I’m pretty sure if I lived in the area, I’d be there all the time – for the charcuterie and Albariño alone! (Open daily, 11am – 6pm, 8pm on Saturdays. They also have tasting rooms in Spokane, Vancouver and Woodinville.)

One of the best sightseeing opportunities while traveling through Klickitat County is just that; seeing the sights. There are plenty of places to pull over and I highly recommend you take advantage and enjoy the many incredible vistas. The area is part of the greater Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail, which spans Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon and it is a marvel to take in. The entire “trail” spans 16,000 square miles!

Also found in the area is The Dalles Dam. (A great opportunity to do my classic Dam! joke. You are again welcome.) This area of the Columbia was forever altered by a different type of flooding in 1957 with the completion of the dam. Before this time, the massive Celilo Falls dominated the scene. These marvelous falls were a hugely important center of fishing, trade and gathering with neighboring tribes for thousands of years. They also proved to be a bit of an obstacle for the Lewis and Clark Expedition when it ventured through on its way to the Pacific. There is an excellent viewpoint located just before the turn-off to nearby Wishram which highlights the history of the area. It is well worth a stop.

Should you like to extend your area viewing with a nice glass of wine and tasty eats, the following Wishram establishments await your visit:

  • Set at the base of the Columbia Hills (elevation 2600-3200 feet) the Cascade Cliffs winery is a lovely place to enjoy a glass of wine. Bask in the sun, marvel at the nearby basalt cliffs and enjoy the view. Sigh…  The vineyard and tasting room is located just off of SR-14 and they also have tasting rooms in Hood River, Woodinville & Georgetown. (Wishram tasting room open daily, Noon – 7pm, Friday and Saturday to 8pm.)
  • In addition to a lovely wine offering, the Jacob Williams winery, located off SR-14 near the Avery Recreation Area, features charcuterie and other treats. Their tasting room is also dog friendly and features live music throughout the summer. (Open daily, 11am – 6pm. They also have a tasting room in McMinnville, OR.)

People have been inhabiting the Columbia River Gorge for millennia. There are many ways to explore and experience the history of the area, but among the most fascinating is the sprawling Columbia Hills Historical State Park along SR-14. (Discover Pass required for parking and launch permits required for boating) Comprised of four major areas with a wide variety of things to do and see. Whether your stay is short or long, it is impossible to walk away without being profoundly affected by the beauty and history of the area; So many stories, so many spectacular views, so many trails and natural wonders to savor.

One of the most amazing features of the area and easiest to check out are the ancient petroglyphs located along the Temani Pesh-wa Trail at Horsethief Lake. These amazing stories were left by the original stewards of the land and were relocated from their original locations along the Columbia with the creation of the Dalles Dam. Despite their move, it is still awe-inspiring to view them in their current dwelling and an enduring tribute to the indigenous peoples of the area.

There are so many wonderful opportunities for exploration in Columbia Hills Historical State Park. Just a few of the options:

  • For an easy-access look at the petroglyphs, drive to the riverside parking lot inside the Horsethief Lake entrance of the park. The Temani Pesh-wa Trail is located directly adjacent to the lot and features a boardwalk with a self-guided tour next to the petroglyphs. For something more in depth, the park offers ranger-guided tours which go deeper into the area and history. The featured She Who Watches tour tells the legend of a female chief of the native Wishram people from 3000 years ago. Check out local Native American artist, Lillian Pitt for wonderful artwork based on local legends and the Columbia River Gorge area.
  • Stay a while at Horsethief Lake and camp in the same areas that have been hosting travelers for millennia, including the Lewis and Clark Expedition. A couple of rustic cabins are also available for camping. The lake is usually open for fishing, from the end of April to October 31st and there is boating access to both the lake and Columbia River. (Permits required for fishing) If you don’t happen to have your own boat, check out the kayak and pedal boat rentals options.
  • For some stellar rock climbing, check out the Horsethief Butte area. Amazing views, beautiful trails and super cool rocks!
  • Off the north side of SR-14 lies the Crawford Oaks trailhead. In addition to hiking opportunities, bikes and horses have much to explore. If you’re looking for amazing mountain and gorge(ous) views, this is the trail to take.
  • Also off the north side of SR-14 and close to the Crawford Oaks trailhead, is the beautiful Dalles Mountain Ranch area. In addition to the 6,000 acres of remarkable landscapes, this historic ranch features much flora and fauna along with historic farm buildings and equipment.
  • Should you fancy a side trip into yonder Oregon, an amazing drive with incredible views can be found just over the nearby Dalles Bridge. Once across the bridge, take I-84 west and head for Mayer State Park. You’ll be looking for the Rowena Crest Viewpoint off the Historic Columbia River Highway. You won’t be sorry!

Important Public Service Announcement: The Columbia River Gorge is an extremely beautiful and fascinating area. It is one of many extremes, in fact; several of which being flora and fauna. Be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, ticks, poison oak and more! Spring is tick season and rattlesnakes generally love cool, concealed spots. Long pants, good boots and a hat are my go-to whenever hiking around these areas. Go prepared, be aware and you’ll be fine! And don’t go poking around in those interesting looking spots between the rocks… DON’T DO IT.

Nope.
And this is where my petroglyph party-train came to a halt…

After communing with the petroglyphs and successfully evading snakes, it was time to head further west. I was ultimately heading towards Trout Lake and Mount Adams, but there were many alluring spots to check out along the way. Beautiful trails, local history and delicious vino are just some of the options that came across my path in the Lyle area. Don’t miss exploring the beauty in and around this tiny community.

Keep an eye out for exits off of SR-14 for Old Highway 8. The area is a goldmine of outdoor opportunities and is not to be missed. Just a few of the amazing places to explore during your visit:

  • One of the most impressive features of the area (and that’s saying something!) can be found in the Coyote Wall Recreation Area. The Coyote Wall Trail is just one of the excellent ways to experience the mammoth formation of columnar basalt known as the Coyote Wall or “The Syncline.”
  • The Catherine Creek trailhead is lovely throughout the year; particularly during spring and early summer. The wildflowers are gorgeous and the views, sublime. Located off of Old Highway 8, west of the Syncline.
  • Located just off SR-14 at an intersection for Old Highway 8 sits Rowland Lake. (SR-14 actually cuts directly through the lake!) Known for its trout fishing, it’s a great spot to stop even if you’ve forgotten your poles.

More great opportunities for exploration in the Lyle area:

  • For wonderful views, wildflower identifying and a glance into the cherry-growing history of the area, hit up the Lyle Cherry Orchard Trail and Loop. The trailhead is located just off SR-14 and the trail itself can be enjoyed in a 5 to 6.5 round-trip loop.
  • Set in the center of town, the Lyle Twin Bridges Museum is a lovely place to learn about the history of the town and greater Lyle area. (Open Saturdays, June thru September, Noon to 5pm)
Chamberlain Lake
Lovely wildflowers in the Lyle area

If all that exploring has left you parched and peckish, there are several ways to address the situation while in the Lyle area:

  • A well-established and respected winery in the Columbia River Gorge, Domaine Pouillon offers a fine catalog of wines. Check out their summer ‘2nd Weekend Sip’ events for a taste of their greatness. (Located along the Lyle-Snowden Road. Tasting room currently open by appointment only.)
  • Stop in at the family-run Klickitat Canyon & Columbia Gorge Winery and enjoy a bit of their hand-processed, certified-organic wine. (Located along the Lyle-Snowden Road. Open Friday – Sunday, Noon – 6pm, Mother’s Day through Thanksgiving weekend and by appointment.)
  • I really enjoy the AGO Sauvignon Blanc from COR Cellars, located off of Old Highway 8. Stop in and give it a try, along with their other lovely offerings. Currently, tastings are by reservation only, Wednesday thru Monday. They have limited indoor seating in addition to a cool courtyard and tasting tent. Spots are available 11am thru 3pm.
  • Also found off of Old Highway 8, the appropriately named Syncline Winery features lovely wines in a beautiful location. This charming boutique winery is open for tastings Friday thru Sunday, noon to 5pm. (Reservations recommended) They also feature various tasting packages and I have to say I’m quite intrigued by their Blue Door Experience… Adding it to my travel bucket list!
  • Just up the road from the Syncline Winery is The Hillbilly Farm. This family-run farm stand features fresh produce with their specialties being tomatoes, watermelon and cantaloupe. They also have plants for sale and fresh eggs available 24 hours a day. Open daily, 9am – 7pm.
  • The tagline at Tetrahedron Wines is “Where Art meets Science,” which I find very cool. Two great tastes that go great together! Stop in for a tasting on Saturdays from noon to 5pm and Sundays from noon to 4pm. (Reservations recommended. Located off of SR-14 in downtown Lyle)
  • Featuring classic pub fare and hand-tossed pizza, The Sandbar and Grill is the perfect addition to a day of local exploration. Located off of SR-14 in downtown Lyle. Open Wednesday thru Saturday, 4pm – 9pm. (Closed Sunday – Tuesday)
  • If you’re in the mood for a classic country breakfast before you begin your adventures, stop in at the Country Café in downtown Lyle. They also serve old-school burgers and sandwiches during lunch. Open daily, 7am – 2pm. (8am on Sunday)
  • If all this adventuring has left you tuckered out, consider a reservation at The Lyle Hotel and take a well-earned rest. This quaint hotel (c. 1905) was originally a railroad hotel and offers a charming glimpse into the history of the Lyle area. Located in downtown Lyle. (Note: Their restaurant is closed for the time being.)
Twin Bridges Museum
The Twin Bridges Museum in Lyle

Getting to Lyle is simple via SR-14 as the highway goes directly through town. There are, however, a couple of interesting and less direct ways to and from the area. If the beauty of a Douglas fir forest is calling your name, take a 30-minute drive north to the tiny town of Snowden via the Lyle-Snowden Road. (West of downtown Lyle on SR-14, take Old Highway 8 to Canyon Road)

If you’d like to take a back-route to Lyle from the Goldendale area, hit up the very scenic SR-142. Along the way, make sure to visit the town and county namesake, Klickitat. This route is filled with plenty of beautiful views and vantages to discover. A great route extending from SR-142 is the Goldendale-Glenwood Highway, which leads north towards the Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge and offers more beautiful views and vantages.

While exploring the backroads and byways of Klickitat County, keep these enjoyable options in mind for your itinerary:

  • Located in Klickitat proper, the Klickitat Historical Museum features interesting exhibits and artifacts from days gone by. Open Sundays, 10am – 3pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
  • The town of Klickitat is located at the base of Klickitat Canyon. Spilling from its mouth at the base of Mount Adams, the Klickitat River flows into the canyon offering many outdoor opportunities along the way. (It’s the state’s longest wild river!) Fishing, rafting, hiking and much more can easily fill a sunny weekend. This is also apparently the place to be for turkey hunting. Chalk that up in the ‘you learn something new every day’ category for me. I was unaware Washington had a turkey population much less one large enough for hunting. The more you know!
  • If you’d rather draw pictures of turkeys than hunt them, consider instead hitting up the Klickitat Trail for a bit of hiking. This 31-mile trail follows an old railroad grade through the canyon and serves up much beauty and adventure. Bikes and horses welcome.
Hand Turkey
I spent a lot of time on this. You’re welcome. (Yes, Dad, that is a real googly eye.)

Further west of Lyle, heading towards Bingen, make sure to take a stop at the Chamberlain Lake Rest Area. (Even if you don’t need to rest. I mean, if you have a chance to rest, it’s probably a good idea. As my mom always said, you never know when your next chance might be…) This little spot is a great place to take a quick break and a short stroll around the area. Have a snack! The views are spectacular and it’s just off the road…  

There is much environmental variety to be found in Klickitat County. The bulk of my journey thus far has focused on the drier, Columbia River Gorge portion of the county. Beautiful grasslands, rolling hills and the Columbia River dominate the scene, but not far away exists a temperate rainforest. Heading north from Bingen and past White Salmon will take you into this amazing area. (Don’t worry – we’ll visit White Salmon and Bingen on the way home!)

From SR-14 in Bingen, I headed north on SR-141 towards White Salmon. The road immediately began climbing and the trees and greenery began to expand their reach. Mount Hood was towering behind me on the Oregon side and Mount Adams, straight ahead to the north. This was the first time I’d traveled this road, but I knew in my soul it was taking me somewhere spectacular. I was not proven wrong…

Ponderosa Pines
My favorite – the magnificent Ponderosa pine!

As I traveled further north on SR-141, I came to the tiny town known as the ‘gateway to Mount Adams,’ Trout Lake. (Not an actual lake, but there is a namesakelake nearby.) Since the arid Columbia River Gorge is a mere 30-minute drive from the cooler, greener mountain vibe of Trout Lake, the transition is quite something to experience. Even if the outdoor life isn’t your thing, it’s well worth just making a drive around the area to take in the beautiful scenery and environment.

Backroads tip: It is also possible to reach the Trout Lake area from Goldendale and SR-142 to the Glenwood and Trout Lake Highways OR the Glenwood Highway to BZ-Glenwood Highway. So many excellent backroads options!

In addition to stellar hiking, camping, fishing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, climbing and rafting, the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest – Mount Adams area is also renowned for its scrumptious huckleberry season. The season goes from mid-August to mid-September and is a delicious way to experience the mountain scene.

Huckleberry hot tips: You will need a permit for picking in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest. You can get a printable Free-Use Permit online if picking under one gallon/up to three gallons a year. If you’re wanting to pick to use for products such as jam, ice cream, etc. you’ll need a Charge Use Permit, available at your local Ranger District or Monument Headquarters

Should you not fancy cooking over a camp stove or camping under the stars, there are several lodging and dining options in Trout Lake. It is popular to use this area as a sort of basecamp for area adventures. Some great places to check out on your next visit:

  • Along with tasty food, the historic Trout Lake Country Inn also offers yoga classes in their dance hall and live music. Open Friday – Sunday, 5pm – 8:30pm.
  • The Station Café & Espresso at Andy’s Valley Service (and Chevron Station) features delicious huckleberry shakes and pies along with coffee, burgers and more! (And you can get gas and have your car serviced!)
  • On my recent visit, there were two old guys hanging out on the porch, discussing the day’s events. A little girl was playing on the steps… Take a step back to quieter times at the historic Trout Lake Grocery and stock up on adventure goods. If huckleberries are in season, check out the fresh berries, jams and more! (Open daily, 7:30am – 7pm.)
  • For pub fare in a classic, mountain setting, stop in at The Logs Inn and enjoy the scene. Located directly off of SR-141 and in the area since the 1930s, they have recently renovated and reopened in August 2020. They also have four cabins for rent. Open Wednesday – Friday, 3pm – 11pm and Saturday/Sunday, 11:30am – 11pm. (8pm on Sunday)
  • The very inviting, family-operated Trout Lake Valley Inn offers modern comfort in a beautiful, rustic setting. Be sure to check out the hot tub as well as the free bicycle and charcoal BBQ loaners! Pet friendly.
  • It’s right there in the name – cozy! The charming, family-operated Trout Lake Cozy Cabins feature modern amenities including Wi-Fi, TVs and outdoor BBQ grills. Roughing it, while not roughing it! Pet friendly.
  • If you’re looking for something truly unique for your Trout Lake stay, head to the Cave Creek Farm. This small herb farm also has cool “glamping” options as well as a farmhouse for rent.
  • For a more modern take on the mountain cabin, check out Getaway Mount Adams. Part of a larger, very cool “getaway” concept, these cabins have everything you need to get away from the city and into the outdoors; while still living in comfort.
Mt Adams
The stunning Mount Adams as seen from the Trout Lake area

One of the most uniquely beautiful and peaceful spots I’ve ever visited in Washington or beyond is located in the Trout Lake area. Resulting from the friendship between a Zen Buddhist monk and a Druid priest, the Trout Lake Abbey is like nothing I’ve ever encountered. The day I visited, I was the only one walking around the grounds and it was one of the most peaceful experiences I’ve had in my life. Granted, COVID likely had something to do with the lack of visitors, but I can’t deny the absolute bliss I enjoyed that afternoon.

Set on a large farm near the base of Mount Adams, the abbey features a Zen Buddhist temple and meditation garden, a Druid sanctuary, organic farm, lavender labyrinth and lodging. (Five private B&B style rooms and a hostel.) They host several retreats throughout the year including yoga, qigong, Chinese medicine, music and dance. Due to COVID, they are currently closed for overnight stays, but will hopefully be resuming lodging soon.

Whatever your ideology, go to this place. Walk around the grounds. Marvel in the peaceful feeling and sense that whoever you are, you are welcome. In these challenging times, it did my heart much good to feel such genuine goodwill – and in such a spectacular setting. I can’t wait for my next visit to the Abbey and hope I’ll be able to stay for longer than an afternoon.

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is quite large and spans Skamania, Lewis, Yakima, Cowlitz and Klickitat counties. With such a large swath of forest as well as Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens located within its borders, the outdoor endeavors are near limitless. Camping and hiking are two of the most popular activities to add to any adventure and there are so many excellent options when visiting the Trout Lake area. A few ideas for you:

  • Part of a 2000-foot lava cave, the Guler Ice Caves feature a 650 ft long cavern for exploration. Leading down into total darkness, a 20-foot staircase leads you to a treasure trove of icy stalactites and stalagmites. Don’t forget your flashlight and jacket! Check out the Peterson Prairie Campground (summer to September 15th) if you’re interested in camping in the area. (Also great access to huckleberry picking!)
  • If you’re into lovely waterfalls, head to the trailhead for Langfield Falls. Enjoy the 60-foot falls and easy-going hike to get there. The trailhead is located about 25 miles northwest of Trout Lake.
  • If you’re looking for a spot for a nice, lakeside picnic, take the hike to lovely Lemei Lake, west of Trout Lake. (Five miles round-trip from the Cultus Creek Campground)
  • As a former fire lookout location, it makes sense that Sleeping Beauty Peak would offer stunning views and vistas. There is a small bit of elevation gain involved (1400 ft.), but the entire hike is only 2.6 miles round-trip. Not too bad for such amazing scenery! The nearby Trout Lake Creek Campground is a great campsite near the hike. (Trailers and RVs not recommended)
  • More great campsites in the area are the Goose Lake Campground (mid-June thru mid-September – RVs not recommended) and the Oklahoma Campground. (mid-May thru mid-September)

If you’re not afraid of a little snow (or a lot!), the cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snow-shoeing trails in Gifford-Pinchot are quite impressive and abundant. Beautiful Douglas fir trees covered in snow and the quiet padding of snowshoes are two of my very favorite things. I highly recommend taking a trek into the Gifford-Pinchot forests during the winter season. (A Washington State Sno-Park Permit is required for sno-parks. Get the non-motorized permit for ski and snowshoe and the motorized for snowmobiling. The nearby Mt. Adams Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center in White Salmon sells non-motorized sno-park permits.)

If you love snowy adventures as much as I do, check out these spots in the Gifford-Pinchot area:

  • The Pineside Sno-Park is located north of Trout Lake and features 20-miles of groomed ski and snowshoe trails. (No snowmobiles allowed on the groomed trails.)
  • The SnowKing Sno-Park can be found a couple of miles beyond the Pineside Sno-Park. It offers both non-motorized and motorized access and features 20-miles of groomed cross-country trails and quite a bit of backcountry ski and snowmobile possibilities. (No groomed snowmobile trails.)
  • Found west of Trout Lake, the Atkisson Sno-Park is big with snowmobilers and offers 154-miles of marked snowmobile trails. There is also a large area of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails. (Marked, not groomed) The area is close to the Guler Ice Caves and Natural Bridges area and has a nice warming hut with wood stove.
  • If you didn’t bring your own gear, Doug’s Hood River and Pure Stoke Sports are great places to gear up. Offering both summer and winter rentals, they are located across the Columbia in lovely Hood River.

If you’d like to fine tune your snow skills, Mount Adams boasts an excellent climbing scene. It is the second highest peak in Washington (12,276 ft) behind Mount Rainier (14, 410 ft) and presents some excellent alpine climbing opportunities. While less technical than Rainier, it still requires an ice axe, crampons and a decent knowledge of mountaineering. If you are not an experienced climber, hire a guide or guide service. (Alpine Ascents or American Alpine Institute are great options) As the weather can change swiftly and dramatically, the Ten Essentials are incredibly important. Always be prepared.

If you’re just starting out in your alpine climbing career, the South Climb route is the “easiest.” It takes off from the South Climb Trailhead (also known as Cold Springs Camp) and can be achieved in a long day if prepared and in shape. That said, camping along the route is generally recommended. (Climbing permits for travel above elevation of 7000 ft. are required from May 1st to September 30th and can be purchased online. Late spring into early October is the typical climbing season.)

Snowshoeing
Snowshoeing is fun!

After cruising around the Trout Lake and Mount Adams area, it was time to head back towards White Salmon. I’d arranged to stay in town for the evening and was looking forward to investigating the downtown area and restaurant scene. A quick drive south on SR-141 brought me into town where I found parking directly in front of the Inn of the White Salmon, the hotel where I was staying. Score!

Once I’d checked in and briefly relaxed in my very comfortable and modern room, it was time to find some dinner. The inn was conveniently located on W. Jewett Boulevard, the main route through town and hot spot for restaurants, shops and more. Just a short walk down this very quaint road landed me directly in the center of town. The evening was coming on, but it was still warm and bright and the sky was just beginning to turn pink and orange with the sunset. Double score!

As White Salmon is a major hub of outdoor pursuits, the vibe around town is very casual and mountain-friendly. Don’t let that low-key vibe fool you, however, as there is a vibrant and delicious restaurant scene to be savored. From casual to fine dining, there are many excellent options, making it the perfect area to complete a day of mountain adventuring. Check out these tasty spots the next time you’re in town:

  • I had one of the best meals in a long time at the delicious Pixan Taqueria & Cantina. To say it was fantastic would be an understatement. I began with a tasty craft margarita paired with hand-cut chips served with house-made cheese, nasturtium leaves, honeycomb, cactus and house-made salsas and sauces. Just that was enough, but I wisely followed it up with a selection of tacos and additional chips, salsa and beer. It’s a good thing my hotel was a block away as I was moving pretty slowly… (Open Monday/Tuesday from 4-9pm, Friday from 4-10pm, Saturday from noon – 10pm and Sunday, noon – 9pm. Closed Wednesday/Thursday.)
  • Sporting an excellent ski theme, Le Doubblé Troubblé Wine Co. is a cool little tasting room in the heart of downtown. Monday and Thursday, Noon – 8pm, Friday – Sunday, Noon – 8pm. (Closed Tuesday/Wednesday)
  • In the mood for fried pickles and beer cheese soup? I know I always am! Everybody’s Brewing in the downtown area is a fun brewery and pub serving tasty beer and great food. Open Sunday/Monday, 11:30am – 9:30pm, Tuesday, 3:30pm – 9:30pm and 10pm on Friday/Saturday. (Closed Wednesday)
  • Serving freshly made bread and pastries along with breakfast and lunch sandwiches, the White Salmon Baking Co. can be found just off Jewett Boulevard. (Open Monday, 5pm – 8pm for pizza night, Wed – Sun, 8am – 3pm. Closed Tuesday.)
  • Henni’s Kitchen & Bar covers the refined dinner and cocktail scene in downtown White Salmon. Using locally-sourced ingredients, their menu pairs very well with a glass or two of local vino. (Open Thursday – Sunday, 5pm – 9pm)
  • Just next door to Henni’s, their sister restaurant Pizza Leona serves up delicious full pies and slices along with refreshing soft-serve ice cream. (Open daily, 4pm – 9pm)
  • The very hip Feast Market & Delicatessen is located in the center of down town and features prepared lunch and dinner options along with fresh meat and seafood, dairy and specialty items. (Open Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 8pm)
  • Locally-sourced ingredients make up the very tasty menu at the North Shore Café, located in the center of downtown. Serving breakfast, lunch, coffee, tea and more! (Open Friday – Wednesday, 8am – 2pm. Closed Thursdays.)
  • Located off SR-141, heading north towards Trout Lake, the Ruby June Inn & Icehouse Bar offers lodging along with a seasonal Chef’s Collective Dinner Series. Getting a ticket to one of these dinners is high on my bucket list for future visits to the White Salmon area.

In addition to the mighty Columbia, there are several other amazing rivers and creeks flowing through Klickitat County. There is also a lot of crazy wind to add to the adventure. Kayaking, rafting, windsurfing and simply relaxing on the water are just some of the ways to enjoy all the wet stuff. In addition to all the opportunity on the Columbia, there is quite a bit of action happening off of SR-141 in the White Salmon and Trout Lake areas. Considerations for your next water-loving adventure:

  • If whitewater isn’t your thing, keep it mellow with some hiking along the tree-lined creeks of the Jewett Creek Watershed Recreation Area. In addition to hiking, they also feature a BMX bike park and mountain biking trails.
  • The beautiful White Salmon River flows into the Columbia at this point. If you’re a little brave and maybe a little crazy, consider rafting over Husum Falls near BZ Corner. Husum Falls is the tallest commercially rafted waterfall route in the country. Should this sound like the trip for you, hit up local guide services Zoller’s Outdoor Odysseys or Wet Planet Rafting & Kayaking for their excellent guided river trips. (Absolutely on my bucket list for future visits! Maybe not those falls, though…)
  • In need of gear for your crazy, water-filled adventure? Stop in at Immersion Research in White Salmon for some outfitting assistance. (Open daily, 9am – 5pm)
  • Perhaps you’d like to sail over the water rather than through it. Should this be the case, head to Pacific Boardsports / Naish USA for all your windsurfing needs. (Open Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm)

After I begrudgingly wrapped up my visit to White Salmon, it was time to head home. And back to ye ol’ day job… (I’ll be back soon, White Salmon. I’ll be back!) But since I wasn’t fully committed to making it back in time for my afternoon meeting, I thought I’d check out nearby Bingen and maybe grab a little coffee and breakfast on the way home. A girl’s gotta eat, after all! It was also a gorgeous, sunny morning and I knew from my phone’s weather app it was raining at home… Let’s go get some coffee!

Located on SR-14 and along the Columbia, Bingen holds the keys to much enjoyment and adventure. Beautiful forests are just to the north and one of the country’s most prolific rivers, directly adjacent. It is also very close to the Hood River Bridge and provides easy access to the town of Hood River and Oregon at large. Bingen is a great center of activity and there are many pastimes to pursue while visiting the area; water sports, wine-tasting and sightseeing to name a few.

The Columbia Gorge is a natural wind tunnel and epicenter of windsurfing and all things wind-sporty. If you’d like to try your hand at mastering the winds, these establishments can help you on your way:

  • Just across the bridge in Hood River, both Cascade Kiteboarding (daily 9-5) and Big Winds (daily 10-5) offer rentals, gear for purchase and various wind-worshipping lessons. Kiteboarding, windsurfing, and wing-foiling are a few of their daredevil options.
  • Perhaps you have your own boat or maybe a couple of jet skis, in which case, can I join you on your next trip? We’ll hit up Bingen Harbor and put in at the Bingen Marina. An afternoon of cruising around the Columbia, busting out some waterskiing and windsurfing? (The windsurfing is on you. I’m sticking with water skis.) This is a doable and excellent plan, right??
Mt Hood
Heading out of White Salmon and towards the windy Columbia and Mt. Hood

Unfortunately, I didn’t get much opportunity to investigate the Bingen restaurant scene on my recent visit. (Or go waterskiing!) I will, however, be back very soon and have a few establishments front-loaded on my list:

  • Who doesn’t love a good cup of Joe and a hand pie for breakfast? (or any meal, really) Located in the downtown area, directly on SR-14, Mugs Coffee, serves tasty beverages, pastries, sandwiches and more in a cozy atmosphere. I particularly enjoyed the sausage and egg hand pie. Mmmm!! (Open Monday – Thursday, 6:30am – 4pm, Friday to 3pm and Saturday from 7am – 2pm. Closed Sunday.)
  • Featuring gluten-free baked goods, including hand pies, cakes and pizza crusts, the Columbia Gorge Bakery is very popular throughout the area. They also offer frozen and take-n-bake options. (Open daily at 8am, Sunday at 10am.)
  • If you’re in the mood for Italian, Beneventi’s, located in the heart of downtown is the place to be. Serving pizza, sandwiches, pasta, calzones and more, they are open Monday thru Saturday from 10:30am – 8pm. (Closed Sunday.)
  • Located directly on SR-14 in the downtown area, the appropriately named EAT 14 can help you with that teriyaki and sushi craving. They also have burgers and fries! Open daily, 10:30am – 9pm. (Closed Sunday.)
  • Looking for pub food and BBQ in an old-school tavern scene? Head to Chips Bar & Grill on SR-14 in the downtown area for a drink and tasty food. (Currently undergoing new management and staffing – they hope to reopen soon.)
  • Operating in the area since 1867, the Dickey Farms Produce Market features all things local and fresh. (Including beer and ice cream!) They’re open Monday – Friday, 6am – 7pm (Saturday at 7am, Sunday at 10am)

In addition to river activities, Bingen has many options that don’t require a life vest. If you’re not looking to spend the day on your boat, consider these options: (Also, can I borrow your boat?)

  • Learn all about the greater Bingen area at the Gorge Heritage Museum, located in downtown Bingen. They are open from June 4th – August 31st on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 4pm.
  • Located in the center of downtown, directly on SR-14, Antiques & Oddities is chock full of odds and ends from days gone by. I was in the area fairly early on my last visit and they weren’t open yet, but I’ll be back! Open daily from 10am – 4pm.
  • A performing arts center featuring live performances and theatre events, the Bingen Theater in downtown is a mainstay of local entertainment. They weren’t operating during COVID, but keep an eye on their website for upcoming events.
  • The Society Hotel looks very cool and I plan to stay there sometime soon. A converted schoolhouse featuring lodging in rooms, bunks and cabins, they also have a spa and bathhouse along with a cozy café and bar. (They also have a pretty cool looking location in downtown Portland.)
  • If you’re looking for local history and charm, check out the historic Joslyn House B&B in downtown Bingen. The oldest house in the Columbia Gorge, (c. 1860) the Joslyn House features multiple rooms with en suite bathrooms.
  • Bonus trip: The historic Columbia Gorge Hotel, located just across the bridge in Hood River is an absolutely beautiful hotel and spa – and it’s haunted! (So they say, but I didn’t see any ghostly visages during my Halloween stay.) Delicious dining, well-appointed rooms, beautiful grounds and a spectacular view of the Gorge – you can’t go wrong!

Since that afternoon meeting of mine was still looming in the distance, it was time to make my way back to the Seattle area. Goodbye enduring sunshine, gorgeous gorge views and towering mountains. Granted, I enjoy most of those things in greater Seattle (minus that whole enduring sunshine bit), but there’s just something so magical and unique about the way Klickitat County does it.

Since I was pressed for time and didn’t want to chance getting stuck in Portland area traffic, I decided to head back towards Goldendale on SR-14 and back out to US-97. Heading west on I-90 towards Seattle just felt like a better option overI-5 on a busy weekday morning. I ended up being very glad of that choice, even considering the never-ending construction on I-90.  

If you have a little more time on your hands, there are a few more ways to return to western Washington (should that be your destination) and some nice side-trips to enjoy along the way:

  • From Bingen and SR-14 take the Hood River Bridge (toll bridge) to I-84 West to Hood River and Portland. Get onI-5 in Portland and head back to the Seattle area. (Toll note: If you aren’t signed up with the BreezeBy toll-pay system, you can pay cash – or online within 7 days if you don’t have cash.)
  • From Bingen, head towards Skamania County on SR-14 and then I-205 towards Five Corners. (a suburb of Vancouver) Take I-5 towards Seattle and beyond. (Bonus trip: Located along SR-14, Beacon Rock State Park is a wonderful area to explore. Overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, this extinct volcano and surrounding area features great hiking, camping, boating and more. The switchback-filled hike to the top of Beacon Rock is an absolute must. (848-ft) Lewis and Clark camped here on their journey – both ways! (I will be covering this area further in my upcoming Skamania County article.)
  • Another great bonus trip while in the Skamania County area takes you to Oregon via I-84 and the Bridge of the Gods toll bridge. Once in Oregon, head for glorious Multnomah Falls and enjoy one of the Northwest’s most photographed and recognizable falls. To get back to the Seattle area from Multnomah Falls, go west on I-84 to I-205 or I-5 in Portland.
STOP
STOP. Stop and look at Mt. Hood before you go.

Well, I guess that wraps up my journey to Klickitat County. This version, anyway… There is so much to see and do in the area and so many opportunities for adventure packed into this relatively small county. I’ve visited several times in the past and I will definitely return many more times in the future. I can’t quit you, Klickitat County! I hope you will join me in appreciating this amazing part of Washington on one of your next adventures.

Until next time – happy trails!

California Poppy
Beautiful California Poppy on the Temani Pesh-wa Petroglyph Trail at Horsethief Butte

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Enjoy the scenery with my Klickitat County SPOTIFY PLAYLIST!

  • Feels Like Lightning – Josh Ritter (from Gathering)
  • Moon in the Water – Dawes (from Nothing is Wrong)
  • A Horse with No Name – America (from America)
  • Miles Away – Josh Ritter (from See Here, I have Built You A Mansion)
  • Wide Open Spaces – The Chicks (from Wide Open Spaces)
  • Only Prettier – Miranda Lambert (from Revolution)
  • Getting Ready to Get Down – Josh Ritter (from Sermon on the Rocks)
  • Newton’s Cradle – Sean Rowe (from New Lore)
  • Lonely Alone – Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson (from Threads)
  • Ticks – Brad Paisley (from 5th Gear)
  • Sin Wagon – The Chicks (from Fly)
  • Lonesome Town – Ricky Nelson (from Ricky Sings Again)
  • Life Is Beautiful – Keb’ Mo’ (from Just Like You/Suitcase)
  • Horse’s Mouth – Edie Brickell & New Bohemians (from Hunter and the Dog Star)
  • Beautiful World – Colin Hay (from Going Somewhere)
  • Dear Someone – Gillian Welch (from Time (The Revelator))
  • I Only Want to Be with You – Shelby Lynne (from Just A Little Lovin’)
  • World Spins Madly On – The Weepies, Deb Talan, Steven Tannen (from Say I Am You)
  • Wildflowers (Home Recording) – Tom Petty (from Wildflowers & All the Rest)
  • Travelers Paradise – The Cactus Blossoms (from You’re Dreaming)
  • Back in Your Own Backyard – William Galison & Madeline Peyroux (from Got You on My Mind)
  • The Life You Choose – Jason Isbell (from Something More Than Free)
  • Got a Lotta Love – The Cactus Blossoms (from Easy Way)
  • Bluebird – Jamestown Revival (from A Field Guide to Loneliness)
  • No Hard Feelings – The Avett Brothers (from True Sadness)
  • Mr. Policeman – Brad Paisley (from 5th Gear)
  • Baby Snakes  – Frank Zappa (from Sheik Yerbouti)
Free Range
Full-on free range!

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Check out more I Ate the State Adventures:

I Ate the State – Island County

Happy New Year from I Ate the State! I’m quite certain it’s going to be a good one – and chock full of Washington State adventure.

To start the year off in coastal style, I’d like to share my recent adventures to the beautiful shores of Island County. Comprised primarily of Whidbey and Camano Islands and located in the upper northwest part of the state, Island County is a wonderful escape from the mainland commotion any time of year. Full of history, sweeping prairies and shorelines, there’s something for everyone to enjoy on these lovely little islands. Holding court as the second smallest county in Washington (by area), one might think there wouldn’t be much to see and do, but they’d be entirely wrong.

True to its name, Island County is indeed a seafaring destination. That said, there are also routes which quite nicely accommodate the four-wheeled traveler. On my recent journey, I hit up the excellent Washington State Ferry system as well as the bridges connecting both Camano and Whidbey Islands to the mainland. One of these days I’d love to arrive via sailboat… #BucketList

Cama View
Looking out towards the Olympics from Cama Beach

To arrive in Camano Island, I drove north on I-5 and took Exit 212 leading to Stanwood. After following SR-532 through Stanwood, I crossed over moody Davis Slough and the Stillaguamish River via the Camano Gateway Bridge and officially entered Island County. For an excellent day trip from the Seattle area, consider a combo visit to both Camano Island and the Stanwood area. While adjacent to each other, they actually span both Snohomish County and Island County. Travel bonus! There are great restaurants, outdoor opportunities and lodging in both areas, making for a great day trip or weekend getaway. For this adventure, however, I was sticking to the gorgeous shores of Island County.

As one of the two largest islands making up Island County, it can be easy at times to forget you’re actually on an island. Filled with beautiful stretches of farmland and forest, Camano Island is an idyllic slice of Northwest living. Driving around the island is a wonderful way to spend the day and the glimpses you’ll catch of surrounding Possession Sound and Port Susan make for a perfectly picturesque road trip.

One of the first places I wanted to visit was the beautiful Kristoferson Farm. Perched on a hill overlooking scenic farmland, this sixth-generation farm (c. 1912 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places) features organic lavender, hay and fruit crops as well as the zip-line outfit, Canopy Tours NW. While I will admit to still mentally recovering from my jungle zip-line incident near Puerto Vallarta, I plan on returning to conquer my zip-line fears on Camano Island in the near future.

To highlight their bounty, they feature related products in their onsite farm store and gift shop. I picked up some delicious culinary lavender on my visit and have been adding it to various bakery and beverage experimentations ever since. Yum! They also host regular farm-to-table Dinner in the Barn events featuring northwest wineries and chefs as well as lavender craft classes. I do plan on making a triumphant return to zip-lining, but I’d be a liar if I said the barn dinners weren’t absolute tops on my list…

If you’re looking for a unique challenge, but zip-lining isn’t your thing, check out some AXE THROWING action just up the road at Arrowhead Ranch. They feature shared and private axe-throwing lanes as well as various workshops. In particular, their Live-Edge Charcuterie Board class is high on my list of things to check out. Wood-working shenanigans which include hors d’oeuvres and local wine? I’m IN! (I wonder if you drink wine while using power tools…)

While Arrowhead Ranch doesn’t offer onsite food or beverage, they do encourage the bring-your-own plan. Located nearby is the excellent Camano Commons, the local hub for restaurants, coffee, gifts and more. Some of the great options to check out:

There are many excellent spots from which to enjoy the shoreline views as well as Camano’s beautiful forested areas. Peoples of the Coast Salish Native American tribes have been visiting the island for thousands of years to harvest the bounty of seafood, berries and to benefit from the natural wonders. The area has been pivotal to the culture of native peoples as well as Euro-American settlers who began moving to the area in the mid-1800s. Driving, hiking, biking and boating around the island – whatever your mode of transportation – it’s easy to understand the appeal and importance of this beautiful locale.

During my own meandering around the island, I spent a bit of time exploring the lovely Cama Beach Historical State Park. Located on the western side of the island, overlooking the Saratoga Passage and onward towards the Olympic Mountains, the park is a true Camano Island gem. Long a destination for vacationing Northwesterners and included on the National Register of Historic Places, the park has been welcoming visitors to its beach-side cedar cabins since 1934. It felt a bit like stepping into a PNW version of the old-school resort in Dirty Dancing… (And remember: NOBODY puts baby in the corner!)

In addition to the Cama Beach Resort cabins, the charming park features a great picnic area, many miles of beautiful hiking trails, the seasonal Cama Beach Store and an events center. If boating is your thing, the Center for Wooden Boats offers boat-building classes and the park features a boat launch and rentals. (Row, sail and motor) And should cabin or outdoor cooking not be your thing, head to the Cama Beach Café for tasty dining options. (Open daily from June thru Labor Day and on weekends for breakfast/lunch, September thru May)

For further enjoyment of the Camano Island shoreline, stroll up the one-mile trail leading south to neighboring Camano Island State Park. (Or hit up nearby Lowell Point Road via West Camano Drive for a quick car ride) While this park also has a small handful of cabins, they feature a large camping area which accommodates both tent and RV camping. In addition to relaxing in the cozy campsites, check out the boating scene and perhaps do a bit of crabbing or saltwater fishing. And as is the case with all Washington State parks, a Discover Pass is recommended for park access. (Daily passes for $10 are also available onsite)

Since it was such a beautiful day on my visit, I opted for a little beach picnic to make the most of the sunshine. In addition to beach picnics, there are several other great dining options on the island. A few places to consider on your next Camano getaway:

  • Not too far from Camano Island State Park, Journey’s End Café (formerly Kara’s Kitchen) offers great burgers, pizza and more. Grab it to go and head back to the beach! They also host regular game nights and feature live music on weekends.
  • Located just across the way from the Kristoferson Farm, Rockaway Bar & Grill serves NW style fare featuring local ingredients. Fresh oysters, fish and produce make for some very delicious menu options.
  • If you happen to be visiting the island during the first weekend of the month and are feeling parched, check out Dusty Cellars Winery and Edward Lynne Cellars for a bit of wine-tasting enjoyment. (First weekend of each month – check websites for hours)
  • Should you like to extend your Camano stay and further enjoy the local scene, head north of Cama Beach State Park on West Camano Drive to the beautiful Camano Island Inn. They feature well-appointed rooms, stunning views and a great location from which to explore the island.

Pro tip: There are many great lodging options on the island – Hit up VRBO and Airbnb to peruse the many possibilities.

Camano Island is fairly large, but it’s still possible to cover the entire island on an afternoon drive. In pursuit of this goal, I was driving around the southern tip of the island, enjoying the views of Port Susan to the east, when I came upon the quaint Tyee Grocery and Farms. After picking up a coffee and quick snack, I continued down East Camano Drive, but was inspired to pull over not too far down the road. I spotted a few art installations and a very cool little lending library with a small, adjacent parking area. A beautiful drive, a little Art and some cool books – Nice! Definitely keep your eyes peeled while rambling around the island as there are great finds around so many of its corners.

Upon wrapping up my tour of Camano Island, it was time to head to neighboring Whidbey Island to continue my coastal adventures. Granted, I did end up making an additional trip to Whidbey Island on a later excursion, but it is absolutely possible to do a grand tour of both islands on a long day or weekend overnighter. That said, it’s hard to not to spend a little extra time in the Deception Pass area as it is positively stunning. And that’s exactly what happened on my first trip out…

Island County
Entering Island County! (As seen from Deception Pass Bridge)

If you happen to have a boat, (#LifeGoals) you can indeed head over the Saratoga Passage from Camano Island to get to Whidbey Island, the largest island in Washington State. The Saratoga Passage is a beautiful stretch of water and a popular section of the Puget Sound waterways. There are no ferries that go between Camano and Whidbey, but you can sometimes see private passenger boats like the Victoria Clipper cruising through both Saratoga Passage and Deception Pass when waters are rough in the nearby Strait of Juan de Fuca. There are also great whale-watching tours such as Deception Pass Tours which regularly travel through the area.

The Coast Salish and Lower Skagit tribes (Now recognized within the Swinomish Nation in neighboring Skagit County) have been stewards of these waters and islands for thousands of years. It’s easy to see how this beautiful, bountiful area could hold such importance to coastal living. Camano Island has many treasures to share, but with Whidbey being the larger island, the bounty is even more plentiful. It is entirely possible to enjoy sweeping forests, coastlines and wide-open prairies on a visit to Whidbey; All of these environments providing a wealth of resources to the enduring island community.

Since I wanted to drive over Deception Pass (on the National Register of Historic Places) to arrive on Whidbey Island, I took Exit 230 off I-5 North (near Burlington in Skagit County) to access SR-20. (SR-20 is also known as the North Cascades Highway or the spectacular Cascade Loop) Once heading west on SR-20, I followed the road until it turned off to the left, just before Anacortes. If you prefer a more seafaring route, take the Mukilteo/Clinton Ferry or Port Townsend/Coupeville Ferry and avoid the crowds of the I-5 corridor. (For another travel bonus trip, link your Island County adventures with Port Townsend and beautiful Jefferson County)

Crossing over Deception Pass is quite a spectacular experience. Whether via car, bike, or foot, it is a beautiful sight to behold. If you happen to be leery of heights, walking over it might not be your bag, but it is well worth the consideration. On my Ragnar Northwest Passage adventure, one of our runners had the opportunity to run across the bridge around sunrise and I’m sure it was amazing. I was traveling over the bridge in the team van at the time and even that was an amazing scene. (The sunrise. Not a bunch of stinky runners piled in a van… not as amazing.) I must admit, however, as much as I love heights, I was completely content to merely walk across the bridge on my own adventure. (Details of my actual bridge visit are included in my Skagit County article)

In addition to the bridge itself, Deception Pass State Park is truly beautiful and should be a must-visit on any list of Northwest destinations. Spanning both Skagit and Island Counties via the bridge, the park has a plethora of camping, hiking, boating, fishing and beach opportunities to enjoy. After becoming a state park in 1922, the Civilian Conservation Corps built roads, buildings and trails and many of the park structures are now on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s easy to feel you’ve stepped back into a quieter, less hectic era when visiting the park. (Check out the in-park CCCs Interpretive Center to learn more about the history of the park.) Don’t miss a visit to this spectacular part of the state! (For even more exploration of the area, stop in a few miles down the road at Deception Pass State Park’s sister park, Dugualla State Park.)

After enjoying the striking scenery of the Deception Pass area, I traveled further south along SR-20 towards the largest city on the island, Oak Harbor. Home to the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, Oak Harbor is a bustling and vibrant island community. The area is a fun place to explore as well as a center for tasty dining and fun shopping opportunities – and keep an eye out for the naval planes regularly flying overhead.

Naval Base
Just an everyday scene on SR-20 into Oak Harbor…

As you’re coming through town on SR-20, there are quite a few great dining options. All of that adventuring at Deception Pass can make one hungry and there are several great establishments to check out along the main thoroughfare. Just a few of the delicious options:

  • Stop in at Flyers Restaurant & Brewery for great local beers, tasty burgers and more. Located directly off SR-20.
  • Stock up on delicious smoked salmon at Seabolt’s Smokehouse off of SR-20 or hang out and enjoy their lunch and dinner menu. Their clam chowder and Penn Cover oysters are very tasty!
  • The hours are short, but a visit to Kau Kau Corner is well worth the timing. Specializing in Hawaiian comfort food, they offer tempting dishes such as Kalua pork and Spam musubi. (Mon-Fri, 11am – 4pm – Located directly off SR-20)
  • Don’t let the name fool you. In addition to great, organic coffee, Rock Island Coffee has a full menu which includes beer and wine. Check out their skillet mac-n-cheese! (Open ‘til 5pm, M-Sat and 3pm on Sundays)
  • If you’re looking for a classic Oak Harbor joint, check out Island Café, located directly off SR-20. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with a classic diner flair.
  • During the late spring and summer, stop in at the Oak Harbor Farmers Market and enjoy some great local produce and artisan goods. (Thursdays, 4-7pm, right off SR-20)

On any visit to Oak Harbor, it’s a great idea to visit the historic Main Street part of town. This waterfront area is filled with fun shops, great restaurants and regular events. It’s the heart of Oak Harbor and can easily accommodate a leisurely day on the town. The full-service Oak Harbor Marina is also located in this area if you happen to be arriving via boat. (#INeedABoat)

On your next visit to Oak Harbor, check out these great spots in the historic downtown waterfront area:

  • Not far before turning off SR-20 to head towards the waterfront, hit up Wicked Teuton Brewing Co. & Homebrew Supply for a tasty local brew or craft soda. This family and pet-friendly taproom is open daily at 11am – Check website for closing times.
  • There are several fun shopping stops to make in the downtown area. A couple of my favorites are the ridiculously cute Popsies with their excellent selection of treats and Purple Moon with their eclectic selection of gifts and more. And don’t forget to stop in at Whidbey Beer Works to peruse their large selection of specialty beers, ciders, wine and meads. (They also do occasional tasting events)

  • Grab a great cup of coffee for your stroll around the waterfront at Whidbey Coffee Co. In addition to their downtown location, they have 11 others in Western Washington. Fun fact: Contrary to their name, they are actually headquartered across the water in Mukilteo, whereas the excellent Mukilteo Coffee Roasters is based on Whidbey Island in nearby Langley. Shenanigans!
  • Closed for the holidays on my recent visit, Chris’ Bakery (since 1948) has been – and will hopefully continue – making delicious pastries, pies, cakes and more for many years to come. Their sweet treats are delicious, but don’t miss out trying their meat pies and amazing bread as well!

  • I enjoyed a tasty, diner-style breakfast on my last visit to Oak Harbor at the Riverside Café. Classic décor and a small, adjacent bar make this a cool spot to visit any time of day. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner)

  • On the finer dining side, head to Rustica Café & Wine Bar (Open at noon, 10am on Sundays for brunch), the Terrace Wine Bar and Bistro (3-10pm, closed Sun/Mon) and lovely Fraser’s Gourmet Hideaway (Tues – Sat, 4:30 – 9:30pm, closed Sun/Mon) for a tasty day or night on the town.
  • If you’re looking to celebrate all things Oak Harbor, be sure to hit up their annual Holland Happening International Festival every April. Pioneer Way and the waterfront is blocked off for craft and food vendors as well live music and beer gardens. (April 23-26, 2020)
  • If you’d like to work off some of that downtown decadence, head a little further towards the water and check out the Wildwood Farm B&B. This equestrian-friendly, 80-acre farm features horse boarding, instruction, training and indoor/outdoor arenas. Guests can also stay in a remodeled 1914 bunkhouse and enjoy beautiful walking trails during their stay. Dreamy!

Heading further south on SR-20 will bring you through some magnificent scenery. There are beautiful farms, pastures and sweeping vistas around every turn and one would be hard-pressed to get bored of the views. The drive itself is interesting, but there are several great stops along the way. One such destination is the awesome Blue Fox Drive-in Theater. Entertaining Whidbey Island since 1959, they feature movies, go-karts, concessions and arcade games. When was the last time you went to a drive-in movie?? Sigh…

In keeping with my, “Hmmm – maybe there’s something cool off in that direction – I should check” plan, I turned off SR-20 onto Hastie Lake Road. I had no idea where it would lead, but the landscapes were gorgeous and I thought maybe it would head towards the water. (But then, most paths on an island typically do at some point…) I’m very glad I did as the drive was stunning and beyond idyllic. Along the way, I passed lovely farmland and spots where I’m pretty sure time had stood still. Around one bend, I stumbled upon the charming Hennrich Tree Farm, busy in full-operation for the holiday season.

Not too far past the tree farm and much as expected, I reached the shoreline. Conveniently located at the intersection of Hastie Lake Road and West Beach Road was the tiny, but perfectly-positioned Hastie Lake County Park. Situated on the shoreline in between private beaches, it was a beautiful spot to pull over and enjoy the view and it brought back some wonderful, unexpected memories.

When I was very young, my family made a couple of visits to Whidbey Island to visit friends. (All the way from very non-coastal Eastern WA) I have vivid memories of their house overlooking the water and a cool rope ladder leading down the bluff to the private beach below. Standing on the shores of Hastie Lake County Park and looking down the beach at the homes overlooking the water brought me right back to my 5-year-old self. I remember being absolutely charmed by coastal living and can honestly say that nothing has since changed. Just dreamy…

Just as I’d hoped, it was both an easy and beautiful loop drive back to SR-20 beginning on West Beach Road. Once back on the highway, I continued south towards my next planned destination, Fort Ebey State Park and Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. I’d been wanting to visit these areas for quite some time and since there was a fortuitous break in the rain, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Pro tip: As helpful as on-board and mobile GPS can be, it’s always good to have a map or printed directions of the area on hand. It’s common to lose satellite or mobile connections in the more remote and forested areas – be prepared! And in the least, have a full tank, water and SNACKS at the ready. Mmm… Snacks…

The first area I visited was Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. On the National Register of Historic Places and the first National Historic Reserve in the US (established by Congress in 1978 and one of only three presently in the country), the entire area is a one of the most remarkable stretches of land in the state. (And beyond!) I’m sad I hadn’t visited sooner, but am completely grateful to have finally experienced this stunning, expansive beauty in person.

Driving up the access road, the view of gorgeous prairies began to stretch out in front of me as I gained elevation up the hillside. While the prairies expanded, so did the amazing view of the shoreline, making room for the glimmering skyline in the distance. The way the sun was lighting the horizon was exquisite and I can definitively say it was one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen.

Ebey Landing
Looking out towards the water from Ebey Landing

The Lower Skagit Tribe has been gazing out over these vistas for thousands of years with western settlements beginning to populate the region in the 1850s. One of the first homesteads was plotted by Whidbey pioneers, Isaac Ebey and his wife, Rebecca Davis. After having established himself in the Olympia area, Isaac brought his family over from Missouri to cultivate the sprawling farmland which is now known as Ebey’s Landing. Their home still stands along with defense blockhouses and acres of presently farmed area.

A leisurely hike through the area via the Ebey’s Landing trails is a must for any Whidbey Island visit and nicely showcases a landscape that has scarcely changed over the last few hundred years. Even just a drive up to the Prairie Landing Overlook to enjoy the coastal and farmland views is well worth it. (Located just across the road from Sunnyside Cemetery (c. 1865) and the Davis Blockhouse. Isaac Ebey and Rebecca Davis as well as Coupeville’s namesake, Thomas Coupe are laid to rest in this cemetery.)

Not too far north up the coast and included within the National Historical Reserve lies Fort Ebey State Park. If you’re up for camping, this is a great location from which to explore the area. Not only is there ample camping, the area is popular with paragliders and surfers and the beaches serve as great seaweed gathering spots in the spring. If you’d like to do some smallmouth bass fishing, check out lovely Lake Pondilla, found in the park’s interior. (Note: Until a recent double-check on my research, I was convinced the name was actually Lake PondZILLA. And that’s what I’ll be personally referring to it as moving forward… But hey, score one for double-checking your research! I had a whole backstory worked out in my head and everything! A fisherman must’ve caught a GIANT fish at some point and told his buddies he caught a Godzilla fish in the pond… Come on, it makes sense! I can’t lie – I feel a little let down…)

While visiting the park, be sure to check out the WWII era battery and gun emplacements. Bring a flashlight and snake through the darkened corridors of the island’s military history. Continue your explorations along the stunning Kettles Trail System which connects the park to the reserve as well as the epic Pacific NW National Scenic Trail. The views and vistas found along these coastal trails are gorgeous and not to be missed. (Even minus the Godzilla Fish…)

Just over from Fort Ebey State Park and off SR-20, lies the historic center of Whidbey Island, the ever-charming Coupeville. While not incorporated until 1910, it is actually the second oldest town in the state. (Steilacoom is the oldest incorporated town in the state) Western settlement began in the 1850s and was led by the city’s namesake, Captain Thomas Coupe. Serving as the county seat and featuring a wonderful, historic waterfront and wharf area (c. 1905), Coupeville is a wonderful town to explore and an excellent look into the evolution of Washington State. Be sure to stop in at the Island County Historical Museum located near the waterfront for an in-depth look at the area’s fascinating history.

Nestled alongside beautiful Penn Cove, Coupeville is fairly compact, making it easy to explore. That said, there are many treasures packed into its tiny downtown and it’s advisable to plan on spending at least a day in the area. The Coupeville Wharf (on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve, along with Coupeville in general), is a great place to start your explorations. The views of Penn Cove, downtown Coupeville and Front Street are picture-perfect and the subject of many a northwest photo op.

Grab a cup of coffee at Coffee on the Cove, housed inside the wharf building and enjoy investigating the interpretive displays and exhibits courtesy of the Marine Education Center. Also housed in the historic building is the funky Harbor Gifts shop as well as newly reopened restaurant, The Cove. (Formerly the Cove Café. Note: As of this writing, Yelp and Trip Advisor say they’re closed, but the new owners have recently reopened the spot…) When you’ve finished your visit, head back down to the sailboat you’ve moored nearby and enjoy the beauty of Penn Cove. (#BoatDreams)

Coupeville’s downtown Front Street is an absolutely delightful place to spend an afternoon. Packed into a few blocks are charming shops, restaurants and galleries, all nestled along the shores of beautiful Penn Cove. Consider checking out the walking tour offered by the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association or discover the area at your own leisure. Either approach will be filled with great finds and tasty treats. A few of the intriguing spots you’ll find along the way:

  • Located next to the wharf boardwalk, Collections Boutique features clothing, accessories and beach-themed gifts.
  • If you’re looking for a cool, local bookstore, check out Kingfisher Bookstore. The building, itself, constructed in 1874 is alone worth a visit and once housed the popular, Benson’s Confectionery. (c. 1915)
  • For all things quirky and hilarious, Far From Normal is the perfect stop. I picked up everything from vintage sheet music to soap and old school candies. Definitely my kind of place…
  • For a lovely selection of clothing, shoes, gift items, soaps and more, stop in at the very quaint Aqua Gifts.
  • Celebrate the NW Dutch influence at A Touch of Dutch. They feature Dutch foods and tasty treats, blue Delftware and more in their incredibly cozy shop.
  • Sporting an excellent view of Penn Cove, Front Street Grill offers tasty seafood and NW coastal dining in their lovely waterfront building. Try some of the famous Penn Cove mussels!
  • Take a break from exploring the shops and enjoy a nice glass of wine at the Vail Wine Shop & Tasting Room. A great glass of vino and an amazing view of Penn Cove – sign me up!
  • Oh, wow… the bread! Stop in at super cute and deliciously tasty Little Red Hen Bakery for fresh baked bread and bakery specialties. Community supported and island sustained!
  • Recently rescued and now under restoration, the Haller House provides a great look at Coupeville’s past. Built on the original land claim of Thomas Coupe, it is an important piece of Coupeville’s history and will be a fine re-addition to the Front Street scene.

For more great shopping and dining options, check out the blocks just above Front Street and the Waterfront area. There is also a nice public parking area adjacent to the Coupeville Library, located just past the Bayleaf shop…

  • The Bayleaf shop features the stuff of foodie dreams. Wonderful artisan meats and cheeses, specialty foods and a great wine selection. Grab things to go or order one of their amazing sandwiches to enjoy in-house.
  • Stop in at Currents Bistro for delicious NW-inspired fare and island ambiance. Featuring locally sourced ingredients, their dishes are delectable.
  • I’m going to have to return to Coupeville soon so I can again try to visit The Oystercatcher. I’ve heard many great things and was excited to stop in, but the line was literally pressed up against the door when I peeked in. Next time!! Mmmm… Oysters… (Their bread has such a following it inspired the creation of the aforementioned Little Red Hen Bakery!)
  • While their local lavender farm doesn’t re-open for the season until June, the lovely Lavender Wind Farm shop is open in downtown Coupeville. (Just across from the Oystercatcher) Walking into the store is like walking into the French countryside. Sigh… Along with a wide variety of culinary and home-based lavender goods, they also feature a coffee bar and baked goods. I greatly enjoyed their lavender caramels and can’t wait to get my hands on some more!
  • Check out Ciao for deliciously crafted pizza, salads and fresh seafood as well as a great lounge area and regular live music. Located just up from downtown on North Main Street.
  • Located on South Main Street, a mile of so west of the downtown core, Penn Cove Brewing Company is an excellent place to take a break. They feature tasty brews, a small menu and various weekly specials. (Also in nearby communities, Oak Harbor and Freeland)

The Coupeville area has many wonderful lodging opportunities, including several traditional B&Bs. You can’t miss the stately Anchorage Inn B&B on North Main Street, just before you enter the Waterfront area and the lovely Blue Goose Inn B&B can be spotted just before. The Compass Rose B&B, with its charming, minty green exterior can be found on South Main Street and for something a little less traditional, consider the rustic, shoreline cabins and rooms at the wonderfully unique Captain Whidbey Inn. They also feature a restaurant and tavern as well as accessibility via boat and seaplane! (Additionally, the drive there via coastal Madrona Way is beautiful!) If camping is your thing, Rhododendron Park, located in Coupeville proper, offers tent and RV camping and great access to local hiking trails.

Shellfish tip: If you’d like to try your hand at gathering some of the famous, local shellfish, the area near Captain Whidbey is wonderful. Check out the West Penn Cove and Twin Lagoons areas, located at the base of Penn Cove. West Penn Cove has clams, mussels & oysters (Mid-July thru Mid-Sept only) and Twin Lagoons has clams, mussels and oysters year-round. Be sure to check the DOH website on day of harvest to ensure the beach is open for shellfish harvesting.

There are already countless things to do in the Coupeville area, but they up the ante with several annual festivals in addition to many surrounding farms to visit and enjoy. A few more reasons to spend some time in Coupeville:

  • Celebrate the jewels of the area at the yearly Penn Cove MusselFest (March 7-8, 2020)
  • Celebrate the waters that host the jewels of the area at the annual Penn Cove Water Festival (May 16, 2020)
  • Many artists and craftspeople call the island home and a great place to check out their wares is at the annual Coupeville Arts & Crafts Festival (August 8-9, 2020)
  • Since 1946, Bell’s Farm has been providing delicious strawberries, produce and more to the island. Head over to their Strawberry Daze celebration in late June and stop by their Honesty Stand to stock up on baked goods, produce, eggs, lamb and strawberries.
  • Stop in at the 3 Sisters Family Farm (c. 1910) for all-natural, ethically and sustainably raised beef, pork, lamb and chickens. The beef and lamb are 100% grass-fed, the pork is fed barley raised on the Island and the chickens are cage-free. Visit their market for all products, snacks, local goods and beverages
  • For a great selection of goods from local farmers and artisans, head to the Coupeville Farmers Market for all things delicious. (Saturdays, April – Oct, 10am – 2pm)

Mirroring its sister, Fort Worden, across the way in Jefferson County, the fascinating Fort Casey Historical State Park is a must-add to your Whidbey Island itinerary. Built in the late 1800’s, Fort Casey, in combination with Fort Worden and nearby Fort Flagler (on Marrowstone Island), formed a very important part of the western US coastal defense network. It is easy to spend hours combing through the catacomb of bunkers and darkened corridors. (Don’t forget to bring a flashlight!) It is also easy to check out both Fort Casey and Fort Worden on a long afternoon. Just hop aboard the nearby Port Townsend/Coupeville ferry and you’re on your way! (Reservations are recommended for this ferry crossing.)

In addition to the military aspect of the park, be sure to pay a visit to the Admiralty Head Lighthouse and learn about the area’s importance to seafaring traffic through the years. There is also great camping, boating and saltwater fishing accessible from within the park and several excellent picnic areas to enjoy. If you’re more interested in checking out historic lodging and grounds, the Fort Casey Inn, located just down the road from the park, is absolutely beautiful.

Heading south on SR-20 towards Fort Casey State Park, the road becomes SR-525 when you hit the turn-off for Fort Casey. (SR-20 continues to and ends at Fort Casey State Park) Continuing south on SR-525 will shortly bring you to the completely charming Greenbank area. The drive is beautiful, showcasing beautiful forested and coastal scenery; a fine area to hit up for a weekend drive. In addition to the wonderful drive, there are several excellent spots to hit up in the Greenbank area. A few of my favorites:

  • It would be entirely enjoyable and advisable to spend an afternoon at historic Greenbank Farm. Beautiful gardens, trails, sweeping farmland, two galleries and glorious picnic ops await you on your next visit. Throw in a stop at the onsite Greenbank Farm Wine Shop and delicious Whidbey Pies Café and you might be there longer than the afternoon. The farm was actually a major stop on the Ragnar race trail and I can’t tell you just how much I enjoyed that giant piece of loganberry pie… WOW! (Mon-Fri, 11am – 6pm, Sat/Sun at 10:30am)

  • The beautiful Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens, located just south of Greenbank Farm on SR-525 is a lovely and colorful way to while away an afternoon. The Rhododendrons, Washington’s state flower, are glorious and plentiful when in bloom. (I keep looking at the name and seeing Meerkat Gardens, which would also be awesome. Just sayin’.)
  • Great wine, beautiful scenery and a relaxing atmosphere can be found at Holmes Harbor Cellars in the Honeymoon Bay area. (Check website for hours) They are also part of the Whidbey Island Wine & Spirits Trail and annual Red Wine & Chocolate Tour.
  • Don’t miss a stop into this tiny gem of a store. The Greenbank Pantry and Deli is chock full of delicious meats and cheeses as well as local specialty items, a deli counter, baked goods and more. Their Prosciutto Mozz sandwich was SO delicious! They also carry delicious bread from the Little Red Hen Bakery in Coupeville. (Closed Sunday)

A beautiful side-route in the Greenbank area can be found via South Smuggler’s Cove Road along the west side of the island. There’s a wonderful view over to Marrowstone Island in Jefferson County and glorious peeks into hidden coves and shoreline. We drove through this area as part of the Ragnar route and while I was glad to not have to run uphill through the area, I was more than happy to enjoy the scenery from my tired spot in the van. South Whidbey State Park is a nice place to stop along the way if you’d like to hike amongst some very large, old trees. There is sadly no camping due to tree disease, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying their beauty. One of the cedars is 500-years old!

Continuing south on SR-525 will bring you to the tiny town of Freeland. For as tiny a town as Freeland is, it is impressive how many cool antique and thrift stores they feature. The same could be said for cool spots to stop and grab a delicious beverage! Throw in a tasty meal and perhaps a stay at the local vegan B&B and you could have a most excellent adventure. A few places to check out on your next Freeland adventure:

  • If you’re up for a truly epic thrift store outing, don’t miss a stop at Senior Thrift, located just off SR-525. It’s remarkable what they’ve packed inside that building! Mutiny Bay Antiques and Red Rooster Antique Mall are both chock full of excellent finds and the Habitat for Humanity Store has amazing bargains to cover your home project needs and more. (Also in Oak Harbor)
  • For a tasty breakfast, lunch or dinner, head to the local staple, Freeland Café & Lounge. Big breakfasts (All day!), tasty burgers, delicious seafood and more have been gracing their tables since 1977.
  • Rocket Taco serves delicious traditional and “deluxe” tacos with all the accoutrements along with tasty margaritas in their cozy Freeland spot. They also have Mexican Chocolate Pots de Crème and Key Lime pie IN A JAR. YUM! (Closed Monday. Also located in Seattle on Capitol Hill!)
  • Take time to wet your whistle at one of Freeland’s fine beverage establishments. Blooms Winery & 5115 Bistro (Closed Tues/Wed, 11am – 8pm otherwise, Fri – 9pm) and Mutiny Bay Distillery (Mon, Thurs-Sat, 11am – 5pm, Sun – Noon – 5pm, Closed Tues/Wed) both offer wonderful wine and spirits – and the 5115 Bistro at Blooms is delicious. Nearby Dancing Fish Vineyards also has lodging should you want to have that extra glass of wine while enjoying a bit of live music. (Thurs, Sat, Sun, Mon – 11am – 6pm, Fri – 11am – 8pm, Tasting room closes at 5pm – Music in bar, 5:30-7:30)
  • Set on 70-acres of beautiful farmland, the Someday Farm Vegan B&B features lodging, walking trails and plenty of farm animals to commune amongst. (They ask you don’t bring animal products with you on your visit to the farm.)
  • Not too far from Freeland is the spectacular, 72-acre Earth Sanctuary. Designed by Chuck Pettis, the sanctuary features stone circles and sculptures, wetlands, a labyrinth, medicine wheels and more. They are presently working on an innovative 500-year Plan to restore the area to its original ecological and environmental best. (Open during daylight hours)
  • Just a little further south in the Mutiny Bay area off SR-525, the Double Bluff Beach & Off-leash Area features a lovely 4-mile round-trip walk along an extensive sandy beach for you and your pooch. There are few things more joyful than watching a dog experience the beach for the first time.

Country Roads
Country roads stretching out for miles…

Nearing the end of my trek across the island, I landed in the lovely town of Langley, known affectionately as The Village by the Sea. Long an important location for trade, resources and artistic endeavors on the island, it remains a mainstay of activity today. If you are heading to the island from the Seattle/Mukilteo area, it is also the first larger town you’ll come to after disembarking in nearby Clinton.

Forged largely of the will and determination of young immigrant, Jacob Anthes, Langley began development in the 1890s and became an incorporated town in 1913. The town continued to grow (including the rabbit population due to a 4-H fair display going amok) and has thoroughly established itself as a vital link from the mainland to Whidbey Island. To learn more about the history of Langley and its founding father, stop by the South Whidbey Historical Museum, housed in a logger’s bunkhouse constructed by Jacob Anthes in 1902. (Interesting note: Jacob Anthes was founder of the unique Whidbey Telecom, still in business and one of the only US telecom companies to have always been privately owned and operated. They were also the first telecom company west of the Rockies to offer Internet services via phone in 1994. All hail the Internets!)

Langley is an excellent and easily accessible get-away from the fast-paced mainland, just 40-minutes away. There are many wonderful things to see and do in the Langley area as well as many delicious restaurants to try. On my recent trip to Langley, I arrived in the evening, so dinner was tops on my to-do list. I happened upon the iconic Bayview Cash Store building (c. 1924) and was very drawn in by the scene. I’m SO glad I stopped as it’s a veritable treasure trove of shops, restaurants and art. A few of the places to check out on your visit:

  • On my recent visit, I was very in the mood for fresh seafood and good beer. The Taproom at Bayview Corner deftly filled both needs and beyond. The delicious crab cakes were accompanied by a very unique and tasty jicama slaw which I’ll fully admit to attempting to recreate at home. Delicious! It should also be noted their tap list is great. They even had my all-time favorite Belgian-style (By way of Quebec’s Unibroue) beer, Maudite on tap. Dreeeeaaaaamy…

  • The charming Farmer & the Vine features a large wine selection as well as small plates and live music.
  • Not only do they serve delicious doughnuts, Whidbey Doughnuts also offers all-day breakfast and tasty sandwiches – including a Monte Cristo. (Note: I’m ever-vigilant and always on the lookout for a good Monte Cristo. Because they are DELICIOUS.) (Sunday thru Wednesday, 6am – 3pm, Thursday thru Saturday, 6am – 8pm)
  • Every July through September, the Island Shakespeare Festival keeps the island entertained with the Bard’s prolific words. The festival headquarters are housed inside the Bayview Cash Store. Pop in and learn about the festival as well as enjoy the revolving art displays inside the main lobby and stairwell areas, hosted by onsite Front Room Gallery.

  • Sharing a parking lot with the Bayview Cash Store is the Bayview Farm & Garden and Flowerhouse Garden Café. The shop, gardens and café, along with the wonderful old farm buildings and community hall make for the quintessential island farm scene. (Café open 8am – 4pm, Garden Store open 9am – 6pm, Mon-Sat, 5pm on Sunday)

  • Situated just past Bayview Farm & Garden lies the excellent Orchard Kitchen. Not only do they serve locally-sourced, seasonal menus featuring their onsite farm, they also host regular cooking classes in their kitchen. Cool! (Open Thurs – Sat in fall/winter and Thurs – Sun in spring/summer)
  • In addition to being a general hub of awesomeness, the Bayview Cash Store also hosts regular street dances during the summer as well as the Bayview Farmers Market on Spring/Summer Saturdays. (April 25 – Oct 16, 10am – 2pm, 2020. Keep an eye out for special Holiday Market hours during the winter months.)

In addition to the great beverage options available at the Bayview Cash Store, there are many other places in the Langley area to enjoy a tasty libation or great cup of coffee. A few of the great spots to check out while you’re visiting the Village by the Sea:

  • If you’re a fan of berries, don’t miss a visit to the lovely Whidbey Island Distillery and its 9-acre estate located just off SR-525. Try their famous liqueurs, particularly the blackberry and be sure to sample their great Rye. (Open daily, 11am – 5pm)
  • In addition to a lovely glass of wine in their tasting room, Comforts of Whidbey Winery also features lodging in their 6-room Bed & Breakfast. Set atop the tasting room with views of the vineyards and Puget Sound, it’s completely justified to include “comforts” in the name. (Thurs/Fri – 1-6pm, Sat – 11am – 6pm, Sun – Noon – 6pm)
  • Stop in for wine and a cabaret show at Ott & Hunter Wines in the heart of downtown Langley with great views of the water. If they don’t already, I deeply hope they feature “Cabernet & Cabaret” evenings. It seems only fair… (Sun-Thurs – 1-8pm, Fri/Sat – 12-10pm, closed Wed)
  • If you’re visiting Langley on the weekend, stop in at Spoiled Dog Winery for a glass of delicious Pinot Noir in their tasting room and enjoy the idyllic surrounds of their estate. (Sat/Sun, Noon-5pm, outside food and non-alcoholic beverage welcome in the outdoor seating area.)
  • Located in the heart of downtown with a great view, Village Wine Shop & Tasting Room offers tastings, a well-stocked selection in their wine shop and regular events. (Wed – Sun, 11am – 6pm)
  • Also found in the lovely downtown area, Double Bluff Brewing features several of their tasty beers in their tap room and cozy outdoor seating area. Kid and dog friendly, outside food welcome. (Mon-Thurs, 3pm – 8pm, Fri/Sat, 2pm – 8pm, Sunday – 2pm – 7pm)
  • For the caffeine lovers in the bunch, Whidbey Island has no shortage of great options. Head to Useless Bay Coffee in the downtown area or Mukilteo Coffee Roasters located near Whidbey Airpark for a delicious cup o’ joe and tasty eats.

Mukilteo Coffee
Excellent coffee from Mukilteo Coffee Roasters!

It is very easy to find a delicious meal in Langley. The downtown area holds the key to many a tasty night (or day) out with a good variety of options from which to choose. Some of the excellent spots to hit up on your visit to the Village by the Sea:

  • Set in a quaint location in the downtown area, The Braeburn features locally sourced ingredients and delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner. Their Bloody Marys and Eggs Benedict (w/crab!) are fabulous and the atmosphere, welcoming and relaxed.
  • Featuring an outdoor kitchen in the back and a beautiful view, Portico Latin Bistro serves cuisine inspired by Mexico, South America and the Caribbean as well as delicious sangria and a great wine list. (Closed Mon/Tues)
  • A good friend and fellow foodie regularly visits Langley and highly recommends the French-inspired Prima Bistro. I haven’t been able to visit as of this writing, but it is high on my list for the next visit. The menu looks amazing and there’s the matter of an Absinthe service they offer… Yes, please!
  • Fresh oysters, clams, mussels, crabs and MORE can be enjoyed at the downtown Saltwater Oyster Bar. Add in delicious clam chowder, oyster po’ boys and hand-cut and battered fish and chips… Yowsa!! Oh, and their ‘Whale Tale Mary’ with its house Mary mix, jumbo shrimp, oyster and salmon jerky? I’M IN!!
  • If you’d like to meet the purveyors of the delicious local goods you’ve enjoyed during your Langley outings, stop by the seasonal Langley Farmers Market located in the downtown area on Frick Lane. (Thursdays, May – August, 2pm – 6pm) If you happen to be in town on a Sunday, pay a visit to the incredibly cool South Whidbey Tilth Market for all things organic. (May – October, 11am – 2pm)
  • I personally believe it is hard to dispute the deliciousness of ice cream and the importance it plays in happy living. Sprinklz, located in the downtown area, serves the key to said happy living as well scores major bonus points with their arcade area. (If you happen to be heading for the ferry, don’t miss their sister location in neighboring Clinton.)

Arcade hot tip: Continue your downtown arcade crawl at the amazing Machine Shop. Featuring vintage pinball and arcade machines as well as the new hotness, the Machine Shop is a step back into your gloriously misspent youth. (Translation: I spent way too many quarters on arcade machines in my glory days… But whatever.) They also feature live music, comedy and other entertaining events on weekends.

Langley has long been known for its eclectic and broad Arts scene. The stunning beauty of the area makes it completely understandable and the artistic inspiration, endless. Even if you’re simply taking photos with your phone, the Langley and greater Whidbey Island area is captivating. Here are just a few of the ways you can explore your artistic side on your next Langley visit:

  • Entertaining the cinema-goers of Whidbey Island since 1937, the Clyde Theatre is still going strong. Regularly showing first-run features as well as hosting special film and community events, the Clyde continues to be beacon of the island Arts scene.
  • Stop in at Museo when in downtown Langley and enjoy their beautiful displays. All manner of fine art from regionally and nationally known local artists can be found on display in this lovely gallery.
  • Enjoy beautifully crafted jewelry, rugs, textiles and more from around the world at the eclectically curated Music for the Eyes in downtown Langley. The owners regularly travel around the world to bring back unique treasures for their shop.
  • If you fancy yourself a prolific solver of crimes, head to the 36th annual Mystery Weekend in February. (Feb 22-23, 2020) On Saturday morning, a crime scene and murder are announced and it’s your job to discover clues in stores, around town and from costumed townsfolk. The “crime” is solved on Sunday afternoon and prizes are announced!
  • If you love Jazz, particularly the catchy jangle of Django Reinhardt, don’t miss the annual Djangofest Northwest every September at the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds. (Organized by the excellent Whidbey Island Center for the Arts) In addition to a celebration of Jazz, there are concerts and workshops of all variety. Fully immerse yourself in the scene and camp at the fairgrounds while enjoying great food and ongoing jam sessions. (Sept 23-27, 2020)
  • Everyone loves a great county fair and Whidbey Island certainly represents. Head to the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds in July for the annual Whidbey Island Fair. Food, farm animals, displays, rides and more greet you in this charming, island fairground. (July 16-19, 2020) Don’t miss the annual Country Christmas event every year around Thanksgiving!

To make the most of your Langley visit, there are several great lodging options and ways to enjoy the beautiful island setting. It is of course entirely possible to make an excellent day trip of Whidbey Island and I’ve done it many times. However, having the luxury of waking up on this very welcoming island is a truly wonderful thing. In addition to the scores of excellent Airbnb and VRBO listings for island lodging, consider adding these great spots to your list:

  • While I haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit, the Inn at Langley is high on my dream-stay bucket list. Upscale lodging, spa services and locally-sourced tasting menus which include table visits from the chef make this a pretty special place to experience. A reliable foodie friend told me it was “the best place he and his wife had ever stayed…” I completely trust him, but I’m looking forward to investigating the delicious scene myself…
  • Just a short stroll from the downtown core and located directly on the water, the Boatyard Inn is a wonderful escape from city life. Located next to the South Whidbey Harbor/Marina, it’s a great spot to drop in your kayak or moor up your boat. Enjoy a glass of wine and the stunning water views from your private deck. Sigh… For kayak rentals as well as info about guided tours and more, stop in at nearby Whidbey Island Kayaking for details. (Opens seasonally in March)
  • If you feel like pitching a tent or swankin’ out in your RV while in the Langley area, head to the nearby Whidbey Island Fairgrounds campground area. The fairgrounds are within walking distance of the downtown core and provide ample room and campsite amenities to make for a comfortable stay.

Ferry
The Clinton ferry arriving in Mukilteo

I hate to admit it, but I don’t often stop in the small town of Clinton. It’s not fair, but I’ve gotten too accustomed to breezing through Clinton on my way off or onto the ferry. (Granted, sometimes there isn’t much breezing, per se, if I happen to be stuck in a long ferry line.) However, even if it’s only because you’ll be spending a bit of extra time waiting for the ferry, Clinton has some great spots to check out and is well worth exploring. And you can’t beat that shoreline view! I’ve officially promised myself to spend more time getting to know the Clinton area…

Pro tip: Sunday afternoons and early evenings can be fairly busy for the ferry. Plan your travel schedule accordingly.

There are many wonderful places to grab a bite and enjoy the view. On your next stop in Clinton, be sure to consider these great locations:

  • Bringing the tradition of the Scottish Isles and Highlands to Whidbey Island, Cadee Distillery & Tasting Room produces several delicious whiskies out of its Clinton distillery. They recommend calling ahead to visit the tasting room. I very much enjoy their Cascadia Rye Whiskey – very tasty! Located very close to the ferry terminal and just off SR-525.
  • Visit the Cultus Bay Distillery on the southern tip of Whidbey Island, just south of the ferry terminal. The tasting room is open daily from 11am – 4pm, but it’s recommended to call ahead to tour/taste. If you happen to miss them, they also set up at the seasonal Bayview Farmers Market on Saturdays. They offer several varieties of spirits, but their Irish Poitin whiskey is particularly interesting.
  • Located just a little north of Cultus Bay Distillery, is Ogres Brewing. (Taproom – Thurs – Sat, 3-7pm – Also featuring gaming and music events) Stop in and enjoy some Ogress Blonde on tap or head over to the very unique, island institution Bailey’s Corner Store and enjoy a pint at the onsite beer garden.
  • Specializing in an international mix of noodle dishes such as Pad See Ew (my favorite!), Mac-n-Cheese and German Späetzle, Island Nosh is a great spot to grab a meal and tasty beverage. Located close to the ferry terminal and just off SR-525. (Winter hours: Mon-Tues, 3:30 – 8pm, Wed-Fri, Noon – 8pm)
  • Set in a building constructed in 1900 and operating as Cozy’s Roadhouse since 1932, this classic Whidbey Island restaurant offers great pub-style food featuring local and NW ingredients. Open daily at 11am and located just off SR-525 near the ferry terminal.
  • If you’re thinking of making Clinton a jumping-off spot for your Whidbey Island adventures, consider a stay at The Quintessa. This large estate overlooking the water features rooms in the main house as well as a lovely cabin. It is also possible to rent the entire estate for larger gatherings.

As I drive onto the welcoming decks of the ferry to Mukilteo, I bring this chapter of my ongoing Island County adventures to a close. There is a special feeling experienced only in the island communities of Washington State that will always bring me back. The amazing combination of history, people, forest, ocean and the Arts is intoxicating and I can’t imagine ever tiring of it. Regardless of wherever I am in the state – or in the world – Island County will always be a place to which I will continue to return and enjoy. And one of these days, I’ll return to its shores… on my boat! (#FutureBoatOwner)

Happy New Year – and GO EAT THE STATE!

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Check out my Island County playlist on SPOTIFY

  • Here and Whole – Joan Shelly (from Cost of the Cold b/w Here and Whole)
  • This Sky – The Derek Trucks Band (from Songlines)
  • The Last Drive – Michel Bisceglia (from Bluebird)
  • The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress – Radka Toneff (from Some Time Ago (A Collection of Her Finest Moments))
  • Around and Around – Mountain Man (from Sings John Denver)
  • Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding – Jesse Winchester (from Love Filling Station)
  • The Carnival of the Animals, R.125: The Swan – Camille Saint-Saëns, Lucille Clifton, Bill Murray, Jan Vogler (from New Worlds)
  • On A Marché Sur la Lune – Anthony Strong (from Me and My Radio)
  • The Fear – Los Lobos (from The Fear)
  • I Forgive It All – Mudcrutch (from 2)
  • Short Trip Home – Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall, Sam Bush, Joshua Bell (from The Essential Joshua Bell)
  • Putty Boy Strut – Anat Cohen, Jason Lindner, Joe Martin, Daniel Freedman (from Luminosa)
  • Unconditional Waltz – Calexico (from The Thread that Keeps Us – Deluxe Edition)
  • The Fox – Laura Veirs (from Hello I Must Be Going)
  • Can’t Find My Way Home – Blind Faith (from Blind Faith)
  • Everyone Knows – Mipso (from Old Time Reverie)
  • It’s Hard to Be Humble – Willie Nelson w/Lukas Nelson & Micah Nelson (from Ride Me Back Home)
  • As – Becca Stevens (from Regina)
  • Roll On – The Little Willies (from The Little Willies)
  • Sailing – Christopher Cross (from Christopher Cross)
  • Beautiful That Way – Noa (from Beautiful That Way)
  • I Don’t Worry About A Thing – Most Allison (from I Don’t Worry About A Thing)
  • All Some Kind of A Dream – Josh Ritter (from All Some Kind of A Dream)
  • Tempelhof – Yann Tiersen (from All)
  • Jeannine, I Dream of Lilac Time – Gene Austin (from The Best of Gene Austin)
  • An Old Guitar and An Old Refrain – Roger Wolfe Kahn (from Collection: 1925 – 1932)
  • Sweet Little Mystery – John Martyn (from Grace & Danger)
  • Buckets of Rain – Bob Dylan (from Blood on the Tracks)

West Beach
A beautiful coastal view from West Beach at Deception Pass State Park

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Check out more I Ate the State adventures:

I Ate the State: Whatcom County

Greetings!

Whatcom County corners the market on gateways. Not only does it provide stunning, waterway access to the Puget Sound, it grants passage to some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in North America. Throw in the actual Peace Arch gateway to Canada and you’ve got the triple crown of sightseeing. This, in addition to an interior filled with vibrant history, city life and beautiful countryside makes it an excellent place to visit any time of year.

There are many ways to arrive in Whatcom County. The main thoroughfare of Interstate-5 is typically a fairly efficient route, but don’t discount the many smaller highways and scenic byways which lead to and around the county. This applies to travel into Canada as well. The Peace Arch entrance, located on the 49th Parallel (north), off of I-5 is a great place to cross the border, but don’t forget about the smaller Sumas and Lynden crossing points. (Interesting fact: While there are only a few official points of entry between Canada and Washington State, Whatcom County shares its entire northern border with Canada.)

Peach Arch Park
One of the Whatcom County gateways between the US and Canada – Peach Arch Park in Blaine

I’ll be covering many of the highways and byways of Whatcom County throughout the article, but let’s first focus on the northernmost part of the county; the tiny, but nationally important town of Blaine.

Set directly on the US/Canada border, it’s fairly safe to say that most Washingtonians are familiar with Blaine for this very reason. Relatedly, I must sadly admit to never having spent much time in the area. If I’ve found myself in Blaine, it’s because I’m lingering in the long line of cars waiting to cross into Canada. (I-5 becomes BC Highway 99 in Canada.) Aside from participating in last year’s Ragnar – NW Passage race, which starts at the Peace Arch Historical Park, I haven’t stopped in to visit Blaine proper. I hereby swear to include Blaine in my future visits to the northern wilds of Washington and Canada.

Downtown Blaine is a lovely destination and a great place for strolling along a historic waterfront area. Quaint shops, tasty restaurant fare and great views of historic Drayton Harbor can easily fill an afternoon. Should you be visiting during the first weekend of August, check out the Drayton Harbor Maritime Festival & Tall Ships for music, food and all things seafaring.

If you’d like to extend your stay in the area, hop aboard the historic Plover Passenger Ferry, operating out of scenic Blaine Harbor Marina during the summer months. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the oldest foot passenger ferry in the state, the Plover can accommodate 20 passengers (including bikes and dogs) on its 25-minute crossing to Semiahmoo Spit. (Named for the Semiahmoo First Nation, the original inhabitants of the area.) It departs on the hour from the Blaine Visitor’s Dock at Blaine Harbor (Gate 2) and on the half-hour from the Plover Dock at the Semiahmoo Resort. Check out the world-class resort for its golf course, spa services and great dining at the Great Blue Heron Grill and Packers Kitchen & Bar. When in the area, be sure to also visit Semiahmoo Park for beautiful views of Semiahmoo Bay and great beach strolls. (Note: Semiahmoo Resort is accessible by boat, car or seaplane)

PeachArchPark
Looking out to Semiahmoo Bay from the Peace Arch Historical Park

Back on mainland Blaine, there are several interesting dining and shopping options to explore. Antiques, boutiques and more can be found in the waterfront area and nearby Blaine Marine Park offers great water views with nice areas for picnicking and beach-combing.

A few of the cool spots to check out while visiting downtown Blaine:

  • Check out the Drayton Harbor Oyster Company for incredibly fresh oysters, to stay or take out. Additionally, they have oyster stew, local beer and wine and a great view of the water. (Closed Tuesdays – check website for hours)
  • For homey breakfast and lunch fare, stop in at downtown Peace Arch City Café & Bar for a relaxing respite from your exploring. (Tues-Sun, 7:30am – 3pm)
  • Take in the extensive wine list at The Vault Wine Bar in downtown Blaine. Along with being an events space, they also feature a great restaurant. (Wed-Sun, 3pm – 9pm & 10pm on Fri/Sat)
  • Located in downtown Blaine, Café Rawganique is a tasty vegan café and bakery with a lifestyle store on the side. Grab an organic vegan sandwich and a cool pair hemp jeans – all in one spot!
  • NW favorite, Woods Coffee can be found in several locations around Whatcom County. The spot I recently visited while refueling for Ragnar was located at Birch Bay Square. I didn’t realize just how much I needed an Americano that morning…
  • Located on a farm just outside of Blaine, Atwood Ales brews French and Belgian style saison and farmhouse ales. They grow their own hops and fruit on their farm and produce some very tasty beverages. While they aren’t open to the public, they do occasionally have events such as chef’s nights and tours. Check out their website for upcoming events. Locally, they can be found on Saturdays at the nearby Bellingham Farmers Market.

Just south of Blaine, off of SR-548 lies the little beach town of Birch Bay. It can be somewhat sleepy during the off-season, but that also makes for some pretty peaceful beach strolling. I’ve visited both during the summer and off-season and have always had a lovely time. Birch Bay is a great location all on its own, but as it’s fairly close to Bellingham, it’s also a great jumping-off point for Whatcom County adventures.

Birch Bay
Great memories from a family vacation a few years back!

If you’re looking for lodging in the Birch Bay area, I’d recommend finding something close to Beachcomber Way. It’s the main road along the beach and is at the heart of coastal activities. (Including the Ragnar course!) A few options for your stay:

  • The area has several vacation club condos and on a recent stay with my brother and company, we hit up World Mark Birch Bay. It was located on Beachcomber Way and was incredibly convenient for maximum beach visitation. In addition, there are quite a few great Airbnb’s in the area as well as lodging in nearby towns such as Bellingham and Blaine.
  • Should you prefer the comfort of camper or tent, check out beautiful Birch Bay State Park on the bluff overlooking the beach. It’s a very large park with camping, boating, beach access, clamming, crabbing and more. On my last visit I saw several groups clamming and it looked like they were bringing in quite the haul. And don’t miss taking a stroll along the beach areas of the park – beautiful!
  • If you’re in the area during the first weekend of August, head to the Birch Bay Music Festival for music, food, craft vendors and beer/wine gardens. (7/31 – 8/2, 2020)
  • Head to the yearly Birch Bay Discovery Days for music, family events, food vendors and something called EXTREME CHAINSAW! Bring your biggest chainsaws. (8/29-30, 2019)
  • Traveling with kids? Hit up the Birch Bay Waterslides for summer fun in the sun. Waterslides, pools, concessions and more. (Open summers – Early June thru Labor Day)

There are several places to eat and shop along Beachcomber Way. The area is particularly alive during the warmer months, but several places are open year-round. Next time you’re in Birch Bay, consider these spots:

  • While only open during the summer, The C Shop makes the most of the warm weather. Offering delicious homemade candy and treats, along with pizza, sandwiches on house-baked bread, coffee drinks and ice cream, they’ve got everything you need for a sunny day. Their Turkish Delight is particularly delicious!
  • Located directly next door to The C Shop, The Beach Shack is tiny, but packs a punch with a quirky assortment of gifts, souvenirs, antiques and more.
  • Stop in at The Boardwalk Restaurant for breakfast specialties, fish-n-chips, burgers and outdoor seating with a view at this popular Birch Bay spot. (Check website for hours)
  • Found just across the street from The C Shop, the kitschy Birch Bay Café serves breakfast and lunch as well as baked goods and coffee. In addition to their menu, they have a gift shop and also rent bikes, kayaks and paddle boards. (Closed Mondays – check website for hours)
  • For waterside dining with outdoor seating and a great view, check out the newly reopened and remodeled Bay Breeze. Seafood, burgers and more! (They were forced to close in December after a strong storm brought waves crashing through their windows!)

A little further south off of I-5, we come to the small town of Ferndale. There are many lovely things going on in the Ferndale area, but I immediately think of two things: The crazy beagle I live with, Finley from Ferndale, and running my first leg of the Ragnar race. Since neither of these items are likely on your list, let’s explore a few of the other cool things about Ferndale. (But come on – who couldn’t love such a deviously smart beagle like Finley?? A deviously smart beagle who began her life on a small farm in Ferndale…)

In addition to goofy beagles and running out of breath during Ragnar, Ferndale offers many excellent adventures and distractions. Just a few of the cool things you can check out while in the area:

  • I had such a fun time hanging out at Pioneer Park, managed by the Ferndale Heritage Society. It’s a unique, educational and entertaining way to spend an afternoon. During my visit, I had the pleasure of learning more about the area from the very charming tour guides, James and Julie. Dressed in period garb, they gave me a very detailed description of the various structures as well as a great insight into local Ferndale history. (Check out the tiny museum upstairs in the Parker House/General Store.) Make time to visit the well-maintained and restored village and enjoy your step back in time. I’ve been told their annual Olde Fashioned Christmas – Christmas in the Woods (Dec 6-8) is a great bit of winter fun and I’m looking forward to checking it out!

  • Just south of downtown Ferndale lies the spacious Hovander Homestead Park. Packed into 350 beautiful acres are the historic Hovander House (Tours available), the Hovander River trail (1.9 miles), a boat launch, a FRAGRANCE GARDEN and barn and farmyard displays. Pack a picnic and plan on spending a glorious day exploring the area. Don’t forget to include a visit to adjacent Tennant Lake Park for excellent bird-watching and a lovely boardwalk trail.
  • Don’t miss the annual Bellingham Scottish Gathering, put on by the Scottish Dance Society at the beginning of June. It takes place at Hovander Homestead Park and is a great day of Scottish games, piping, haggis and more. Och aye!
  • The annual Ferndale Street Festival hosts a great weekend of downtown fun. Live music, food and craft vendors, a car show and a PIE EATING CONTEST are just a few of the features. (Aug 23-24, 2019)
  • Stock up on local produce and artisan wares every Friday afternoon at the Ferndale Farmers Market in downtown Ferndale. (Fridays – 2-6pm, June 14th – Oct 11th)

More gratuitous shots of Finley…

Adventures and distractions can make one hungry. To fuel up after your Ferndale explorations, check out these great eateries:

  • I am always on the hunt for a good tamale. New Mexico Tamale Company in downtown Ferndale definitely fills the bill with their tasty selections. Be sure to try the traditional pork tamales made with Hatch chile! (Closed Sundays and Mondays)
  • Check out the great wine selection and tasty made-from-scratch Italian fare at Leader Block Wine Co. & Eatery on Main Street. They also feature great cocktails, regular live music and special event dinners.
  • While not necessarily common these days, I maintain it IS possible to make an entire meal of cheese. And maybe a good bottle of wine… If you concur, head to Twin Sisters Creamery and indulge in their delicious cheese selection. They also host tastings, tours and events. Check out their October Cheese & Brews for a tasty sampling of their cheese along with local beer. (Oct 30th)
  • If you can’t get enough delicious cheese, stop by Appel Farms and do a tasting in their cheese shop – or try a grilled cheese sandwich at their café. Come on – a creamery-to-table grilled cheese sandwich? It doesn’t get much better than that. (Tues-Sat, 11am – 6pm)
  • Check out Ferndale’s first commercial brewery, the newly minted FrinGe Brewing. They feature regular food trucks at their taphouse and are family and dog friendly. (Closed Mondays)

Heading further south from Ferndale (Exit 260 – Slater Road, off I-5), will bring you to the lands of the Lummi Nation and nearby Lummi Island. On my way to check out Lummi Island, I noted the Silver Reef Casino Resort, directly off of Slater Road. Not only that, I discovered there was a Skippers restaurant located inside the Lummi Bay Market in the same parking lot as the casino. Who am I to ignore both a casino and a Skippers? While I wouldn’t consider Skipper’s to be fine seafood dining, it does remind me of Tuesday nights in the ol’ Tri-Cities and “all-you-can-eat” at the local Skippers. Nostalgia… And come on – you get Jell-O AND coleslaw with your fish basket. Score! But should you not be up for a quick Skippers stop, check out The Steak House in the casino for a more leisurely affair.

Just across the water from the Lummi mainland sits lovely Lummi Island. Take a quick, 20-minute ride on the Lummi Island Ferry and enjoy the solitude of this most peaceful and relaxing locale. (The passenger/Car ferry – leaves every 20 minutes from Gooseberry Point.) This tiny community features a thriving Arts scene, beautiful shorelines and a whole lot of blissful quiet.

There are quite a few Airbnb opportunities on the island, but The Willows Inn is a great place to check out for more traditional lodging. They also feature upscale dining, spa services and additional off-site lodging opportunities. Just across the way from the inn is beautiful Sunset Beach. Overlooking Rosario Strait and nearby islands, it provides an enjoyable and serene way to while away the hours.

As Lummi Island is relatively small, there aren’t a lot of dining options available. That said, the Beach Store Café offers lunch and dinner along with regular live music, a great happy hour and various events. (Their hours and days open vary with the season, so be sure to check their website for details.) If you’re more in need of wine tasting, hit up the Artisan Wine Gallery for a sample of their wares. (Fridays and Saturdays)

Also happening on Saturdays – and a great way to pick up local specialties – is the Lummi Saturday Market. (Marketplace Field 10am – 1pm) Stock up for a picnic and hike up Lummi Mountain via the Baker Preserve Trail to take in the beautiful views of the neighboring San Juan Islands. And if you’re like me and love peonies, don’t pass up a stop at Full Bloom Farm to enjoy their many varieties as well as seasonal organic produce. They can also be found at their Farm stand which is open year ‘round. (You can even stay on the farm!)

Lummi Beach
Beautiful shore finds of Lummi

Nestled against Bellingham Bay and the Salish Sea, the eclectic city of Bellingham is at the core of Whatcom County commerce and culture. Serving as both the county seat and largest city in Whatcom County, Bellingham is a busy and vibrant hub of activity. (Also the largest, northernmost city in the contiguous US.) Often included on many “best of” lists such as places to visit, live and retire, Bellingham is brimming with things to do and areas to explore. EatLocalFirst is a great resource for things to do, sample and experience in the area and features events such as the Whatcom County Farm Tour (9/7 – 9/8), Culinary Adventures and the Fall Fruit Festival (10/5 – 10/6) to help show off the area’s bounty.

In complement to being nestled between beautiful coastal and mountainous regions, Bellingham prides itself on environmental stewardship and a large variety of outdoor pursuits. Filled with parks, trails and all things lush and green, the area is a nature lover’s fantasy land. A few of the beautiful outdoor areas to visit in and around Bellingham:

  • Visible from I-5 while driving south of Bellingham, Lake Samish is surrounded by tree-filled hillsides, with a community of homes dotting its shores. (Hillary Swank grew up in the area and Ryan Stiles presently lives on the lake.) Adjacent Samish Park has a nice day lodge for events, small public docks and a couple of nice trails alongside and above the lake. I took the Lakeshore Loop Trail and very much enjoyed the lakeside view, including the beautiful lily pads and cute picnic areas tucked into the trees. I’d always wondered about the big lake you could see from I-5… Now I know!

  • Iconic Whatcom Falls Park is a great place to enjoy deep, forested valley scenery, all within a few minutes of the downtown area. Don’t miss a photo-op next to the historic bridge and be sure to breathe in the fresh air while strolling on the Whatcom Creek Trail. (Pop Culture Note: I was very entertained to rock down to turn onto Electric Avenue to get to one of the park’s entrances. Additionally, someone in the area has It’s A Trap as their Wi-Fi name. HAA!)

  • Located just SE of Bellingham, the 10-mile long Lake Whatcom serves as both a great recreation area as well as the county reservoir. Lake Whatcom Park is an excellent escape from the daily grind, especially as experienced from one of its spectacular trails. Hertz Trail (Parking areas 1 or 2) and the newly updated Chanterelle Trail (Parking area 2) are two of the favorites in the area. Additionally, nearby Stimpson Family Nature Reserve and Lookout Mountain Forest Preserve (Just south of Whatcom Falls State Park) offer many trail options and much beautiful scenery.
  • While not your traditional nature trail, walking around the beautiful campus of Western Washington University could easily be considered a day hike. Surrounded by forest and beautifully landscaped grounds, it’s a great place to commune with nature, not to mention pursue a stellar education.

Speaking of trails, Bellingham has many types to offer. For instance, the Tap Trail and corresponding Tap Trail Passport are fine ways to explore the local brewery culture. Whatcom County overall hosts an excellent brewery scene and it would be a shame not to visit a few on your next adventure. Some of the great spots to beat a trail to in the Bellingham area:

  • Great food, great beer (all organic!) and a very cool space make Aslan Brewing Co. an excellent destination for lunch or dinner. They also have a nice happy hour! I particularly enjoy their seasonal Das Boot. (They also have a great taproom in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood)
  • Located just around the corner from Aslan Brewing Co., Schweinhaus Biergarten features a great outdoor beer garden, long happy hours and tasty German pretzels and brats from their outdoor, wood-fired oven. (Family friendly – dog friendly)
  • Should you want to branch out from beer, head to Chuckanut Bay Distillery, located in the heart of downtown. Housed in a great old building that used to be JC Penney, they feature several award-winning spirits. Check out their bourbon and seasonal 110 proof Krampus (Closed Tues/Wed)
  • Situated directly across from the Farmers Market, the popular Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro features a great menu which includes deviled eggs, classic meatloaf, bangers and mash and more. And two very important words about their taproom Hoppy Hour: TABLE BACON ($1/slice – Hoppy Hour in the taproom only). They are family friendly and the beer garden is dog-friendly.
  • Close to the Whatcom Co. Museum and tucked just off Prospect Street, family-friendly Bellingham Cider Co. is an excellent place to stop in for cider, food and a great view of the Waterfront area. Their menu features an outdoor pizza oven, chicken & waffles, spaghetti w/browned butter and crab and more. I particularly enjoy their Dry Cider and the Blackberry Ginger Cider. (Closed Mondays)
  • Not too far from Bellingham Cider Co., the tasty Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen (North Nut location) features a great beer selection and a full menu with tasty sandwiches, burgers, seafood and more. If you enjoy lighter beers, I love their Kolsch and Vienna Lager. Family friendly. (Check out their South Nut location in nearby Burlington, mentioned in my recent Skagit County article)
  • With two Bellingham locations, Kulshan Brewing has much to offer the area. The beer hall, found north of downtown on James Street is family (and dog!) friendly and hosts regular food trucks and live music. The main taproom/brewhouse is located across I-5 in the Roosevelt neighborhood and features great outdoor seating, food trucks and live music. (This location is 21+) Check out their tasty Premium Lager and Pilsner brews.
  • Closely located to the Kulshan beer hall on James Street, Twin Sisters Brewing offers a tasty beer selection along with Saturday/Sunday brunch and a menu featuring sandwiches, burgers, small plates, tacos and cocktails. Check out their delicious Dufel-Sach Belgian-Style Golden Strong. (Tasting room closed Monday, but the restaurant is open. Family friendly.)
  • When wandering through the downtown area, head to Wander Brewing and sample their tasty beer selection. The large brew hall, set in a historic downtown building, features local food trucks and is family friendly. They’re also located just a few blocks up from an excellent sandwich shop, Sandwich Odyssey. (Across from Bellingham High School)
  • As an alternative to the beer scene, check out downtown Honey Moon Alley Bar & Ciderhouse for mead, cider and cocktails. They also feature a light food menu and regular live music in their intimate space, located off State Street alley, behind Pepper Sisters. (Great New Mexican restaurant – Closed Mondays, dinner only. They have mashed potato rellenos!)

Bellingham is a very walkable – and bikeable – city. It’s possible to explore much of the downtown and Waterfront areas all within a comfortable afternoon’s worth of walking or biking. (Including important stops at breweries and eateries along the way.) For an interesting trip around the historic buildings, murals, art installations and more, check out the Self-guided Story Maps courtesy of the City of Bellingham. (Also available for Bellingham’s predecessor city, Sehome, nearby Fairhaven and Highway 99)

Even without a map, it’s easy to have a very interesting, informative and delicious walk just by parking downtown and heading off in any direction. The Bellingham Farmers Market (Saturdays, 10am – 3pm, Apr – Dec) is a great place to start. They have an excellent selection of local goods and a covered hall for those rainy northwest days. Just a few blocks away, heading towards the water and Port of Bellingham are several more blocks of great trails to walk and sights to check out. The city of Bellingham has a long term plan to expand and revitalize the waterfront area and they are making visible strides towards their goal.

A few of the cool areas in the waterfront part of town:

Bellingham has a quirky sort of charm. They’ve got their own thing going on and the downtown area celebrates this individuality with great restaurants, museums and more. To experience some of the unique flavors and flair of Bellingham, consider these options:

  • Laying claim to the title of “oldest continually operating café and cocktail lounge in Washington State,” the iconic Horseshoe Café (c. 1886) features local ingredients and a menu filled with comfort food classics. Tasty cocktails, a good tap list and open late.
  • If you’re craving Russian dumplings (they’re delicious!), head over to Pel’meni in the University district for a tasty experience. They offer a small menu, but who needs more when you have PEL’MENI to serve?! Open late!
  • For delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner in a funky, cozy downtown space, check out Cosmos Bistro. Inventive dishes, a great happy hour and locally sourced ingredients make this a fine stop on any downtown excursion.
  • The Old Town Cafe has a regular line out the door for their delicious breakfast and lunch fare. The current ownership has been serving tasty food to Bellingham residents for nearly 25 years and here’s to hoping the trend continues. (The space has actually been a restaurant since the early 1900s and known as the Old Town Café since 1967) They feature in-house baked goods, locally sourced ingredients and a great communal setting. They also host a free Thanksgiving dinner every year!
  • Old school cocktails and hot dogs, set in a historic downtown building with space-themed decor? What’s not to love?? Orion has a good happy hour, pool tables and they’re open late!

With all of Bellingham’s deep and eclectic history, it’s no wonder they have several excellent museums and antique stores to visit. Next time you’re in the area, bone up on your local knowledge at these great stops:

  • Guarding over the downtown skyline, the Whatcom Museum and its corresponding Lightcatcher building feature wonderful exhibits of Bellingham and surrounding area histories and more. The main museum is housed in Old City Hall and is itself an important piece of Washington State history. (First site in the state to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places)
  • The very unique and innovative Mindport features fine art and hand-built interactive exhibits. Located just around the corner from the Spark Museum, it’s a great way to spend an entertaining and interactive afternoon; especially as a combo pack!
  • Get a fully-charged, up-close look at all things electrical at the Spark – Museum of Electrical Invention in the heart of downtown. Check out the Mega Zapper with its 4 million volts (AKA: Nikola Tesla’s Lightning Machine) and listen in on local KMRE 102.3 FM, the independent radio station operated out of the museum. (Or online at org)
  • Head past the iconic rocket ship installation on Holly Street and hit up any of the great antique stores in the area. (Note: The rocket ship sits in front of the now-closed Rocket Donuts. A sad loss for donut lovers everywhere.) Penny Lane Antique Mall (10,000 square feet!), Vintage 360 and Bellingham Bay Collectibles are great shops to explore while in the area.

The Arts are alive in Bellingham and there are many options for expanding your artistic horizons during your visit. Just a few of the great places to help you enjoy the scene:

  • Owned by actor Ryan Stiles, the Upfront Theatre features regular improv comedy shows as well as improv classes. Put your comedic skills to the test!
  • On the National Register of Historic Places the Mount Baker Theatre (c. 1927) used to be a vaudeville theatre, but now features a variety of Arts and entertainment. Shows include the classic Phantom of the Opera (1925 silent film version) played with a live score on their in-house Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ, Warren Miller’s Timeless (11/9) and the 20th Annual Mt. Baker Film & Arts Festival. (11/1)
  • The new Sylvia Center for the Arts features theatre, music and dance performances as well as rehearsal and teaching space for Bellingham’s thriving Arts community.
  • Head to the Bellingham Festival of Music for beautiful classical music including orchestral premiers, string quartets, chamber music, world-class soloists and more. (July 3-24, 2020)

Soapbox
Stand on a soapbox and speak your mind! (Located across from the Farmers Market in downtown Bellingham)

Just south of Bellingham lies the endlessly charming Fairhaven Historic District. Founded by “Dirty” Dan Harris in the late 1800s and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Fairhaven is a wonderful place to spend a long weekend – or longer. Great restaurants, shops and a gateway to scenic Chuckanut Drive make it a must-visit – and very walkable – destination any time of year.

While strolling about this quaint area, keep an eye out for one of the many murals featured on town buildings. Along with Bellingham, the Fairhaven area sports wonderful murals by artists such as Northwest favorites, Lanny Little and Henry. (Check out the largest hand-painted mural in Washington State at the Bellingham Subaru dealer by artist, Henry) I particularly love how Lanny Little painted himself into one of the murals located in the lovely Village Green, located in the center of town. Nice to be able to recognize an artist for their talent…

Fairhaven has no shortage of great restaurants, pubs, bakeries and dessert spots to check out. On your next visit, add these establishments to your list of places to visit:

  • Grab a bite from one of the visiting food trucks or bring your own to enjoy with one of the tasty locals brews at Stones Throw Brewing Co. They’re family and dog friendly and regularly feature live music.
  • For the ultimate in dog-friendly watering holes, stop by Paws for a Beer and enjoy a pint. They even kindly allow humans who might not have their dogs with them. For more info on grabbing a beer with your furry buddy, check out their dog membership (21+)
  • If you’re up for a delicious burger, hit up the eclectic Filling Station in downtown Fairhaven. Using local ingredients, including custom-made buns from local bakery, Avenue Bread they know how to rock a good burger, not to mention a tasty cocktail. (Also in the Sunnyland neighborhood of Bellingham)
  • My new friends, James and Julie from nearby Pioneer Park in Ferndale, highly recommended Fairhaven Fish & Chips in downtown Fairhaven. Located in the center of downtown and run out of an authentic British double-decker bus, they serve some pretty tasty fish-n-chips, indeed.
  • Featuring breakfast, lunch and dinner, Skylark’s Hidden Café is a great Fairhaven stop. Throw in award-winning chowder, a great happy hour menu and Jazz on Monday nights and it’s hard to ignore this cozy scene.
  • There is never a time I’m not up for fresh crepes – never! Mount Bakery Fairhaven is the place to go if you, too, heed the call of the delicious crepe. Also serving a multitude of scratch-baked goods along with a full breakfast and lunch menu. Yum! (Additional locations can be found in downtown Bellingham and the Bellingham Farmers Market)
  • Named after Fairhaven’s founder, Dirty Dan Harris’ Steakhouse in downtown Fairhaven has been serving delicious steak and local seafood for the past 44 years. (Closed Mondays. Open at 5pm, Tues – Sun) And if you’d like to further celebrate Dirty Dan, check out the annual Dirty Dan Harris Festival at the end of April.
  • The iconic Colophon Café, with entrances on 11th Street and off the Fairhaven Village Green, offers hearty soups, sandwiches, burgers and great coffee and baked goods. The building (c. 1891), with its (haunted) upstairs ballroom and 1900s hand-operated elevator remnants in downstairs dining area is a gem in and of itself. There is said to have been a speakeasy in the building during the Prohibition era. Cool!
  • Directly next door to the Colophon Café and another icon of the neighborhood, Village Books & Paper Dreams offers a wonderful selection of books, gifts and more. (Also in nearby Lynden)
  • For a nice spot of tea and a British-inspired lunch or afternoon tea, stop by Abbey Garden Tea Room in downtown Fairhaven. Located in the same space is CreativiTea where you can paint your own pottery and enjoy a lovely cup of tea. (Also in Lynden)
  • I am indeed sad about Rocket Donut’s departure from the Bellingham/Fairhaven food scene. However, the fact that ACME Ice Cream has opened their new flagship store in the old Rocket Donut Fairhaven location definitely helps to soothe my soul – and beyond! To say I am addicted to ACME Ice Cream is an (embarrassing) understatement. It is the best ice cream EVER and I’d eat it every day if I could! (Well, I certainly could, but the adult side of me vigorously argues as to whether I should…) Made with local ingredients in the nearby town of Acme, it has a dense, taffy-like consistency that is unlike any other ice cream I’ve tried. It is DELICIOUS. (Great. Now I need/want some ACME Ice Cream… Shut up, adult side!)