I Ate the State – Snohomish County (Part II – The Sea Side)

Alllllllllrighty! We’re back with more Snohomish County action!

If you haven’t checked out Part I – The Mountain Side, give it a read HERE.

*A quick note if you’re reading this on 5/11/19 and are in or around the Mukilteo area:

May 11th is Opening Day of flying season at Kilo-7 and the Historic Flight exhibit. (Fully restored/operational planes from 1927 – 1957.) Most importantly, you’ll get to bid bon voyage to their Douglas C-47B/DC-3 as it departs at 3pm for Normandy, France to participate in the 75th anniversary of D-Day. WOW!!

And now back to regularly scheduled programming…

For the second part of my excursion, I visited the “sea side” area of Snohomish County. This part of the county is easily accessible from many points off I-5 as well as many excellent backroads; a collection of which are referred to as the “The Seaside Loop.” For this portion of my adventure, I decided to head north via I-5 and start my loop tour in the small town of Stanwood.

As Stanwood is on the way to Camano Island, it can sometimes be taken for granted as a thoroughfare to the Salish Sea, also commonly known as the Puget Sound. (Note: Camano Island is part of Island County, an area of which I’ll be soon covering!) While Stanwood is indeed the gateway to Camano Island – and Camano Island is a beautiful place to visit – don’t count out Stanwood! There are many reasons to spend a bit of time wandering around the area.

A mix of Native American heritage, Scandinavian traditions from mid-1800s settlers and a good bit of easy-going, coastal charm, Stanwood is a delicious combination of flavors. Initially coined “Centerville” in 1866, it became Stanwood in 1877 after the maiden name of the postmaster’s wife. It was well-situated as a trading post with its position at the mouth of the Stillaguamish River, where it flows into Port Susan and the Skagit Bay and it remains a pivotal location today. In 2009, Stanwood gained an Amtrak train stop in the downtown area, further cementing its ongoing relevance and accessibility.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of Stanwood, check out the D.O. Pearson House Museum in the downtown area. Home to Stanwood’s first mayor and built in 1890, it’s a beautiful Victorian “period house museum” and remains quite grand to this day. (On the National Register of Historic Places) Who doesn’t love a good museum??

For further adventure through the historic downtown center of Stanwood, consider adding these places to your list:

  • Get your glogg on at the Uff Da Shoppe located in the quirky Viking Village, just off the main route through town, SR-532. Stock up on Scandinavian foods, housewares, collectibles, GNOMES, holiday goodies and MORE! (Dad – they have gnomes!)
Uff Da
They’ve got gnomes!
  • Just a block behind Viking Village, you’ll come to the first section of old-town Stanwood. The street is lined with several shops and restaurants to check out. One of my favorite stops was Polska Kuchnia, a delicious Polish restaurant featuring all the Polish hits. I tried the pierogis, stuffed cabbage and farmer’s cheese cheesecake – all topped off with a Warka blackcurrant radler. Suffice to say, I was stuffed. (Like the cabbage – ba-doom-ching!) But that doesn’t mean I didn’t also make room for some delicious cupcakes from Stanwood Cupcakes, just down the street. YUM!! (Okay, maybe I waited to eat them later in the day. Maybe.) Note: Many of the shops are closed on Sundays.
  • Just a couple blocks up, you’ll find the Stanwood Farmers Market. Stock up on fresh produce and other tasty treats – enjoy the local bounty! (June 6 – Oct 11, Fridays – 2p – 6p)

Heading further west on SR-532, you’ll pass by the more recent additions to Stanwood – the newer chain restaurants, grocery stores and assorted retail shops. Stanwood has all the modern conveniences, but don’t miss out on the next section of old-town Stanwood, about a mile west on SR-532. An entire day of exploring could very easily take place within a couple square blocks…

  • Located about a block off SR-532, the Stanwood Hotel & Saloon (c. late 1890s) is a cool spot to grab a meal – or an overnight stay in their haunted They feature pub-style food, live music on weekends, period-decor rooms and it’s in walking distance to the great old building of Stanwood – including the D.O. Pearson House Museum. And it’s haunted!
  • If you’re looking for classic diner fare in a classic diner setting, head to the Stanwood Café – about a block away from The Stanwood Hotel & Saloon.
  • Crow Island Farms offers rustic, farm-to-table dinners in old-town Stanwood – Just across from the Stanwood Hotel & Saloon and down from the D.O. Pearson House Museum.
  • Should shopping be on your list, there’s a cute antique shop, Brick Road Antiques (Closed on Sundays) near the Stanwood Café as well as the urban-funky, Urban Trends. They have an online store, too!

There’s something to be said for getting outside and enjoying the fresh air and Stanwood has no shortage of opportunities. The Stanwood Camano Fair is the state’s largest community fair and takes place the first weekend of August. (8/2 – 8/4) Also in summer, the city hosts free movies in the park at Church Creek Park and concerts in the downtown area – as well as the Stanwood Camano Summer Arts Jam, July 12-14. (Watch the city Events page for more information and official dates.)

Since I wasn’t traveling onto Camano, I turned off SR-532 onto the scenic Pioneer Highway and headed towards the little town of Silvana. The Pioneer Highway is a great trip in and of itself if you’re into beautiful farmland, winding curves, old barns – that kind of thing. (Gross!) To drive the entire stretch, enter via Exit 208 off I-5 or at Exit 221 to Conway, further north in Skagit County. It’s definitely one of Washington’s more wonderful backroads – and a great pick for motorcyclists.

Directly off the lovely Pioneer Highway lies the equally lovely and very tiny town of Silvana. Packed into its small bit of township are several worthwhile stops to make. You could in fact head home with the ingredients for a pretty amazing farm-to-table meal from just a quick Silvana visit. Some of the places to hit up:

  • Stop by Willow & Jims Country Café for the classic, country diner scene. It seemed like the entire town of Silvana was there when I visited. Popular place! Serving breakfast and lunch from 7a – 3pm. (Closed Monday/Tuesday)
Silvana Five and Dime
There’s stuff in there I NEED!
  • Snohomish County is well known for its strawberries. That said, they’re also growing some pretty amazing blueberries, too! Check out Hazel Blue Acres for U-pick blueberries – and hazelnuts! (Note: Check their hours before you go as they have special hours during the off-season.)
  • Head to Silvana Meats for all the meats! Locally sourced meats, fresh sausages, ham, Landjäger, jerky, BACON, pickled herring – you name it, they’ve got it! They’ll also process your wild game, duck, goose and fish!
  • Heading out of Silvana proper, all one block of it, you’ll come to the Old Silvana Creamery, located on Pioneer Highway East. I will admit to not being a super huge milk fan, but they have me intrigued. They specialize in raw milk from grass-fed Jersey and Guernsey cows and people rave about it. (As opposed to the common Holstein cow.) Very interesting…

After exploring Silvana and ooing and awing over the truly gorgeous countryside, I headed back towards I-5, down south to Exit 206 and west towards the North Lakewood area. I was specifically heading towards Lake Goodwin and towards the coastal Marine Drive, but was pleasantly distracted along the way by more beautiful scenery, idyllic old barns and picturesque farm scenes. The small town of North Lakewood is located along SR-531 and offers the usual modern conveniences, but I was most drawn to the scenery past the city hub as I drove closer towards Port Susan.

My first stop was at Lake Goodwin Community Park for some beautiful lake views and then nearby Lake Goodwin Resort to check out their cabins, RV park, boating and rental opportunities. Between the two properties, it’s possible to spend a very enjoyable few days – or more – in the area, soaking up the lake vibes, boating, swimming, water skiing, jet skiing and MORE! There is some serious fun-in-the-sun to be had in the Lake Goodwin area.

If you’re up for a meal and a good cocktail while you’re in the area, check out The Paddle Club for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s located directly along SR-531/Lakewood Road and is a good place to relax after a sunny visit to Lake Goodwin. Sure, the area is ripe with opportunities for picnics on the lake, but just know there’s a sit-down, cocktail-friendly option right across the road…

Paddle Club
Stop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

A little further up Lakewood Road, you’ll come to the junction of 92nd Avenue NW. Take a left and make a quick jog onto 176th Street NW and you’ll hook up with Marine Drive. It’s possible to take this coastal-hugging road from Stanwood all the way to Marysville, but there are a few points to sync up to it from other areas along the way. It’s a gorgeous, winding drive and it’s worth a trip alone to make. And just like nearby Pioneer Highway, it would be exceptionally nice on a motorcycle…

Not too far south on Marine Drive, you’ll come to the beautiful Kayak Point County Park and their awesome Yurt Village. (They have a regular, drive-in campsite section, too!) Stay in a cool yurt, hike down to the beach looking out over Port Susan, take in a spectacular sunset, get in some fishing or crabbing and maybe bust out some windsurfing – Come on – who doesn’t want in on this?? I know I do. Pretty much all day, every day… Sign me up.

Since I was doing the “Seaside Loop,” I continued south down Marine Drive to where it meets up with I-5 in the Marysville area. It’s a beautiful, tree-lined drive with views of the water peeking through here and there, as well as gorgeous stretches of pastures and farm land as you get closer to the I-5 corridor. Between Marine Drive and the Pioneer Highway, it’s the perfect lazy weekend drive…

As you drive along Marine Drive, you’ll enter the lands of the Tulalip Reservation. The Tulalip Tribes are comprised of descendants of the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish and other allied tribes who were signatories of the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott. The treaty is a lands settlement between the US government and Native American tribes of the Puget Sound area in what was then known as the Washington Territory. Noted signees of the treaty include Chief Seattle, Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens (I attended Isaac Stevens Junior High) and Chief Patkanim. To learn more about the Tulalip Tribes, visit the excellent Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve for an in-depth look into tribal histories, lands and customs.

Before leaving the Tulalip area and heading back down south, I might have hit up the Tulalip Resort and Casino, located just off 1-5. And I might have won (or lost) a few dollars… I’ll never tell. But what I will say is the Tulalip Resort and Casino is quite grand and if you’re looking for a quick shot of that Vegas vibe without leaving the state, they can hook you up. Nice onsite lodging, a spa, great restaurants, entertainment and opportunity to win (or lose) a little cash…

Further south on I-5, you’ll come to several exits for county seat of Snohomish County, Everett. Since Snohomish is quite large, this trip definitely required several days of hard-hitting “research” and for the Everett portion, I brought along one of my dearest friends and longtime travel buddies, Emily-Suzanna. We’ve hit up some pretty amazing places around the world together, but it was time to do some exploring in our own backyard. Plus, we can handle each other for long periods of time, cooped up in a vehicle together without punching each other. Bonus! And whenever someone joins me on a quest, we get to sample WAY more tasty foods and beverages… Road trip buddies for the win!!

To make the most out of Everett and the most out of our day trip, we got an early start. Even on a sunny day, the area between Edmonds and Everett can get foggy in the morning, making an eerie start to the day. The Union Slough is a marsh mudflat area on the way to Everett and early in the day, there’s often low-lying layer of fog covering the area. It can certainly feel a bit haunting as you make your way up I-5 – into the misty embrace of adventure… (I’ll be right back. I think I need to go drink tea and read some Tolkien.)

If you’d like to explore the slough and observe all of the great wildlife and water birds, the Union Slough Mitigation Bank & Trail is accessible off of I-5 or downtown Everett. Also in the area are the Langus Riverfront Park and its two loop trails and the bird-watching haven of Spencer Island.

Union Slough
An eerie morning on the Union Slough near Everett

Our first point of investigation was downtown Everett. Covering roughly 10-blocks, the downtown core is filled with businesses, restaurants, entertainment and a great collection of historic buildings. The Historic Everett Walking Tour, courtesy of our friends at the Granite Falls Historical Society, is a cool way to check out the scene. Click here to get started with your smart phone adventure!

Since it was still relatively early in the day, I was convinced I needed more caffeine to fuel the adventure. I’d hear about a great coffee shop downtown called Narrative Coffee so we made it our first stop – and I’m absolutely glad we did. It’s a cool space in an older building with exposed brick walls, an open-air design and a super friendly staff – And the coffee was excellent! I’m a devoted lover of coffee and have tried a variety of styles, beans, add-ins, etc. over the years, but I’ve settled back on either an Americano or Espresso Con Panna. (w/extra whip. Duh.) On this occasion, however, I was inspired to try their mocha made with Ritual Chocolate and I have no regrets. It was delicious and just what I needed to perk me up in the foggy morning.

Feeling alive and ready for adventure, we walked up a couple blocks to the amazing, over-the-top, glorious, SUPER FUN, spectacularly kick-ass Funko Headquarters & Store. If you’re unfamiliar with Funko, they make the collectible block-headed figurines modeled after all things pop culture and beyond. (Golden Girls figurines anyone??) In addition to selling pretty much all of their figurines at their store, they also feature an impressively large variety of collectible gear from movies, sports and more. A visit to the Funko store is like a visit to the pop-culture mothership! They even have a section of the store where you can custom-make your own Funko doll. And even if you don’t want to nerd out over their wares, they also feature the most elaborate displays inspired by movies, comic books – you name it – all around the store. It’s a store AND a pop-culture museum – and fun for ALL ages. If you can’t find something you love at Funko, I’m worried for your soul. (Special props to Emily for helping me differentiate between want and need while perusing the Funko treasures. For the record, I did put a few things back. Because I know I’ll be returning. Heh heh.)

If you’re hanging out downtown, Everett has a variety of eateries. A few places to check out while you’re in the area:

  • Head over to Capers & Olives if you have a passion for delicious pasta, seasonal dishes and local ingredients served by a knowledgeable staff. (Owner/Chef Jimmy Liang has credits including Café Juanita, Serafina and The Herb Farm) Closed Sundays.
  • If you’re looking for a dive bar with loud, live music and a good burger, check out Tony V’s Garage. They’ve also been known to host School of Rock concerts on weekend afternoons. (All ages) My nephew played his very first gig there, in fact. Kind of weird to see a 15-year old playing behind a chain-link fence in a bar, but hey – get ‘em rockin’ out young! (PSA: It was all on the up and up. NO underage drinking took place – or any other teenage shenanigans. Other than 15-year olds bustin’ out Led Zeppelin… Quite nicely, I might add. Aunt Dayna was proud!)
  • Cookies, cakes, fresh bread, pastries, macrons, sandwiches… If any of these made-fresh-daily items sound tasty, stop in at Choux Choux Bakery and get your bread on!
  • If you’d like to enjoy a sauna and some delicious Pelmeni (And who doesn’t?), hit up Downtown Banya for all your Russian spa – and cuisine – needs. (Closed Tuesdays)
Capers & Olives
Delicious pasta at Capers & Olives

Everett has an extensive waterfront area, as well as one of the west coast’s largest marinas, Port of Everett Marina. (Important note: They allow live-aboards at this marina – something not available at many NW marinas. And one day I WILL live on a boat…) There are many things to do, restaurants to appreciate and views to enjoy on the waterfront. We had a great time investigating the scene during our Everett adventure. A couple of the highlights – and more:

  • Scuttlebutt Brewing Co. is located near the marina, looking out towards the water. They have great beer, make excellent cocktails (try the Bloody Mary!) and feature a varied menu of very tasty treats. They also host events and recently featured a very unique afternoon filled with Baby goats and Pints! I had hoped to check it out and was unable, but my friend and co-worker, Kara attended got to snuggle up to an adorable 2-day old baby goat. Awwweee!
  • Just next door to Scuttlebutt Brewing, you’ll find Bluewater Organic Distilling. My dear friend, Lorrie was pretty bummed not to be with me on this adventure as she raves about the place. It’s understandable given their great organic spirits, distilled onsite along with their tasty cocktail and bistro menus. Enjoy one of their cocktails from their patio seating while looking out over the Everett Marina and waterway.
  • During the summer months, check out the free Music at the Marina They run Thursdays and Saturdays in the summer with children’s concerts on Thursday mornings.
  • For an enjoyable day on a sandy, mini-island, take the free ferry over to Jetty Island. Lounge on the beach with a picnic, build a sandcastle or try a bit of kite-boarding. A few important items of note: There are no cars, no electricity and no running water – And it’s a good idea to reserve your ferry crossing in advance. (7/5 – 9/2)
  • Starting this weekend, check out the excellent Everett Farmer’s Market on the waterfront at Boxcar Park. Sundays, 11a – 4p (5/12 – 10/6) They’re also located at the Everett Station Transit Center on Wednesdays from 4p-8p. (6/5 – 8/28)
Everett Marina
I could definitely live here…

One of the industries for which the Northwest is best known is aviation and Snohomish County is its biggest supporter. In addition to Boeing’s enormous presence, there are airports, museums and fascinating exhibits to enjoy. There are many important spots in both Everett and neighboring Mukilteo. We’re heading to Mukilteo next, but while you’re in Everett, here’s a good handful to get you started:

  • Paine Field is located in both Everett and Mukilteo and has a rich aviation history dating back to 1936. Originally planned as a commercial airport, it instead provided support during WWII and the Korean War and militarily into the 60s. In 1966, Boeing purchased land north of Paine Field to build an assembly plant large enough to accommodate their new 747. Most recently, Paine Field has finally realized its longtime commercial flight plan and they now offer limited flights to and from several west coast locations. I’ll be flying into the airport next month and am very excited to check out the scene! (And to not deal with Sea-tac traffic.)
  • The Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum is located on the southeast corner of Paine Field and features painstakingly restored WWII era aircraft, tanks, combat armor and related exhibits. (Tues – Sun, 10a – 5p)
  • Tour the museum and chat with volunteers working on the intricate restoration and repairs of vintage aircraft at the Museum of Flight Restoration Center & Reserve Collection (Wed – Sun, 9a – 4p)
  • Created in 1997 out of the need for both airport expansion and still maintaining important wetland areas, the Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary was born via a process called mitigation banking. After checking out the vintage planes, stop in for a peaceful walk along the 2 miles of public trails.

Everett has a great downtown core, a beautiful waterfront area and a huge stake in the vibrant aviation industry, but it’s also got a quirky side. Should you be feeling quirky, consider these options on your next Everett adventure:

  • If you’d like a different take on the local aviation scene, head to High Trek Adventures for a high-flying zip-line adventure, a round of mini-golf or go night-owl and check out their Night Zip & Climb. They even have a Fear of Heights Class!
  • My friend Lorrie was sad about missing Bluewater Organic Distilling, but she was particularly forlorn to have missed scouting out the Twin Peaks Laura Palmer House. I am a fan of Twin Peaks, but Lorrie is a SUPER fan. Don’t despair, Lorrie – we’ll go back! (708 33rd Please be respectful and admire from a distance.)
Laura Palmer's House
Don’t worry, Lorrie – I promise we’ll go back. (You Twin Peaks super fan, you!)
  • Not only can you get great Irish and American fare at Shawn O’Donnell’s American Grill and Irish Pub, they also work with local travel agency 58 Stars to host – or help you plan your own – trips to Ireland. Enjoy a pint of Guinness in the land of its birth!
  • The AFK Tavern is a local haven for gamers, nerds, geeks and all manner of combinations. Food, drinks, a casual and comfortable atmosphere and they’re open late! I’m quite happy you can get a ‘Dragon Burger’ with ‘Red Ring of Death’ sauce – or perhaps the ‘One Ring’ burger with ‘Mt. Doom Sauce’ is more to your liking. If you can’t decide what you want, don’t worry – the menu has tooltips.
  • For a bit of classic Everett kitsch, stop by the Totem Diner for all manner of diner staples – plus BBQ. They have an extensive breakfast and lunch menu and are also open for dinners Wed-Sat until 8pm. Since 1953.

Just a little further South down the I-5 corridor is the cozy town of Mukilteo. For this adventure, I took I-5, but if you’re looking to avoid traffic and enjoy the scenic water views, taking Broadway to 41st Street out of Everett and then Mukilteo Blvd along the water is a nice way to go. It will also conveniently lead you down to the iconic Mukilteo Light Station (c. 1906 – On the National Historic Register) and adjoining Lighthouse Park.

I typically only visit the area when I’m boarding the Mukilteo/Whidbey Island ferry, but I’ve made a promise to myself to visit the park more often. It’s a beautiful area and there is plenty of shoreline to enjoy the fabulous views of neighboring Whidbey Island and the Puget Sound. Tour the lighthouse, learn more about the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott at the spot it was signed, stroll the Mukilteo Walking Tour, bring a picnic and watch the sunset next to one of the beach fire pits – or use the boat launch to head out on your boat. (Take me, take me!) Lighthouse Park and the Mukilteo Light Station are excellent spots to spend the day. (And you might even randomly run into one of your best friend’s mom while you’re hanging out. Thanks, Judy for giving me more of the hometown Mukilteo scoop!)

If you forgot to pack the picnic basket, there are several great dining options near the lighthouse and ferry terminal. Grab a quick bite while you’re waiting to board the ferry or take a load off and enjoy the easy-going pace of Mukilteo while enjoying the view. A few places to meet your Mukilteo needs:

  • I much enjoy the Diamond Knot Brewery & Alehouse. They have a great ice cream and coffee shop up front for the quick treat as well as a family-friendly dining room and large bar area for the adults. Plus – you can get a GIANT stuffed tater tot! Seriously – a giant stuffed tater tot, a couple pints of their Kolsch Style Ale and a bowl of Seafood Chowda’ and you’re set! The rest of their menu is also pretty stellar – including their breakfast menu. Make time before your ferry calling to try their customizable eggs Benedict… Also, their servers called me “miss” – and that’s just adorable. (And a fine way to get a good tip.) In addition to their location on the water, also check out their Production Brewery & Taproom near Paine Field and their Brewpub in nearby Mountlake Terrace.
  • For the classic NW dining experience, check out Ivar’s at Mukilteo Landing. Ivar’s acres of clams in Mukilteo! And if you only have a small bit of time while waiting for the ferry, head to their walk-up window for fish-n-chips, their famous chowder and soft-serve ice cream. And then make a mad dash back to your car before they start boarding and you end up being “that guy.” (Nobody wants to be “that guy”…)
Ivar's at Mukilteo Landing
Grab your fish-n-chips and race back to the car before the ferry loads!
  • I’m sure that Arnie’s has more on the menu besides prawns and shrimp – and their seafood bisque – but I actually wouldn’t know. I’m a life-long lover of prawns and the fact that Arnie’s actually hosts a Festival of Prawns every October-November pretty much seals the deal for my ordering preferences. All prawns, all the time. (I’m pretty sure the rest of their menu is quite delicious.) Located a block up from the ferry terminal – in Edmonds, too!
  • Good vegan restaurants can be hard to find, but Mukilteo’s Sage and Cinder, just up from the ferry terminal accomplishes the task. Lovely late lunch and dinner options and brunch on the weekends – give them a try!
  • Enjoy a nice steak or tasty pork loin while looking out over the Sound at John’s Grill. Just up from the ferry terminal, family friendly and a cozy atmosphere – Enjoy!

There are many ways to work off all the great food options in Mukilteo. You could check out the yearly, city-wide Mukilteo Garage Sale (4/27) or maybe hit up the Traxx Indoor Raceway for a few laps in one of their custom go-karts. If you’d instead like to lap through the lush greenery of the shoreline areas, try the Japanese Gulch Trailhead. And for the ultimate walking tour, head to the Boeing Future of Flight tour located at Paine Field

The tour at the Boeing plant, in the largest building in the world (by volume), is a must for any aviation aficionado and enjoyable for all. The tour lasts 90-minutes and takes you through North America’s only publicly accessible commercial jet assembly plant. They also have a pretty amazing Aerospace Gallery, gift shop, café and observation deck – And don’t forget to check out the Destiny Module Exhibit for a taste of life on the International Space Station. A few important items of note: You must be at least 4-feet tall to join the tour, 16-year olds and under must be accompanied by an adult and it’s highly recommended to book tours in advance. No cell phones or cameras allowed. (There are fee lockers available onsite.)

While in the area of Paine Field, be sure to stop in at Kilo-7 to visit the Historic Flight exhibit of fully restored/operational planes from 1927 – 1957. Note: If you’re in the area on May 11, be sure to stop by for Opening Day of flying season. Most importantly, you’ll get to bid bon voyage to their Douglas C-47B/DC-3 as it departs at 3pm for Normandy, France to participate in the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Boeing Factory
The largest building in the world! (by volume)

Another Snohomish County ferry harbor and one of my favorite spots in the greater Seattle area is the charming town of Edmonds. I love Edmonds for its great downtown area, its proximity to the Sound and its great support of the Arts. It’s only a 20-minute drive from Seattle, but when I’m hanging out in the downtown area, I feel like I’m visiting a quaint, coastal community.

For the artist, Edmonds is very welcoming and supportive. As a musician, I’ve had the privilege of participating in many Edmonds events over the years and I hope to be a part of more to come. (My nephew has even gotten to play at the Edmonds Art Festival! Again, Aunt Dayna is so proud.) If you’re up for enjoying a fine performance, taking in a cool gallery or checking out any number of artistic endeavors, here are a few of my favorite options:

  • The Edmonds Center for the Arts regularly hosts great concerts as well as local theatre, film series and more.
  • The Edmonds Art festival is an absolutely wonderful way to spend the day. Check out a large variety of regional and national artists and craft vendors, local food trucks and food specialties – and great local music. (June 14-16)
  • Check out the Taste of Edmonds for great food, craft vendors, entertainment, rides and more. There’s something for everyone! (Aug 16-18)
  • The downtown Edmonds Farmers Market offers an excellent selection of NW produce, artisan foods and crafts and more. Check out their website for specific hours and locations. (Saturdays from May – Sept)
  • The Edmonds Theater (c. 1923) is awesome. Period. Not only do they show first-run movies in their historic location, they also regularly feature special showings and hard to find shows. (For example, they’ve celebrated Wookie Life Day with the once-aired TV spectacle, Star Wars Holiday Special. RIP, Peter Mayhew.) I love the Edmonds Theater.
  • For a monthly dose of art, hit up the Edmonds Art Walk in the downtown area. Galleries, shops and cafes are showcasing their wares along with music, written word, culinary treats and more. (Third Thursday of the month, 5-8p)
Edmonds Theater
The awesome Edmonds Theater

The Edmonds downtown area is a great place to while away the hours. There are so many shops, restaurants and things to do, one day is never enough. Some excellent diversions to enjoy while visiting the downtown Edmonds area:

As I’m sure you’ve probably gathered, I like to travel. I love it, in fact. Traveling to places far and near, meeting new people, trying new foods, listening to new music – these are the things that bring us all a bit closer. It is for this reason I first visited the town of Edmonds, home to none other than, RICK STEVES, travel god.

Just a block off Main Street in downtown Edmonds sits the Rick Steves home base and mothership. It’s a great place to learn about all the tours they offer, but also an excellent resource for planning your own adventure. They offer classes, books, information – all the things you need to get your foot out the door and onto a plane. (Or train. Or boat. And so on.) I would’ve been lost (literally) had they not been around while I was planning my very first solo trip abroad. (Years ago – when the Internets weren’t quite as robust as they are today) And if you ever have the chance to attend a Rick Steves lecture or event – DO IT. The man is a dynamic whirlwind of information.

As if the Rick Steves shop weren’t enough, there are countless other great shops, restaurants and more in the downtown area. Just a few to occupy your time:

  • To learn about all things Edmonds, visit the beautiful Andrew Carnegie Library and Edmonds Historical Museum and find out about life in early Edmonds. (On the National Register of Historic Places)
  • The Spangler Book Exchange is a great bookshop in downtown Edmonds, which I’m sad to say is closing after 30 years! Their last day of business is May 29th and they have big sales going until then. I hope whomever takes over the spot keeps the awesome book murals on the building exterior.
Spangler Book Exchange
A sad loss! Get there by May 29th! I really hope they keep the exterior paint job…
  • If you have a great love of fancy soaps as I do, visit The Papery and revel in their offerings. They also have a great stationary selection as well as coastal décor and other assorted goodies.
The Papery
All the soaps!
  • Salt and Iron, located in the center of downtown offers local oysters, great steaks, craft cocktails and other delectables such as grilled octopus and roasted bone marrow. Mmmmm…
  • Located in a cute shopping strip a couple blocks south of the downtown core, The Cheesemonger’s Table offers a great selection of local and European cheeses and meats as well as a full menu of sandwiches and other tasty fare.
  • In the same group of shops as The Cheesemonger’s Table, check out Otherworlds for a taste of geeky goods, steampunk, Sci-fi, arts, games and more!
  • For coffee, pastries, sandwiches and more, visit Café Louvre and enjoy a lazy afternoon. Dream of Paris while reading that Rick Steves guide you picked up earlier…
  • The Red Twig Café and Bakery is a great stop for brunch, lunch and all-day crepes. Crepes! More dreaming of Paris…
  • If you’d rather read that Rick Steves guide while drinking a great local pint, check out the Salish Sea Brewing Co. They feature a great locally-crafted beer selection and pub-style menu. (I like their Honey Golden Ale!)
  • If you’re craving a taste of the Islands, Barkada, located just south of downtown is a great new addition to the Edmonds food scene. A mix of Filipino and Hawaiian tastes, their menu offers everything from Spam Musubi to Sisig to fresh oysters. They also have a brunch menu on Sundays – and a great specialty cocktail menu. I can’t wait to try more!

Walk just a couple blocks from downtown and you’ll come to the Edmonds waterfront and the Edmonds/Kingston Ferry Terminal. Aside from waiting in line for the next ferry, there are many things to occupy one’s time on the waterfront. (That are much more enjoyable than hanging out in your car, playing Candy Crush. But I would never do that.)

  • Check out Marina Beach Park and the Edmonds Marina Boardwalk area and enjoy the local beach. There’s also an off-leash area where you can take that road-weary pooch for a quick break before boarding the ferry.
  • If scuba diving is your jam, dive into the Underwater Park and check out its hidden treasures. My friend, Beth (and earlier Snohomish County travel-buddy) used to spend quite a bit of time exploring the area and always had great stories about friendly octopi and other sea creatures – as well as cool sunken vessels.
  • I mentioned their Mukilteo location earlier, but don’t forget about Arnies Restaurant for all things seafood. Did I mention they have a festival of prawns in October and November?? Enough said.
  • Open on weekends for tastings, the Scratch Distillery offers some very distinct spirits. They started with gin, which they still feature, and also do vodkas, whiskey and a very unique bier schnaps. (Dog and kid friendly)
  • 190 Sunset is a newer hot spot on the Edmonds Waterfront. Featuring fresh seafood, great steaks and chops as well as a great bar and weekend brunches, they’re definitely a good reason to miss your ferry.
  • For a relaxing pint on the waterfront, head to Brigid’s Bottleshop. They’ve got several beers on tap as well as local ciders and snacks. Fill up your growler or grab some bottles for the homestead. (Pet friendly, 21+)
Edmonds Ferry
Watching the ferries come and go from Edmonds

Just walking around Edmonds and the waterfront is a great way to get in some exercise and a few steps. If you’d like to make it more official, there are several great trails and walks around the area. A great area just off of Main Street as you’re heading towards the downtown core is Yost Park, Shell Creek Trail and the Highline Trail. It’s an intricate set of trails located in Shell Creek ravine – Download a map for the trails HERE. (Definitely check out the map if you’re unfamiliar with the area) For a little more of a walk/hike, you can head over to Pine Ridge Park for more trails and woodsy scenery.

On the way out of Edmonds, I often like to take Highway 99 back towards Seattle. Not only do I get to avoid I-5, it also takes me through another great Snohomish County town, Lynnwood. But before we make it to Lynnwood, there are a few cool spots along the way:

  • If you have a passion for fusion cooking, like I do, Bar Dojo is the place to go. Featuring Asian and Chino Latino cuisine, Bar Dojo is a one-of-a-kind place. Spicy chorizo ramen, ginger hoisin prawns, pork belly nachos, Banh Mi tacos – WHAT?? That’s just amazing.
  • Should you like to feed your inner – or outer – geek, hit up Another Castle – Arcade Edition right off Highway 99. They feature all manner of old-school arcade games, pinball, snacks and beer! Family friendly. They also have video game stores in Lynnwood and Marysville – by the Tulalip Casino.
  • Known as “The Starbucks of Taiwan,” the 85°C Bakery Café chain is taking the NW by storm. First in California and now with several NW locations, this is one of my favorite bakeries of all time. The variety of pastries, cakes, coffees and teas they feature is impressive – including items definitely not found in your standard US bakery. (I recently tried a ham, corn and tuna grilled sandwich/pastry. Oddly good.) Their location on Highway 99 is now open with their official opening on May 17th. Go now, before the line gets too long. Seriously. There’s always a line.
  • If you’re in need of great local produce, but don’t have time to hit up the farms directly, check out Country Market on Highway 99. (Also in Everett, Lake Stevens and Burlington)

Rounding out my excellent Snohomish County is the close-to-home, always-has-what-I-need, very lovely Lynnwood. The area is often thought of for its large amount of shopping opportunities, but there is so much more to be found. Great food, great parks and a great central location to get to all of the Seattle-area hot spots – it’s great! From downtown Lynnwood, you are easily within 20-minutes of downtown Seattle, downtown Bellevue, Everett, Snohomish and more. But there are many other things to enjoy within Lynnwood proper.

If shopping is indeed on your list, Lynnwood has what you need. (The area gets particularly busy during the holidays – Yowsa!) Here are a few of the mainstays:

  • Alderwood Mall is your usual mall setup, but with the addition of nice outer and inner courtyards, lined with hanging lights, trees and places to sit and enjoy a coffee. If I have to go to the mall, Alderwood is often where I head. They also have a great REI store, a state-of-the-art movie theatre, Nordstrom’s and several restaurant options. Including the aforementioned 85°C Bakery Café. (Get in line now.)
  • Just across the way from Alderwood Mall is one of the most amazing grocery stores EVER. H-Mart, the ultimate Korean grocery store, not only features an extensive array of Asian foods and home goods, it also hosts a great food court, various side shops, and the Le Bon Patisserie. (Try their Buttercream filled buns, matcha rolls, hot dog pastries and custard buns) Also, don’t miss Beard Papa’s crème puffs and Hometown, a great Korean spot in the food court. (Their Bibimbap is excellent!)
  • Located in the same parking lot as H-Mart, is one of best places to get a burger in the known universe, Katsu Burger. I honestly can’t rave enough about this place. There are several locations in the greater Seattle area, but this one is my favorite as it gets crowded, but never as much as say, the Capitol Hill or Ballard locations. Come for the deep fried katsu burgers, stay for the Korokke or the Nori Fries. For the record, the pork katsu Ninja Deluxe burger rocks my world. It is amazing.
  • And if you didn’t get enough to eat at H-Mart or Katsu Burger, check out Taste of Korea for tasty beef bulgogi, hot pot dishes and more delicious Bibimbap. Located in the same parking lot as H-Mart and Katsu Burger.

While I do often shop in the Lynnwood area, there are also many lovely parks and hikes to check out. After all, I have to go somewhere to work off the Katsu Burgers and pastries from the 85°C Bakery. If I’m in the walking and exploring mood, here are a few of the places I enjoy:

  • Not too far up from the shopping core, you’ll find the beautiful Heritage Park. The grounds are lovely and home to several early Lynnwood structures. (Then known as Alderwood Manor) Tour the grand Wickers Building, the NW Veterans Museum, the Interurban Trolley Car #55 and more. Sit under one of the gorgeous willow trees and just relax…
  • Head down to the beach and Brown’s Bay via the lovely Meadowdale Beach Park and Lunds Gulch Native plant-life, salmon, salmon berries and more. Beautiful!
  • Lynndale Park is Lynnwood’s largest park with 22-acres of native forest and has great trails for hiking and walking. It also has a skate park where I’m pretty sure my nephew recently left a couple teeth – and bit of skin – behind. Eeesh.
  • Scriber Lake Park is a quiet, natural preserve in center of town. It features a floating boardwalk, walking trails and is an unexpected spot of peacefulness in the center of town. Nearby is the Scriber Creek Park and Trail. It’s a much smaller area than the lake park, but there are some beautiful spots to check out.
  • If you’re really in need of a walk or jog – or maybe prefer to commute via bike, hit up the Interurban Trail and earn several days’ worth of steps. It runs from Everett to Lynnwood at 11.8 miles and is great to hop on for a short stint or the longer haul. (But remember – that’s 11.8 miles one-way…)

And with that, I’m all worn out – and full of Katsu Burger… I’m heading back to my home base in North Seattle, just across the border from Snohomish County, to take a nap. It’s wonderful knowing that just a short drive away are so many amazing and beautiful things to see and do – and eat! Snohomish County is an area of great contrasts and resources and well represents the broad diversity of Washington State and I’m happy to be a neighbor. I will admit it’s sometimes difficult to go too far past its borders as Snohomish County truly has so much variety to offer. It makes it a bit hard to venture out to all of the other amazing counties in Washington State… But not that hard – I know what I need to do. What I must do… I gotta EAT THE STATE! And that’s what I’m going to do… Stay tuned for more adventures!


And to accompany you on your road trip –

I Ate the State: The Playlist – check it out on Spotify

  • Keep on Runnin’ – Journey (from Escape)
  • Half-Life – Duncan Sheik (from Daylight)
  • Crooked Teeth – Death Cab for Cutie (from Plans)
  • Wait Until Tomorrow – Live at the Nokia Theatre – John Mayer (from Where the Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles)
  • The Most Beautiful Girl (in the Room) (Live) – Flight of the Conchords (from The Distant Future)
  • Wonderboy – Tenacious D (from Tenacious D)
  • Only Happy When It Rains – Garbage (from Absolute Garbage)
  • Good Morning! – Duncan Sheik (from Daylight)
  • Someday You Will Be Loved – Death Cab for Cutie (from Plans)
  • I Think I’m Paranoid – Garbage (from Absolute Garbage)
  • Still They Ride – Journey (from Escape)
  • Robots (Live) – Flight of the Conchords (from The Distant Future)
  • Stop This Train – Live at the Nokia Theatre – John Mayer (from Where the Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles)
  • Wherever Is Your Heart – Brandi Carlile (from The Firewatcher’s Daughter)
  • Are You Alright? – Lucinda Williams (from West)
  • Merry Go ‘Round – Kacey Musgraves (from Same Trailer Different Park)
  • Come with Me Tonight – Bob Schneider (from I’m Good Now)
  • 3×5 – John Mayer (from Room for Squares)
  • Step Off – Kacey Musgraves ((from Same Trailer Different Park)
  • Wayside / Back in Time – Gillian Welch (from Soul Journey)
  • Speed Trap Town – Jason Isbell (from Something More Than Free)
  • The Moon Is Made of Gold – Rickie Lee Jones (from Balm in Gilead)


For more I Ate the State Adventures:

Kayak Point
Beautiful greenery on the Beach Trail at Kayak Point

I Ate the State: Grays Harbor County


When I think of Grays Harbor County, I think of laid back beauty, of comfort, of long days on the beach and long hikes in the mountains. I ponder relaxing with a glass of wine while enjoying a delicious crab sandwich or perusing the most amazing Star Wars shop known to the galaxy. So many excellent opportunities pop to mind when thinking of Grays Harbor County; ones which don’t require fancy attire, but more likely a good windbreaker and some flip flops. In Grays Harbor County, you can simply come as you are.

There are many paths to and from Grays Harbor County. Bordering the beautiful Jefferson, Mason, Thurston and Pacific Counties with the mighty Pacific Ocean as its backyard, Grays Harbor is perfectly situated for endless adventure. To make the most of my travel time, I find I-5 is typically the quickest route into the area. (Check the WSDOT traffic site or app before you go – I-5 can back up, particularly around Tacoma, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Olympia) I’m usually coming from the north, so heading down to Olympia on I-5 and then US-101 and SR-8 (turns into US-12) to Aberdeen is my standard approach. The same holds true coming up from the south… If I’m feeling more leisurely, I might hop the Bremerton ferry out of Seattle and take SR-3 to US 101 and on towards Aberdeen – OR – come up and around the Peninsula via Clallam County and down US-101 along the coast. The bottom line is Grays Harbor is very accessible and not far from many Washington counties.

Breakers at Westport
Crashing waves in Westport

For this particular adventure, I grabbed my longtime friend, Charsky and we started south on I-5. It was a grey, winter morning with rain on the horizon, but we were not deterred. We’re lifelong Washingtonians and a rainy day has never stopped us before. That said, we were prepared for all weather – especially since we were headed towards the mountains and the ocean. Hats, rain jackets, gloves, scarves, sunglasses – we brought it all!  Charsky and Hooch, on the road again and ready for whatever coastal weather shenanigans would ensue. Onward to the ocean!

Our first point of investigation was the small town of Montesano, located just off US-12. Serving as the county seat of Grays Harbor, Montesano is tiny, but important in the grand scheme of the area. (Grays Harbor has been a Washington State county since 1854, but before 1915 it was known as Chehalis County.) The downtown area is charming with the very pretty Grays Harbor County Courthouse located at its center. (c. 1911) Featuring beautiful architecture, a grand clock and lovely murals in the rotunda, the courthouse is open to the public. (The clock on the outside of the rotunda reminds me of Back to the Future. Just need to roll up in a DeLorean – or on a skateboard.)

Grays Harbor County Courthouse
The lovely Grays Harbor County Courthouse in Montesano

Located just a few miles from downtown is the scenic Lake Sylvia State Park. Perfect for a day trip filled with swimming and picnics, but also great for larger affairs or weekend camping adventures. There is a decent amount of parking along with picnic shelters, BBQ pits and showers. If you’re up for a hike, there is a great 2-mile loop around the lake as well as many trails breaking off from the loop trail. And like all Washington State parks, you will need a Discover Pass for parking. (There is also often an option to pay for the day, but it’s much cheaper and less hassle to get the yearly pass.) For more camping, fishing, hiking and picnicking opportunities, check out Friends Landing, located on the Chehalis River, just outside of Montesano.

Montesano and its smaller neighbor, Elma are surrounded by beautiful farmland and winding country back roads. A great way to appreciate the area and all its bounty is to go straight to the source.

  • Check out the charm of the Grays Harbor County Fair in August and visit the farm animals and produce all in one convenient location. The fairground has events throughout the year, one of particular interest being the Winter Wine Festival in late January.
  • Visit the Oak Meadows Buffalo Ranch for a close-up look at the mighty American Bison. (Closed Sundays)
  • Shaffner Farms has many seasonal activities to highlight their wares. A pumpkin patch and hay rides in the fall and fresh produce and berry picking in the warmer months.
  • Head down the back roads to visit the Running Anvil Carriage Museum. Check out how far transportation has come from horse-drawn buggies – not to mention how much easier transporting farm goods has become over the years. (Part of the Grays Harbor Museums passport plan. Purchase the passport for $2 at any Grays Harbor museum and receive cool discounts and gain museum cred around the county.)

There’s another type of farming very popular in the area during the winter holidays. If you happen to be in need of a Christmas tree, Montesano and the surrounding areas have quite a selection. A few of the options:

Me and Great Grandma Miner
Gratuitous holiday shot of me and Great Grandma Miner. We didn’t get our tree in Montesano.

Just a few miles west of Montesano sits Aberdeen, the largest city in the county. Billed as the ‘Lumber Capital of the World,’ it is also the birthplace of Kurt Cobain and the seminal Grunge band, Nirvana. (Formed with Aberdeen transplant, Krist Novoselic in 1987) Look to the right as you’re entering town to catch signage celebrating both the lumber industry as well as Kurt Cobain and Nirvana’s musical contribution. While I’ll admit Grunge isn’t and wasn’t my go-to musical style, it is hard to deny the profound influence Kurt Cobain and Nirvana had on not only the Seattle music scene of the 90s, but on popular culture overall. I also think it’s fair to say we can thank Aberdeen for the overabundance of flannel shirts and Doc Martens present in the 90s fashion scene. (Anyone remember the Vogue Magazine “Grunge” layout of 1992? Yowsa.)

On the topic of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, in addition to the “Come as You Are” sign, there are additional ways to pay homage to his memory while visiting the Aberdeen area. You can drive by his former home (which I will leave for you to find on your own) or visit the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park (On the 1100 block of East 2nd Street) and the adjacent Young Street Bridge. (On the muddy banks of the Wishkah, where it is rumored Kurt Cobain lived from time to time.)

Note on the memorial park and bridge: It is a very small area, located at the end of a neighborhood street with no official parking. Please be respectful of the neighbors.

After driving through the corridor of newer commerce as you enter Aberdeen on US-12, you’ll get to the older downtown section. While not a huge area, there are several gems tucked in amongst its streets. One of these gems is not only my favorite spot in Aberdeen, but one of my favorite spots anywhere. EVER.

Located on East Wishkah Street, the quirky, funky, awesomely chaotic Sucher & Sons Star Wars Shop is the stuff of nerd fantasies. That said, you don’t even have to be a Star Wars nerd to appreciate the place. My pal Char, for instance, is not a big Star Wars fan and was somewhat bewildered by my burning desire to make a stop. (You don’t like Star Wars, Char??? How are you one of my best friends?? :-}  Yet even she was amazed by the scope and character of the place. If you are a lifelong Star Wars junkie like I am, however, you could very well pass out in awe as you enter the store…

Tucked into every nook and cranny, mounted on every wall, hanging from the ceilings and lining the floors of the higgledy-piggledy aisles, Star Wars memorabilia from every era of the franchise is gloriously on display. Everything is for sale and this is definitely a store, but it could easily serve as a full-fledged Star Wars museum. Two of my favorite things in life – Star Wars and museums! (Swoon) I’m pretty sure I was walking around with a giant, doofy smile the entire time I was in the store. And if the sheer volume and variety of the extraordinary collection didn’t make me smile, hanging out and chatting with Don Sucher, the very enthusiastic owner certainly would have. The guy is made of stories and more than happy to regale you as you peruse the store. Additionally, he has an amazing collection of 45’s and concert posters lining the back wall – All shows he has seen!

I honestly could’ve spent all day here, but my credit card trigger finger was itching and we had many more miles of Grays Harbor County to investigate… But I WILL be back. Probably several times. Or more. (Someone please hide my credit cards…)

While initially waiting for the Star Wars shop to open, we stopped by Tinderbox Coffee Roasters for a delicious beverage. The staff was great, the space inviting and a singer-songwriter was setting up for an early Sunday set – very nice! We also entertained going next door to Steam Donkey Brewing Company and tasting room, but thought hot chocolate, coffee and beer might not be a good mix that early in the day. I shall save it for my next visit. It’s the first brewery in Aberdeen in 70 years and a nice addition to the downtown area – I’m intrigued! (Family friendly, closed Mon-Wed, outside food welcome)

Note: Sucher & Sons, the Tinderbox and Steam Donkey are all part of the Grays Harbor Museum Passport discount plan.

Additional places to visit while in the Aberdeen area:

  • Check out well-respected chef and owner, Andy Bickar’s Rediviva Restaurant in downtown Aberdeen. The restaurant features NW cuisine using locally-sourced and foraged produce, seafood, and meats.
  • For Washington State history buffs and fans of tall ships, be sure to visit the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport. Check out the sailing schedule before you go, but the state’s official ship, the Lady Washington is often in the harbor. The Lady Washington is a faithful, full-size replica of the original Lady Washington from the late 1700s. The original ship was the first American vessel to hit the shores of the west coast in 1788. She has been featured in many television shows and movies including Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Star Trek: Generations and Once Upon A Time.

The Aberdeen area is a fork in the road when deciding to head south on SR-105 towards Grayland and Westport or north on US-101 towards Ocean Shores, the Quinault Rainforest and the slew of northern beaches along SR-109. For this particular trip, we first went south to see what we could see…

SR-105, also known as the Cranberry Coast Scenic Byway branches off from US-101 in Aberdeen and goes down to the south coast. At Twin Harbors State Park, you can either head north a short ways towards Westport or go south and snake around the coast until you end up in the town of Raymond and back to US-101. Regardless of what route you take, there are stunning beaches and ocean views the entire drive as well as 1000 acres of cranberry bogs to investigate. Unfortunately, the winter isn’t the greatest time to visit the cranberry bogs, so we took a right near Twin Harbors State Park and headed towards Westport.

Traveling towards the coast on SR-105 and before coming to the fork to either Grayland or Westport, there are a few stops definitely worth visiting.

  • Wishkah River Distillery – Locally owned distillery featuring whiskey, gin and a very intriguing honey-distilled vodka. The tasting room is open Tuesday thru Saturday and well worth a visit.
  • Brady’s Oysters – Located right off SR-105 – Serving oysters and all manner of seafood directly from local waters.
  • Cranberry Road Winery – Situated at the fork between Grayland and Westport, they feature many varieties of wine, including their well-known cranberry wine. If you’re in need of lunch or dinner, they also feature wood-fired pizza along with NW-inspired fare.

Our favorite stop on the way towards the coast was the award-winning Westport Winery. (About halfway between Aberdeen and Westport proper) The winery grounds are nicely laid out and in the summer feature beautiful gardens and outdoor events. The in-house restaurant, the Sea Glass Grill features very tasty brunch, lunch and dinner options. Everything we tried on the menu was delicious and a very welcome accompaniment to the extensive wine tasting we did beforehand. Additionally, they have coffee and desserts to-go (including local ice cream) as well as a great gift shop. Both Char and I joined the wine club after our wine tasting session. Oh nooooooo – now we need to go back on a regular basis! What a tragedy. (They’ll actually ship your quarterly selections to you, but what a great excuse to take a beautiful drive!)

While we didn’t get to Grayland on this trip, there are many places I plan on further investigating in the warmer months.

Continuing north on SR-105, towards the town of Westport (and end of that section of the highway), the seaside vibe really starts to kick in. The coastal breezes bring with them the smell of the sea and you can see the sky widen as it opens up to the Pacific. Before arriving at the town center, be sure to check out the Westport Light State Park. Take time to explore the lovely Westport Light House (c. 1898 – on the National Register of Historic Places) and enjoy the rambling walk down to the beach. If you don’t feel like driving into Westport, take the 2.5 mile, largely paved trail north to Westhaven State Park and on to Half Moon Bay. (Near the town center and Westport shoreline.)

Note: It may initially seem odd to have a light house positioned so far off-shore. This is the result of large amounts of build-up due to the Grays Harbor jetty entrance, just off the beach at Westport. Originally, the lighthouse was positioned only 400 feet from shore, but presently sits 3000 feet away.

Westport Lighthouse
The stalwart Westport Lighthouse

The town of Westport, also known as the South Beach area, is a scenic peninsula flanked by the South Bay and Pacific Ocean. Known for its beautiful views, cool breakers and whale watching opportunities, the equally impressive Westport commercial fishing fleet receives the 5th largest delivery of seafood in the US. (Which means nothing but seafood deliciousness for Westport restaurants!)

It’s always a good time to visit Westport. A sunny day on the waterfront is lovely, but a stormy winter day can be breathtaking. Some of the cool things to do while visiting the area:

  • The observation tower at the north end of the Westport Marina, near Westhaven State Park is a great place to get a 360-degree view of the coast. It’s also a great place to watch the surfers braving the cold Pacific waters. Should you feel like braving the waters yourself, check out Bigfoot Surf School, the Sleepwater Surf Shop or Westport Surf Shop for information and rentals.
  • If you happen to be in town between March and May, you stand a good shot at seeing the grey whales come through the area. Check out one of the charter tours available in the area for a more close-up view. (From a respectful distance, of course)
  • To learn about marine life and the maritime history of Westport from the comfort of shore, check out the Westport Maritime Museum, located in downtown Westport.
  • The local waters are known for salmon, tuna, halibut and albacore. If you’d like to try your hand at catching your own, hit up one of the many fishing charters found on the main drag, across from the marina. Westport Charters and Deep Sea Charters are a couple of the many options.

Westport may be a small community, but there are plenty of tasty dining options to be found. Some of the spots are closed in the off-season, but you won’t have trouble finding something tasty year-round.  A few places of note:

  • Bennett’s Fish Shack is a very popular spot in Westport, located just across from the marina. They feature locally-caught seafood and I can’t say enough about their crab sandwich. DELICIOUS!! They also have a location in nearby Ocean Shores.
Downtown Westport
Fishing charters and donuts!
  • Granny Hazel’s Candy & Gifts is a funky, quirky and very fun gift shop located across from the marina. Need a Westport shot glass? Some crazy socks? DELICIOUS SALT WATER TAFFY? Granny Hazel’s has all the things.
  • Blackbeard’s Brewing – If seafood isn’t your thing, hit up Blackbeard’s for hand-tossed pizza and a tasty brew.
  • Merino’s Seafood Market & Cannery – Peek in on the inner-workings of this tiny seafood cannery and pick up some of their delicious wares while you’re at it. I grabbed one of their canned tuna variety packs and every single one was excellent. They also have a fish counter with delicacies such as smoked salmon and walking shrimp or crab cocktails. YUM!!
  • There are several ice cream options in Westport. What goes better on a hot day by the beach? (A margarita, perhaps? But I digress…) A few places to quell your cravings are Scoops (Reopens for the summer on 4/7) and Surfer Girl.

The South Beach area hosts many events and festivals throughout the year with late spring and summer being the most popular times. The Westport-Grayland Chamber of Commerce has a running calendar and the most up-to-date info. A couple of the more popular events are the World Class Crab Races, Crab Feed and Derby (4/20/19) and the Annual Seafood Festival and Craft Show at the end of August. If you happen to be looking for local lodging during any of the festivals, check out Chateau Westport Resort for comfortable options.

Beautiful waves crashing on the Westport breakers

After a very enjoyable visit to Westport, it was time to drive back towards Aberdeen on SR-105, over towards Hoquiam and on to the North Beach area.  I will admit to usually breezing through Aberdeen and its sister city, Hoquiam with more coastal destinations in mind. However, there are many wonderful spots to visit in both areas and I’m happy to have finally spent a bit more time investigating. (And embarrassed it took me so long)

Even if you also envision coastal destinations on the horizon, there are many entertaining places to enjoy along the way. The humble Hoquiam has some excellent options to add to your list:

  • Check out the historic, “atmospheric” 7thStreet Theatre (c. 1928) for a step back in time. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and has been beautifully restored beginning in the ‘90s. Check out the painted sky ceiling, featuring clouds and twinkling stars and enjoy classic films from many eras. (It was the first theatre in Washington State to show “talkies!”)
  • If migrating birds are your thing – and you’d like to check out upwards of one million of them in the spring or fall – Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge is a must visit destination.
  • For the crafter in you, the Grays Harbor Farmers Market & Craft Fair is open year-round for your crafting wants and needs. Not to mention produce, baked goods and more!
  • There are several great dining options in the Hoquiam area. Head to Hoquiam Brewing Co. for a great beer with a pizza or sandwich or the 8th Street Ale House for more great beer and a full menu featuring local seafood and pub favorites.

Just past Hoquiam, we turned off US-101 onto SR-109, also known as the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway. A good start to your northern beach tour is to take SR-109 and SR-115 over to Ocean Shores and then work your way back up north towards Taholah. However, on this particular journey, we initially went north on SR-109. If you have a few days and want to enjoy all the North Coast has to offer, start at Ocean Shores and work your way up north, stopping to take in the amazing beaches and little towns along the way.

Ocean Shores is a lovely peninsula town situated on the North Bay, at the north entrance to Grays Harbor and directly across the water from Westport. There used to be a ferry going between Westport and Ocean Shores which alleviated the need to drive all the way around Grays Harbor. There has been recent talk and movement towards reinstating this incredibly convenient and tourism-friendly route – I sincerely hope it happens. With horseback riding on the beach, camping, clamming, crabbing and much more to do in Ocean Shores, it would be amazing to quickly link up with neighboring Westport for a mega adventure!

A few trip ideas to get you started on your Ocean Shores adventure:

  • Known as the Razor Clam Capital of the World, the Ocean Shores area offers many opportunities to seek out and enjoy the delicious razor clam. Hit up the WDFW website for info about beaches and dates to dig. (Currently late March and specific dates in April) Note: You will need a shellfish/seaweed license for anyone over 15 years old.
  • Feel like driving your car on the beach? You can do it at Ocean Shores! (It’s actually considered a state highway with a speed limit of 25mph.) If something with two wheels is more your speed, rent a moped from Affordable Mopeds and hit the beach! Note: It is illegal to drive or ride horses through the marked clam bed areas.
  • I’ve yet to ride a horse on the beach and I’m going to do it next time I visit Ocean Shores! Check out Chenois Creek Horse Rentals for all your horse riding needs. (But don’t ride on the clam beds!)
  • Check out the Coastal Interpretive Center for displays of local habitats and to learn about the history of the coastal region and its native peoples
  • Hit up the North Coast Surf Shop if you want to get your surf on. Don’t forget to rent a wetsuit, too – it’s cold out there! Damon Point is one of the most popular surf spots in the Ocean Shores area.
  • Don’t miss the Ocean Shores Razor Clam Festival for all things deliciously razor clam! (Mid-March)
  • Chainsaws on the beach? Hit up Ocean Shores the last weekend of June and witness the Sand and Sawdust Festival – Carvers from North and South America carving up masterpieces on the beach! They’ve also got sandcastle building classes and a beer garden should chainsaws not be your jam. (June 28-30, 2019)

You’re going to need some good food and a roof over your head while visiting the Ocean Shores area. A few notable spots to help you on your culinary and lodging quests:

When initially traveling the winding, tree-lined SR-109 towards the north, it’s easy to forget a giant ocean lies in wait just up ahead. So close to the Olympic National Forest, you could just as easily be driving into the heart of the mountains. (Which are indeed in the opposite direction) SR-109 is a hidden gem of a Washington back road filled with old growth forest as well as beautiful, sandy beaches. It certainly makes sense why it’s referred to as the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway.

There are a multitude of perfect little beaches and towns tucked away along SR-109. Just up from Ocean Shores, you’ll find Ocean City State Park. Along with being able to drive on the beach, there are plenty of spots for clamming (in season and with permit), bird-watching, kite-flying, running like Rocky Balboa and general beach-going shenanigans. There is also a fairly large camping area with showers and bathrooms. (Discover Pass required)

Not too much further north on SR-109, you’ll come to Copalis Beach, home to some serious razor clamming pursuits. It’s a beautiful beach to visit, but if you’re interested in the clamming season or enjoying the beach in summer, definitely plan your stay well in advance. A great lodging option while in the area is the Iron Springs Resort. Built in the 40s, it’s been fully renovated beginning in 2010. Cabins, access to clamming and fishing, hiking, a general store and private beach – Everything you need! And if you happen to have a plane, you can land on the beach – the only legal beach airstrip in the United States, in fact! Copalis State Airport for the win! #LifeGoals

One of the most intriguing destinations in the Copalis Beach area is the eerie Copalis Ghost Forest. I actually haven’t visited yet, but it’s high on the list for my next adventure. The “ghost forest” is the result of a 6ft coastal land drop and flooding of salt water caused by the Cascadia Earthquake of 1700, which resulted in a deadly tsunami on the coast of Japan. The salt water created a marsh and the trees died very quickly, leaving behind a ghostly forest of silver trees and stumps. It’s less than a mile upriver from the bridge crossing the Copalis River on SR-109 and can be reached by canoe or kayak from an unofficial launch site in the middle of town. If you’re looking for local assistance with the somewhat obscure adventure, Buck’s Bikes in nearby Seabrook offers a guided tour.

Coastal Beaches
Beautiful Pacific Beach near Seabrook

Most of the “Hidden Coast” communities have been welcoming visitors to their shores for quite some time. A little newer to the lineup, however, is the seaside town of Seabrook. Being a planned community, one might think it would be lacking in charm. This is quite the contrary, however, as Seabrook’s classic Nantucket-style homes and seaside bluff location make for a charming and relaxing atmosphere. From the walkable town center to the quaint trail of gnomes leading down to the beach, Seabrook is a great addition to the stops along SR-109.

There are many things to do while in Seabrook. Some great options for your visit:

  • There are a lot of wonderful beach areas and coastal trails to explore in Seabrook. In addition to donning hiking boots, check out Buck’s Bikes for two-wheeled options – They also have surf boards and paddleboards.
  • Nearby Roosevelt Beach is incredibly expansive and a great place to take a walk or try out that paddleboard – and it allows vehicles. (25 mph speed limit – stay off the clam beds!)
  • If you’d like to stay in the area, hit up the Seabrook’s Washington Coast Rental site for beautiful cabins and homes in the area.
  • Seabrook has many events and activities going on throughout the year. Check out the free summer concerts on Friday evenings and stop in at the Savor Seabrook Seafood and Wine Festival (May 4) or the Bigfoot Brew Fest (Early Oct) to sample a local food and drink specialties.
  • There are several great dining options in the Seabrook area. Visit Mill 109 Restaurant & Pub for a tasty breakfast, lunch or dinner or Frontagers Pizza for a taste of brick-oven pizza and NW brews. Check out the Stowaway Wine Bar & Cheese Shop for a bit of wine-tasting or to stock up on goods for the cabin or beach and visit the Red Velvet Bakery by the Sea for coffee and baked goods. And don’t forget the obligatory ice cream and candy stop at The Sweet Life Ice Cream & Candy

Just a little ways north is the tiny seaside town of Pacific Beach. (Seabrook is technically part of Pacific Beach) There are plenty of camping spots at Pacific Beach State Park, not to mention one of the most amazing stretches of beach in the area. We were visiting that very beach when the tide was out and it seemed like we walked a half-mile out before we actually got to the sea. On a converse note, we weren’t particularly paying attention to when the tide was supposed to come back in or how quickly. That said, we ended up a good quarter-mile from shore – with our backs stupidly to the sea and lollygagging around – when we realized the tide was coming back in. We thought it interesting that a shallow swath of water was pushing well out in front of us… Gee, I wonder why??? For the record, we both knew better. Pro tip: Don’t stand with your back to the sea… Good grief.

In addition to the lodging opportunities of the Seabrook area, the Ocean Crest Resort (and restaurant!) and the Sand Dollar Inn and Condos are also solid options. If you’re feeling hungry after dodging the tides on the beach or writing your name in sand, head over to the Seagate Restaurant & Lounge for casual dining with a relaxed beach vibe. If chocolate is your thing, the Chocolate on the Beach Festival (Feb) celebrates the entire Hidden Coast community with all things chocolate.

Heading further north, you’ll come upon the community of Moclips and just a little further at the end of SR-109, you’ll hit Taholah, home of the Quinault Nation. Visit the Museum of the North Beach in Moclips to learn about the western settlements and swanky vacation lands of the early 1900s Pacific coast and definitely make time to visit the Quinault Cultural Museum in Taholah. The Quinault Nation is comprised of the Quinault and Queets tribes and descendants of the Quileute, Hoh, Chehalis, Chinook and Cowlitz tribes. This distinguished group of Native Americans have been the stewards of the Pacific Coast since time immemorial.

For this particular journey, it was time to head back home. However, we decided to first make a detour to the Quinault Rain Forest to get a dose of lush, otherworldly forest before the drive back. (The Quinault Rain Forest averages 12ft of rain a year and is one of only three temperate coniferous rain forests in the western hemisphere.) To get back to US-101 from SR-109, there are a few options. A popular route is to take the Moclips Highway back over to US-101. Since I’d never driven through the Humptulips area, we opted for Copalis Beach Road (off SR-109 near Copalis Beach) to Kirkpatrick Road instead. Both roads are beautiful two-lane drives which take you through forest and pastured land, winding along the Humptulips River and ending at Humptulips Grocery off US-101. The bonus to this route was getting the opportunity to say “Humptulips” at least 72 times. (Humptulips is an old Salish word of the native Chehalis tribe meaning “hard to pole” or “chilly place,” depending on the source. Come on – this is a family show.)

Humptulips Grocery
Humptulips, Humptulips, HUMPTULIPS!

After taking a left onto US-101 at Humptulips Grocery, we followed the road another half-hour to the turn-off for Lake Quinault Lodge. (Humptulips, Humptulips, HUMPTULIPS) Located two miles up the South Shore Road and inside Olympic National Park, the lodge is a an absolutely marvelous and hearkens back to an era of elegant exploration of the wilds. (Because even out in the middle of the forest, you still dressed for dinner!)

Built in 1926 and on the National Register of Historic Places, it played a very important role in the “Mount Olympus National Monument” (Created by Teddy Roosevelt in 1909 to help preserve the Roosevelt Elk habitat) becoming a national park. The rumor is Franklin D. Roosevelt, on a tour of the area in fall of 1937, was sitting in the lodge when he made the decision to create Olympic National Park. He officially signed the bill in 1938 and 634,000 acres became Park land. Most of the coastal wilderness was added later, in 1953, making the present park nearly one million acres. Olympic National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as an International Biosphere Reserve. The Park is amazing, immense and filled with wonder. I can’t imagine anyone fully being able to explore its offerings within a lifetime…

We were visiting the lodge during the holidays and it was beautifully decked out for the season. It would be completely easy to cozy up inside the lodge any time of the year, drinking hot toddies or dining in the Roosevelt Dining Room or playing card games and listening to the lodge piano. Sign me up! However, it would be an absolute shame not to take in all the offerings of the lodge grounds – any time of year. (Albeit a little more wet during the winter) Plentiful hiking trails, boat tours on the beautiful Lake Quinault, paddle-boarding, kayaking and canoeing and general lounging on the grounds are just a few of the options. The lodge itself reminds me of a summer retreat, ala Dirty Dancing, but the grounds and lake area really put the icing on the ‘nobody puts Baby in a corner’ cake. Visit the Lake Quinault Museum located across from the lodge to take in more of the history of the lodge and check out the adjacent Quinault Mercantile to enjoy a quick meal or stock up for your area adventure.

The hiking opportunities are amazing in the park, but there’s also an amazing road trip to be had around the lake – no heavy backpack required. Drive or bike the 31-mile loop drive around the lake known as The Quinault Loop to experience some of the most amazing scenery in the country. It’s comprised of the South Shore and North Shore roads and winds through an amazing cross-section of the park. Visit Merriman Falls, part of the Olympic Peninsula Waterfall Trail, stop at the Quinault River and Quinault River Bridge, hike out to the Kestner Homestead (on the National Register of Historic Places) and generally revel in the breathtaking beauty of the Park.

To say there are A LOT of hiking and camping opportunities in the area would be putting it mildly. There are three National Forest campgrounds at Lake Quinault – Two are reservation-only, via the Recreation.gov site. (Walk-in sites may be available on a daily basis via the front desk at lodge) If you plan on backpacking into backcountry camping areas, you will need a wilderness permit from a National Park office. You will also need bear canisters to deter the plentiful local wildlife from raiding your supplies.

A few of the main campsite options in the area:

  • Willaby Campground – Located on the South Shore and appropriate for tents and smaller RVs. USDA Forest Service – Reservation only.
  • Falls Creek Campground – Located on the South Shore and appropriate for tents and smaller RVs. USDA Forest Service – Reservation only.
  • Gatton Creek Campground – Walk-in tent sites located on the South Shore – no reservations. Part of Olympic National Forest.
  • Graves Creek Campground – National Park Service site located on the Upper South Shore, deep in the rain forest. First come, first-served – No RVs or trailers. The trailhead to Enchanted Valley is close by.
  • North Fork Campground – National Park Service site located on the Upper North Shore. First come, first-served – not recommended for RVs or trailers. Close to the trailhead to the Skyline Trail. Another great trail located in the North Shore area is the 13-mile, round-trip Elip Creek Trail.
  • Consider checking out the Lake Quinault Mushroom Festival in October to learn all about the amazing stock of delicious mushrooms you might come across while hiking in the area. Yum!

Pro Tip: Make campsite reservations well in advance if offered. Some campsites are only open seasonally – check before you go.

Lake Quinault Lodge and the local campsites are all excellent ideas for an Olympic National Park or Forest getaway. However, as the area is incredibly large, there are of course several other stellar options available. Here are just a few:

  • Rain Forest Resort Village– Home of the world’s largest Spruce tree, the Rain Forest Resort Village has many things to offer. Enjoy a delicious meal at The Salmon House Restaurant and relaxing days hanging out on Lake Quinault. On a giant tree note, the spruce tree at the resort is one of the standouts in the spectacular Valley of the Rain Forest Giants. (Contains the largest Sitka spruce in the world, along with giant Hemlock, Douglas Fir, Western Red and Alaska Cedars) They also have a General Store and gift shop for your lakeside needs.
  • Lochaerie Resort(c. 1926) – Beautiful rustic cabins on the North Shore of Lake Quinault – Just inside the park off US-101.
  • Quinault River Inn – Located just off US-101 on the Quinault River, by the Amanda Park Mercantile, the Quinault River Inn features comfortable lodging and provides a great base from which to explore the Olympic Rain Forest. They also have RV sites available.

With the daylight long having faded and the rain long having kicked up, it was time to head home to Seattle. We would, however, soon take another “follow-up” trip to the area, just to make sure we didn’t miss anything. Okay, and also to revisit the Westport Winery. We’re wine club members, after all. We felt it important to check in on the state of our quarterly delivery. And maybe just pick it up a little early…

Just like the state of Washington, Grays Harbor County offers an amazing array of activity, scenery, history and opportunity within its lovely borders. I’d be hard-pressed to name another place where I could see one of the world’s most extensive Star Wars shops, walk on some of the world’s longest beaches, check out some of the world’s largest trees and enjoy some of the world’s best razor clams all in the frame of a day. Grays Harbor is a gold mine and I’m looking forward to returning again and again to uncover more of its beauty.

Until next time – Cheers – and eat the state!


I Ate the State: Grays Harbor County – The Spotify Playlist (We were feeling a bit of the Yacht Rock vibe at the beginning of our adventure…)

  • A Horse with No Name – America (from America)
  • Reelin’ in the Years – Steely Dan (from Can’t Buy a Thrill)
  • Any Major Dude Will Tell You – Steely Dan (from Pretzel Logic)
  • Drift Away – Doby Gray (from Drift Away)
  • Sailing – Christopher Cross (from Christopher Cross)
  • Biggest Part of Me – Ambrosia (from One Eighty)
  • Steal Away – Robbie Dupree (from Robbie Dupree)
  • Love Will Find a Way – Pablo Cruise (from Worlds Away)
  • Escape (The Pina Colada Song) – Rupert Holmes (from Partners in Crime)
  • Come Sail Away – Styx (from The Grand Illusion)
  • Come as You Are – Nirvana (from Nevermind)
  • All Apologies – Nirvana (from In Utero)
  • Heart-Shaped Box – Nirvana (from In Utero)
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit – The Bad Plus (from These Are the Vistas)
  • Star Wars (Main Theme) – John Williams & The London Symphony Orchestra (from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  • Relatively Easy – Jason Isbell (from Southeastern)
  • These Days – Glen Campbell w/Howard Willing & Julian Raymond (from Meet Glen Campbell)
  • Killing the Blues – Robert Plant & Alison Krauss (from Raising Sand)
  • Wichita Lineman (Like at RAK) – Villagers (from Where Have You Been All My Life?)
  • HUMPTULIPS – The Shivering Denizens (from The Shivering Denizens)
  • Driving Without Purpose – Ylvis (from Stories from Norway: Northug)
Star Wars
Okay. I did buy a couple of things at the Star Wars shop…


More I Ate the State Adventures: