Whidbey Island, Just What We Needed

Whidbey Pies CafeWe had just spent 10 days ferrying around Alaska’s Inside Passage and, to be honest, we were plenty ready to do something new. Unfortunately the very next thing on our agenda, ferrying around Washington’s Whidbey and San Juan Islands, didn’t sound like something new. It sounded an awful lot like what we had just done, only on a seemingly smaller scale. After all, how could Washington’s lesser-known archipelago compete with the grandeur and beauty of Alaska? Surprisingly easily, it turned out.

Art is everywhere on Whidbey, even brightening up this porta-potty.

Art is everywhere on Whidbey, even brightening up this porta-potty.

What we found on Whidbey, and really throughout the San Juans, were small towns with their own distinct centers of gravity. These weren’t places that sprang into existence solely for the benefit of tourists. We got the feeling that if tourists stopped coming, they’d continue on pretty much the way they are – perhaps a bit poorer and a little less polished, but more or less the same.

That’s because behind the down-home facades and overflowing wildflowers were real businesses serving real communities and selling real things. We don’t recall seeing any t-shirt stands. The shops weren’t stuffed with cookie-cutter items produced by the world’s cheapest labor. Much of what we saw on store shelves was produced locally by members of “Puget Sound’s largest artist colony.” Even the stores themselves were often owned by local artists, displaying their own and others’ work.

And then, of course, there were the flowers that seemed to spring from nearly every inch of earth. Manicured, wild, and agriculturally grown. It was July when we were there, and the flowers bloomed everywhere as if stuck in eternal spring.

Whidbey Island Lavender Farm

Whidbey Island Lavender Farm

The flowers and the wonderful people welcomed us onto an island that was so much more than just a ferry stop. Whidbey was just what we needed.

 

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8 Comments on “Whidbey Island, Just What We Needed”

  1. Barbara Mull February 3, 2014 at 8:47 am #

    Glad you enjoyed Whidbey Island. I have the pleasure of being a camp host for several months each summer at Deception State Park on the north end of the island. It’s truly an special place, and the closest I could come to returning to Alaska without actually traveling the extra miles. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog throughout your travels, but especially the posts on my old home Alaska.

    Travel on.

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  2. Deb February 3, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    Interesting to read about this area. We have a place in the Southern Gulf Islands of Canada and always see the San Juans in the distance.

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    • Brian February 4, 2014 at 8:36 am #

      Funny. Are the two connected by ferry? I know we ferried from the San Juans to Victoria. Don’t know if there are any other international connections, though.

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      • Deb February 6, 2014 at 12:14 am #

        We also see American ferries at Swartz Bay up by Sidney. With the right amount of pruning by our neighbor we would see the San Juans from our bedroom.

        Did you go and see Mount Baker in Washington State on your travels? We always see it on a clear day from Gowlland Point and it is stunning.

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  3. NW Frame of Mind February 3, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

    The San Juan Islands are my favorite place to get away. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed your time there!

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    • Brian February 4, 2014 at 8:29 am #

      It really surprised us how much we enjoyed it – especially back to back with both Hawaii and Alaska.

      Like

  4. wineandhistory February 4, 2014 at 12:09 am #

    My in-laws live there so we get there often. I love it everytime.

    Like

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  1. 8 Favorite Destinations, Year 4 | Everywhere Once - April 30, 2014

    […] Whidbey and San Juan Islands, WA […]

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