Coupeville is a charming waterfront burg on Whidbey Island that echoes with the spirit of a frontier seaport. Today, it's packed with nature trails, artists and historic buildings.
It's a pleasant 90-minute drive from Bellingham, but you'll be tempted to stop at Deception Pass for the great views from the bridge. Once you arrive, there's much to see, including:
Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve, the National Park Service's first such reserve. It's dedicated to preserving the rural character of central Whidbey Island, from Penn Cove to the beach and bluff at Ebey's Landing. Thanks to the reserve, you'll share space with farmers and bald eagles, gray whales and bicyclists, sea otters and kayakers. Nearby, Fort Casey State Park showcases the remains of a coastal artillery battery.
The 1905 Coupeville Wharf houses such shops as Local Grown (where the aroma of espresso nearly knocks you over when you walk in the door), Long's Harbor Gift Shop and Kim's Cafe, as well as skeletons of Rosie, a gray whale, and Rudy, a Dall's porpoise.
Island County Historical Museum, at the foot of the wharf, has more than 20,000 artifacts, from the Ice Age, with fossils of woolly mammoths, to the early days of sea captains and settlers. Other highlights include Native American dugout canoes and the first automobile on the island.
While at the museum, pick up a map to a self-guided house tour. There are about 50 structures in Coupeville on the National Register of Historic Places, including many right downtown.
Toby's Tavern is filled with Northwest memorabilia, including a five-man racing shell built for the University of Washington in the early 1950s. Try the two-pound serving of Penn Cove mussels ($21), and wash them down with the tavern's own brew, Toby's Parrot Red Ale.
Plan ahead for the Penn Cove MusselFest in early March. Locals and visitors gather for a weekend to celebrate and eat mussels, and visit the work spaces of outstanding island artists during the spring studio tour.
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