Top Posts in October Are…

This blog’s been QUIET the past few months, as we’re doing all of our posting for Going Mobile. Here’s what’s getting clicked on in that space:

How to score a camping site at Arches National Park

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We lucked out after talking with the helpful camp hosts at this very popular campground.

8 awesome places to eat and drink in Aspen

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The pate at Meat & Cheese in Aspen, Colorado, is exceptional.

Outdoorsy offers opportunity to try before you buy

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We’ve rented all sorts of vehicles through Outdoorsy.

4 essential tips for experiencing Mesa Verde National Park

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We loved catching the sunset at the Far View Lodge in Mesa Verde National Park.

Let’s connect! Please follow along on our Instagram and we’ll follow back.

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6 Reasons Why We Absolutely LOVED Airstream’s Basecamp

We recently hit the highway in an Airstream Basecamp, the smallest model from the most recognizable name in trailers. Here are 6 reasons it was an absolute blast.

1. It’s So Adorable

The stylish, super sporty design of this cozy pull-along is attention grabbing. It received Basecamplogo2lots of admiring looks as we traveled around North Cascades National Park  and in one instance, it stopped traffic. As we were taking photos on State Route 20’s Washington Pass, a couple from Seattle pulled over to ask about it. Of course, we gave them a tour. Because it’s such a departure from the classic Airstream, it comes as a sweet surprise when people learn about this fairly new product. (It first debuted in 2017.)

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The Airstream Basecamp proved to be nimble on the roadway.

2.  It’s Easy to Manuever

Because of its tidy size, the Basecamp feels nimble on the roadway. We had an Infiniti QX80 loaner as our tow vehicle, and that sweet ride was plenty powerful to haul this 3,000 pounder. Backing into campsites was fairly smooth, though we did get into a jam in a parking lot of a trailhead, pulling too close to a barrier. Fortunately, a couple good citizens wandered over and helped guide us out of that pickle. Thanks, guys!

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Breakfast was a breeze on the nice Basecamp stove.
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Northwest succotash with prosciutto-wrapped shrimp was easy to do on the two-burner.

3. The Kitchen is Dreamy

The galley setup is at the front of the rig, facing a bank of windows. Brilliant! It has lots of cupboard space for pantry items, and the fridge is large enough to stock up for a week-long trip. Two propane burners fired up easily and cooked food quickly. The sink was off to the side, so it was a little too tight in the space for the dishwasher to be cleaning up after the messy cook at the same time. There wasn’t a ton of counter space, but we made the most it.

4. Comfy Sleeping Space

A seating area doubles as a bed, configured by moving cushions around. Not exactly the easiest bed to make — it’s roughly the same size as a queen, but is rounded at the bottom of the vehicle. However, once everything’s all tucked in, it’s comfortable. There are open shelves above that hold a surprising amount of stuff, clothes, towels, books, etc.

5. Outdoor Shower’n

If you’re in a private campsite, you can snake the shower head through a small opening and — ahhhhh, that feels good to cool off outside. If you’d rather get ‘er done inside, it’s a toilet-in-the-shower-stall kind of situation. Good to know: The Basecamp has one tank for both gray and black water, so it fills up more quickly than those RVs that have two tanks.

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The seating area was a comfortable place to enjoy wine and snacks.

6. Happy Hour in the Cafe

That’s what we nicknamed the seating area, after chilling and sipping wine, talking about our thrilling hike that afternoon. We spotted four bears — from the comfort of our car — on our drive up to the Thornton Lakes trailhead. It was one of those amazing moments that seems almost unreal, and reaffirms that insatiable desire to get out and enjoy nature.

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In North Cascades National Park, we explored the Skagit River Loop Trail in Newhalem, Wash.
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The Basecamp was a fun rig to take up in the mountains of North Cascades National Park.

 

Tiny Kitchen Challenge: Making Pizza

Leslie says: I’m kinda shocked to discover I really love the challenge of cooking in a tiny kitchen. On a recent hot springs tour around British Columbia, I used the excellent setup in our  CanaDream Class C RV to grill steak, stir smoked salmon into risotto, and, my biggest triumph yet, making pizza!

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Prepping is Key

Before we hit the road, I spent a few hours in my home kitchen, getting some dishes dialed in. Even when you’re traveling, though, that’s such an essential part of putting together meals in a flash. Plastic containers and ziplock baggies are perfect for keeping ingredients sorted. Even if it seems obvi, label and date everything. A little trick I picked up years ago, working as an apprentice in Tom Douglas restaurants.

Making Some Dough

Adapted from my favorite pizza dough recipe from the awesome Sara Moulton, I added the dry ingredients to a plastic bag and planned on finishing the dough on Pizza Day. That special dinner came at the end of a long day on the road and a relaxing soak at Fairmont Hot Springs, with the Rocky Mountains in the background. The kind of breathtaking, Instagram-worthy setting that reinforces this kinda crazy journey we’re taking. Before hitting the pool, I added water and some olive oil and put the wet dough in a sealed container, covered in the filtered afternoon sun. Two hours later, it had doubled, and was ready to go.

Crank Up The Heat

A blazing fire is best for creating the pleasantly blistered on the bottom, yet still soft inside crust and we had hoped to try this over bunch of crackling wood, but the weather turned drizzly. So, I tried the next best thing and heat my Lodge Cast Iron grill pan in the teeny oven. Ten minutes in, the smoke detector started shrieking. Not an uncommon experience when I’m in the kitchen. Johnny removed the battery — temporarily — and we were back in business.

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Charcuterie from the exceptional Oyama Sausage Co., on Vancouver’s Granville Island made this pizza extra special.

Getting the Dough in the Red Hot Pan

This took some team work, and while my first attempt to fill up the skillet wasn’t spot on, it convinced me to go smaller on the second round. While Johnny propped open the oven door, I transferred the dough from one of those floppy cutting boards. There were many ways it could have gone wrong, but it worked. I added the toppings — fresh mozzarella, pesto, chopped cherry tomatoes — after about 10 minutes, and let it cook another five. Probably could have gone a little longer.

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Arugula on top this caprese pie means you can skip the salad course.

The Take Aways

Our Grand Tour has been evolving towards a pretty low key approach to breakfast and lunch, while dinner is a big deal. It’s the evening’s entertainment — followed by a round of cribbage (we’re all tied up in this epic battle!) — so, I put a lot of thought into meal planning. Going forward, I’m going to focus on recipes from some of my fave cookbooks. First up, next trip: PNW Veg by my friend, Kim O’Donnel.

Wine Pairing

You think reds when it comes to pizza, but instead I poured my current obsession, an Oregon Pinot blanc from Elk Cove Vineyards. I love how this crisp, fruity white has the backbone to stand up to strong flavors like the pesto. It balanced the richness of the creamy cheese and brightened up the dreary spring evening in beautiful Canadian mountains. Of course, because we’re in British Columbia, we followed that up with a glass of merlot from Tinhorn Creek.

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Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot blanc is perfect with pizza.

7 Fun Things to Do in Vancouver, B.C.

We’ve been on an epic road trip around British Columbia, starting with a couple days in Vancouver. This gorgeous city is so much fun to explore, whether it’s on foot, or an itty-bitty ferry. Here’s some of our favorite fun things to do.

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Leave the car and take the False Creek Ferry to get around.

Jump on Board a Water Taxi

These small boats stop at spots along False Creek, the main waterway on the south side of town. Ride it the full length for about $3, an incredible deal, before getting out at Granville Island. There, walk through the bustling marketplace. There are loads of cafes to get a meal, drink or coffee. Or, go DIY and score some outstanding charcuterie at Oyama Sausage Company before heading outside for a picnic. Talented buskers entertain the crowds on sunny days.

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The Sea Wall has some exceptional viewpoints around the perimeter of Stanley Park.

Walk the Sea Wall at Stanley Park

Take the roughly 4-mile perimeter trail around the premier park that helps define the urban area’s embrace of natural beauty. You’ll see snow-capped mountains in the distance and lots of ship traffic on the busy commercial gateway to the Pacific, all while sharing the path with runners, cyclists and skaters. Plan on spending some time in the English Beach area on the end of your hike. The Sylvia Hotel‘s bar is excellent for happy hour or a casual meal. Try the fried squid and the signature cocktail, a delicious gin-based drink called The Vancouver.

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Wet your whistle at the Sylvia Bar on English Bay.

Eat Southern Fried Chicken in Chinatown

Juke nails the crunchy, seasoned just right bird at spot on the edge of Chinatown. The vibe is fast food, order at the counter, but the results are shockingly sophisticated. Definitely drizzle some housemade hot honey over the golden pieces of perfect poultry.

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Juke fries up some outstanding chicken on the edge of Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Drink a Toast to Gassy Jack

Head upstairs to The Diamond, a retro cool bar with a view of Gastown’s heart, Maple Tree Square. The soaring windows look down and a statute of one of the city’s founders, John Deighton, aka Gassy Jack. Trust the friendly staff to make suggestions on beverage and food, but, if you’re adventurous, order the brandade. This sassy dip is made with potatoes and salt cod, which might sound strange, but it’s wonderful.

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The Vancouver at The Diamond in Gastown. Via Facebook
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Walk around Canada Place for a great view of the downtown Vancouver waterfront.

Go Downtown and Get a View

Canada Place, the iconic sailing-ship-themed convention center and gathering place on the downtown Vancouver waterfront, is as striking up close as it is from afar. Take a walk around it. While you’re there, consider going on the Fly Over Canada ride. It’s a bit cheesy, but undeniably fun. You’ll watch a beautiful big-screen view of the Canada’s beauty while hanging over a dark abyss. For another nice city view, ascend Vancouver Lookout at nearby Harbour Centre.

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Take in the city views from Vancouver Lookout downtown.

Eat a Boatload of Sushi

There are about a million sushi options in the city, which means the competition’s stiff. We checked in with the super helpful concierge at the swank hotel where we were staying — The Douglas — and he recommended a few spots within walking distance. We were so impressed by the depth of fish selection and pristine quality at Bistro Sakana in the buzzy Yaletown neighborhood, and its gracious staff. It was also pretty darned affordable, with dinner for two ringing up at under $70, Canadian.

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Photo via Bistro Sakana’s Facebook.

Start the Day Brunching

Medina Cafe is crazy popular for the morning/midday meal, so if you don’t arrive early, you’re going to have to wait. But you’ll be in good company. Your patience will be rewarded by inventive global twists on brunch like the egg-topped paella, cassoulet and spicy Moroccan lamb meatballs. The legendary Belgian-style waffles are a fine way to start a meal, or end it.

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Brunch at Cafe Medina might require waiting, but it’s worth it, especially if you like Eggs Benedict.

 

 

How to Build a Raging Campfire

She says: When you’re hanging outside, a campfire is everything. It’s entertaining, and warm, of course. You can cook on it, searing steaks and turning marshmallows gooey. Stare into it and think deep thoughts.

It takes skill, patience and practice — and lots kindling — to make an awesome fire. Here’s some tips from Johnny.

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Prepping

A hatchet is key for cutting logs into drumstick size kindling. Crumple newspaper and form a pyramid of kindling around them. Add fire starters around that pyramid, if you’ve got them.

Light That Fire

Once the flames get going, don’t think the work’s done. When the kindling phase of this project is burning hot, it’s time to add the larger logs, one at a time. If those pieces don’t take off, add more newspaper. Johnny tears off strips of paper, laying them on top of the fire.

Essential Tool

A pair of extra long kitchen tongs are really helpful in moving pieces of wood around. It’s important to create airflow. The more oxygen moving through, the bigger the flames. Careful, though! Cuz, you know… it’s fire!

Here’s a quickie Instagram story, shot on our recent trip to the Olympic Pennisula:

3 Cool Tips for Teeny Kitchen Cooking

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She says: I’m now obsessed with looking at photos of people living the van life. (Considering we’re strongly thinking about heading down that road.) But one scene I rarely see if some real cooking happening in the carefully curated, Insta-worthy scenes.

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That’s probably because it’s HARD. Here are a few ways I tried to make it work in some super small spaces.

Take it Outside

Of course, it’s nice to have the option of scrambling eggs or simmering a big batch of chili inside on a drizzly day, but when it’s sunny, there’s nothing better than cooking out. Am I right? As much as I love the char that comes from searing meat on a fire, I’m a recent convert to the camp stove. They’re lightweight, heat up quickly and cook in a flash. Also! Invest in a grill pan. I absolutely love mine from my friends at Lodge Cast Iron, pictured below.

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Invest in a Lodge Cast Iron grill pan.

Get Extra Organized

On our recent adventure in the Peace Van, I was so impressed with how the crew had tucked all the essential cooking tools into bins. Need a spatula in a hurry? There are only two place it could be. It made me feel more efficient, and isn’t the smaller footprint what this whole Van Life movement is about? Keeping it simple.

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Plastic bins help keep everything organized.

Big Flavors, Small Containers

I’m forever searching for the best seasonings and condiments as a way to elevate other ingredients. New discoveries include Mike’s Hot Honey, Dank Sauce and San Juan Islands Salt and Pepper grinder. It’s so much fun to try them on my road food menu. That smoky/spicy Dank Sauce is now my go-to finish for fresh oysters, and the fiery honey warms up my post-dinner chamomile tea. Go get you some!

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What’s your favorite meal to cook outside? Please let us know in the comments.

 

How to Get the Most Out of an Olympic Peninsula Camping Trip

The U.S. Highway 101 loop around the Olympic Peninsula is one of the best drives in the United States.

To make the most of it, consider camping as you travel 475 miles around Washington’s coastal handle, taking in the seafood-rich Hood Canal region, the scenic Strait of Juan de Fuca, the lush rainforest and the wild western coastline.

You can do it any time of year. We were lucky enough to hit the weather right for a winter camping trip, done comfortably in a 1987 VW Westfalia camper provided by Peace Vans of Seattle. For three nights of winter camping, it worked amazingly well.

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Filling up at Olympia’s Artesian Well.

Oly — It’s the Water

Starting in the state capital of Olympia, take a few minutes and head downtown to the Artesian Well and Commons, a small city park at 415 4th Ave. SE. There, you’ll find a quintessential Olympia scene.

Hippies hanging out. Kids shooting baskets. A constant flow of people from all walks of life. Why? They come to fill up jugs of water from the city’s artesian well.

The pipe from this well spews some of the tastiest water you’ll find anywhere. It’s free, and many people in Olympia use it as their primary source of drinking water.

It also makes great camping water. Bring a few jugs yourself and fill ’em up.

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Hama Hama Oyster Saloon is an essential stop along Hood Canal.

Hood Canal and Dungeness Spit

Continuing west on U.S. 101, take the right turn for Shelton and you’re on the way up scenic Hood Canal, the western-most lobe of Puget Sound. Besides being pretty, Hood Canal also is home of many of Washington’s best commercial oyster operations.

If you make one stop, it should be at the Hama Hama Oyster Saloon. You can sit around and have them in the lively outdoor saloon, or you can do what we did and put them on ice and shuck them later. You’ll need an oyster knife, some lemon, a little hot sauce and that’s about it for a taste of seafood heaven.

From Hama Hama, it’s about 1.5 hours to Dungeness Recreation Area, a fantastic campground and natural area that takes in Dungenss Spit near the town of Sequim. At 6.8 miles long, it is the longest sand spit in the United States.

You’ll see lots of birdlife, seals, sea lions, the occasional orca, and billions of board feet of driftwood on the wild and secluded beach. It’s a long hike to the lighthouse on the end, but you can get the flavor of the spit by hiking out a mile or so.

Make sure to reserve your campsite ahead of time: This place fills up on weekends in the high season.

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Our campsite at Dungeness Recreation area.
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Dungeness Spit juts 6.8 miles into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Onward to the Coast

From the town of Sequim it’s about two hours to Forks, home to the vampires and werewolves of “Twilight” fame, but really just a rough logging town still trying to cash in on the books and movies.

First, consider a few stops along the way. Port Angeles is the biggest city on the peninsula and a great place to gas up and grab provisions. If you visit in summer, an essential side trip is Hurricane Ridge inside Olympic National Park, one of the visited national parks in the United States. Camp at Heart of the Hills and do a hike off of Hurricane Ridge. On a sunny day, the views of the Olympic Mountains and the ocean far below are gorgeous.

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Lake Crescent is a highlight the northern section of the U.S. 101 loop.

Past Port Angeles, you should consider a stop at Lake Crescent, a picture-perfect lake amid the Olympic Mountains. The historic lodge makes a fine place for a lunch pit stop.

When you get to Forks, you have a choice for camping locations. Drive west on State Route 110. At the main intersection at the Riverview RV Park, you can go right to Olympic National Park’s Mora Campground, or stay left and go to La Push, a small fishing town on the Quileute Indian Reservation.

Both locations have advantages. The Mora Campground is not on the ocean — Rialto Beach is three miles away. The rough and rugged Rialto is an amazing place, suitable for a great three-mile day hike along a wilderness beach to a headlands called Hole in the Wall.

If you go to La Push, your camping option is at the Quileute Oceanside Resort. The camp sites are just OK, but the beach setting is gorgeous. La Push has become one of the most popular surfing locations in Washington, and the break in front of the resort attracts a hardy group of wetsuit-wearing shredders all year long.

From La Push, two wilderness beaches are within a short distance. Second Beach and Third Beach offer nice day-hiking options within bordering Olympic National Park.

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The break at La Push attracts a hardy group of shredders.
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Hikers along Third Beach near the town of La Push.

Kalaloch

Just about an hour south from La Push is the beach camping mecca of Kalaloch. If you can snag a spot, Kalaloch offers some of the very best camping along the Washington coast. Be forewarned that you should get a reservation, or at the very least get there early.

If you’re as lucky as we were, grab a spot along the bluff overlooking the beach. You won’t forget it.

The beach itself is long, flat and beautiful, but doesn’t feel as wild as the beaches to the north near La Push. That said, the campsites along the bluff are amazing.

You have a commanding view of the beach and ocean, where you can watch sea birds, the occasional beach walker or just gaze at the clouds rolling by. There’s not a better place on the coast to just hang out and soak in the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula.

It’s a great trip-ender. From here, it’s about two hours back to Olympia — or you can hit the reset button and do it all over again.

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The view from our campsite at Kalaloch out the back of our Peace Van.
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The beach at Kalaloch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Explore: Hike the Bluffs and Beaches of Whidbey Island

Obviously, Joseph Whidbey was onto something.

It was springtime 1792 when Whidbey, a member of the Vancouver Expedition, sailed around the largest island in Puget Sound, rocketing through the currents of Deception Pass. Capt. George Vancouver was ecstatic, naming the island after his intrepid crewman.

Just like old Joe, you should take your own spin around Whidbey Island.

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The arching bridge at Deception Pass.

Explore these Whidbey Island parks

Whidbey Island is home to several excellent parks, each offering fine hiking opportunities. Deception Pass State Park at the north end of the island is a must-visit location to see the wild currents and historic bridge arching 180 feet above the water.

Deception Pass sprawls across more than 4,000 acres and offers camping, hiking and seasonal kayak rentals. This is Washington’s most visited state park for a reason: Aside from the recreation opportunities, the beaches offer great views of the pass and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the west.

Two other fantastic state parks are located just south. Fort Casey and Fort Ebey state parks were originally constructed as coastal defense locations on the west coast of the island. Their gun emplacements are still there, an invitation to explore on the bluffs overlooking Admiralty Inlet.

But it’s not all about the armaments. Each park offers camping and excellent hiking opportunities along their headlands and beaches.

One of the best day hikes in Washington state starts at the Prairie Overlook Trailhead in

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A blockhouse on the prairie at Ebey’s Landing Historical Reserve.

Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve just west of Coupeville, traveling onto a bluff high above the water. At six miles roundtrip, it offers a lesson in history about the Ebey family, the first white settlers on the island, stunning views of Admiralty Inlet and the opportunity to walk the wildest beaches on Whidbey Island.

Other worthy parks for visits include Joseph Whidbey State Park, South Whidbey State Park and Double Bluff Beach, a county park that offers access to a dog-friendly strand near the town of Freeland.

Coupeville and Langley

Tourism is centered in Coupeville and Langley, both cute-as-a-button historic towns that have restaurants and shopping options for visitors. Coupeville, on Penn Cove, is the mussel capital of Washington state — try them at Toby’s Tavern or the Front Street Grill.

Langley on the southern end of the island is just an hour away from Seattle (including the ferry ride), but it feels much farther, with picturesque waterfront shops and restaurants and a small marina. An excellent seafood restaurant, Saltwater Fish House and Oyster Bar, is a handsome stop for lunch or dinner.

You’ll want to skip Oak Harbor at the north end of the island. The mostly charmless commercial center is also home to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

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Coupeville’s historic waterfront.
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The waterfront in Langley.

Why visit Whidbey?

Whidbey Island is just a short drive and ferry ride (Mukilteo to Clinton) from Seattle, making it equally appealing as a day trip or overnight destination. A lively arts scene, a welcoming hippie vibe and two attractive tourist towns are worthy of your attention.

But the best part of the island is its beauty, best explored from a number of excellent parks.

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The bluff trail at Ebey’s Landing overlooks Admiralty Inlet.