The ferry ride from mukilteo to Clinton is so short, it’s hardly worth leaving the car; instead, it’s best to use those 20 minutes as an opportunity to roll down the window and inhale your first few deep breaths of cool, misty air coming off Puget Sound. Once off the ferry, the views along State Route 525 shift dramatically from the mainland. Gone are the strip malls, and in their place towering trees filter light through their branches. Another 10 minutes of driving weaves you past the adorably quaint Whidbey Island Winery and into Langley’s downtown.
We parked our car, prepared to explore the town’s few blocks of restaurants, shops and galleries on foot. My husband and I—people who will unabashedly travel anywhere for good food—had escaped our jobs and kids for just a few hours. It was his birthday, and we were in Langley primarily to try Saltwater, the 2-year-old seafood restaurant from the owners of Langley institution Prima Bistro, on the same block. To work up an appetite, we strolled the flat waterfront Seawall Park. It’s a short, scenic, easily accessible path; alternatively, or additionally, walk down First Street, which runs parallel to the park, to pop into stores such as the delightful Moonraker Bookstore or Edit boutique, which sells a curated selection of items ranging from baby gifts to linen dresses to ceramic tableware, many of them created by local artists.
The charming farmhouse occupied by Whidbey Island Winery. Photo courtesy of Whidbey Island Winery
At noon, when Saltwater opened, there were a few eager diners lined up already, even in midweek, which illustrates the popularity of this small, nautical-themed café. We ordered a little of everything: a thick chowder full of tender clams; piles of Penn Cove mussels steamed with butter and white wine; the most delicate cornmeal-crusted fried oysters, freshly plucked from the water nearby; and a slice of rich hazelnut cheesecake, which the waitstaff brought out with a birthday candle, for dessert.
Full and happy, we meandered back to the car, contemplating an iced coffee for the road from Useless Bay Coffee Company. Ultimately, we chose to pick up a pound of beans to take home, a reminder of this brief escape for the week to come.
Cute boutique Edit stocks art, home goods, clothes and gifts. Photo courtesy of Edit
TO GET THERE
Langley is about an hour drive north of Seattle, including ferry time (if the ferry schedule cooperates), via Mukilteo and the Clinton ferry; or approximately two hours and 30 minutes if you drive north through Deception Pass.
Why we like it: It feels like a close island vacation, thanks to the 20-minute ferry ride.
Main attraction: Seafood caught that morning is served with a side of water views.
Don’t miss: If you’ve got the time, spend the night—and book spa appointments and dinner reservations—at the charismatic Inn at Langley, where you can embrace the unhurried island pace without ever leaving the property.