Written by Aaron Doyle
Mukilteo and Whidbey Island are retreats for body and mind
Waterfront redevelopment began in 2014. For modern history buffs, Mukilteo’s waterfront was dotted with ten enormous fuel storage tanks built by the Air Force. Known as the Tank Farm and built in 1950 on 25 acres of prime waterfront, these vessels were the fueling station for a Korean War fighter squadron stationed at nearby Paine Field.
When the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed in 1953 and the war ended, the pink, green and blue symbols of the Cold War were increasingly a nuisance to the people of Mukilteo and, in 2013, they were transferred to Everett to make way for Mukilteo redevelopment.
It wasn’t until December 2020 that the more than forty-year effort to build a new multimodal ferry terminal became reality. The new terminal was designed to resemble a longhouse of the Coastal Salish Tribes, who had long lived in the area and fished these waters.
JAPANESE GULCH PARK • LIGHTHOUSE
Once the forested land owned by the Mukilteo Lumber Company, which employed and housed a considerable number of Japanese laborers prior to World War II, these 144 acres found a more sustainable incarnation as Japanese Gulch Park, when, in 2014, community members rallied to save it from development.
Hiking the serene 4 miles of trails in Japanese Gulch Park puts you in the midst of a green canopy and its wildlife residents of herons, woodpeckers, coyotes and deer. For a bit of a natural thrill, give the Japanese Gulch Big Swing a go. The rope swing swoops down a gully and is surrounded by trees in a Tarzan-like adventure.
To recharge Pacific Northwest style, head to Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing for clam chowder, Dungeness crab bisque or the shrimp and Dungeness crab Louie salad. This is also the perfect preamble to an amble through Mukilteo Lighthouse Park, where the Mukilteo Light Station stands on the edge of the Puget Sound.
Designed by Carl Leick, a German immigrant who also designed the Captain Flavel House in Astoria and dozens of other structures along the Pacific Northwest coast, the Mukilteo Light Station (open Saturdays and Sundays) is a chapter in American history. Leick reportedly modeled his creations after the phrase, “Build ’em stout and make ’em last.”
You can celebrate that attitude and the landmark by heading to the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival at Lighthouse Park September 10 through 12.
Better yet, get yourself a creamy Irish stout and a poblano-stuffed burger at Diamond Knot Brewing, just a stone’s throw from the lighthouse. This local brewery has three stouts on tap among many of the other craft styles popular in Northwest. The food menu has everything from creative salads to steaks served on a 750-degree granite rock, which you use to cook the meat to your preference.
WHIDBEY ISLAND • ART • ZEN
Be an islander on your second day and take the twenty-minute ferry to Whidbey Island and head 6 miles north to Langley. Langley is home to many artists and galleries, including Museo, a contemporary gallery with a powerful collection of provocative artists. Don’t miss Rob Schouten Gallery and Sculpture Garden in an old Spanish Colonial bank building. The gallery and sculpture garden feature many Whidbey Island artists who paint, sculpt, make jewelry and work with wood.
If you’d like to add movement to art, the Price Sculpture Forest (22 miles north) is a private wooded property with sculptures along meandering trails. It is free and open to the public and has a virtual tour of recordings from the various artists.
Before dinner, stop in at Ott & Hunter winery, tasting room and cabaret. In an intimate space overlooking the Sound, sip some French-style, island-made wine with grapes from Yakima Valley, Red Mountain and the Columbia Valley.
Set off for a meditative afternoon at Earth Sanctuary, a privately owned, 72-acre old-growth forest 6 miles east of downtown Langley with sculptures from modern to historic and meditation spaces, it’s a retreat for the mind and body. Owner Chuck Pettis, author of Secrets of Sacred Space, has designed an ecological masterpiece.
For dinner, don’t miss Saltwater Fish House & Oyster Bar, with the fresh catch of regional oysters on a chalkboard. Or head to the Bayview Farmers Market in Langley to make your own dinner from local fish, beef, fruits and veggies.
End the night with handmade chocolate-covered caramels from Sweet Mona’s Chocolates. A graduate of Ecole Chocolat in Vancouver, B.C., Mona Newbauer brings together cacao from Ecuador and Venezuela, European-style butter and local cream to produce some of the finest craft chocolates in the Pacfic Northwest.
ON THE WATER • BAKED GOODS
Bring a paddleboard or kayak for a morning paddle along the scenic coastline from Mukilteo south towards Edmonds, as part of the Washington Coastal Paddle Route, or knock off a shorter out and back depending on your time and endurance. Any length will feel refreshing and calming.
Before you go, reward yourself with an apple galette or canelés de Bordeaux from Touba Bakery just over the city line in Everett. The Senegalese chef and owner, Papa Seck, creates works of art every morning that make everyone a little happier and long for more travel and discovery.