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A Bridge to Coupeville — Port of Sea Captains

To reach Coupeville (which is located in the center of Whidbey Island) we had the choice of flying, taking a ferry or driving over Deception Pass Bridge … we chose the bridge. This National Monument spans the narrow, high-walled gorge between Fidalgo and Whidbey islands. It is so impressive that it’s hard not to “stop and gawk”. We strolled out on the bridge where it was exhilarating to gaze down 182 feet to the rapidly swirling water below. We read that the tides in Deception Pass are some of the most extreme in the U.S. During our visit the water was calm enough for boats to pass. Next time we’ll time our visit for tide change since this is when the water churns through the narrow passage at its most furious pace.

The bridge over Deception Pass can be crossed on foot ... and will test your sense of vertigo!

When we arrived at Coupeville we were surprised … it is so small. The downtown can be explored in the time it takes to walk a mere two blocks along Front Street. Although Coupeville (pop 850) may be pocket-sized, it has the big distinction of being one of Washington’s oldest towns, and the only town within Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. It is so picturesque (looks like a New England fishing village) that it has been the setting for such movies as Practical Magic, War of the Roses and Snow Falling on Cedars. (I haven't heard of any of those! — Danny)

The town’s icon is the historic Coupeville Wharf, the oldest standing wharf in the Puget Sound. We wandered out to the restored warehouse to check out "Rosie", the only known complete gray whale skeleton on public display. The view from the wharf was suppose to give us the quintessential postcard photo of Coupeville … the wooden buildings along Front Street reflected in the waters of Penn Cove. Of course we were here at low tide, so all we saw was mud and mussel encrusted pilings.

Walking along short sections of original wood-plank sidewalks on Front St, it becomes apparent that Coupeville is well-preserved … not re-created. Even though the false-front wooden buildings have been restored and now house espresso cafes, restaurants and gift shops, the century old buildings are authentic, not Disneyland-style imitations. As we dutifully read the self guided walking tour brochure describing the history of each building, we gained a sense of Coupeville’s history as a port for steamships arriving from Seattle in the early 1900’s. Surrounding Front Street are the Victorian mansions built for the many sea captains that once lived here. Although most have been converted to bed-and-breakfasts, they stand as testimony to the little town known as the "Port of Sea Captains".

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