Day Trip Cruising Leads to Fine Dining in these Port Towns
BY MARYROSE DENTON
Boat travel is slow travel. By its very essence it requests the traveler to breathe deep and languidly let life sink down a few paces with each bobbing wave. And what better way to experience the Pacific Northwest than through its waterways?
Before car travel, train travel, or travel by plane, the mode of transportation, for pleasure or for industry, happened by boat. Arriving at any of the ports in the Salish Sea was historically an arrival at these towns’ front door. These port towns were the heart of cultural, trade, and business centers. Today some of them have grown into large urban meccas while others have retained their quaint seaside port vibe. The good news is all of them possess amazing restaurants to spice up any fine dining experience, and just a day trip away.
Connect with nature as well as this beautiful region we all call home while embracing slow travel by water.
Then stop over for dinner, these ports of call are waiting and the table is set.
Two Main Ports to Begin A Day Trip Adventure
PORT OF EVERETT MARINA
Located on Port Gardner Bay, this port is heralded as the largest public marina on the West Coast. The Port of Everett Marina houses 2,300 permanent boat slips with additional 5,000 lineal feet of guest moorage.
Moor where there is more, is the saying around the marina.
And more means a full-service boatyard, a fuel dock, upland boat services, laundry, shower facilities, and a 13-lane boat launch making a day on the water easy from the start.
Cast off from Everett’s docks for simple access into the Saratoga Passage and head northward for the day, enjoying the marine life and scenery of the eastern shore of Whidbey Island. Cruising these waters offers breathtaking views of the San Juan Islands and Mount Baker in the distance. On a clear day, even the North Shore Mountains of British Columbia are visible on the horizon, appearing as dark blue silhouettes rising into the sky.
PORT OF EDMONDS MARINA
Created in 1962, the Port of Edmonds sits between the shores of North Seattle and the Port of Everett. Extending 500 feet westward into Puget Sound, this marina keeps boaters in mind. After being reconstructed due to damage during a gale force storm in 1996, the marina now includes over 600 wet moorage slips with ample guest moorage for overnight and short-term stays. Other standard amenities include shower facilities, fuel dock, and boat launch with straightforward access into the waters of Port Gardner bay and beyond.
Find historic and unique shops in Coupeville. Photo Credit: MaryRose Denton
Heading to Coupeville
COUPEVILLE WHARF MARINA
Located on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Coupeville Marina welcomes boaters into the quiet waters of Penn Cove.
The iconic red grain wharf, originally built in 1905 and used for exporting Whidbey Island grain, draws one in like a siren.
Coupeville, the second oldest town in Washington, was founded in 1852. This charming slice of an older time offers the perfect taste of that slower island life. Much of the downtown area retains its century-old charm.
Popular for locals and tourists, the burnt sienna-colored, wooden building standing sentry at the end of the pier becomes a prominent spot for capturing stunning photography shots during a beautiful evening.
Pulling up at the Coupeville dock provides a postcard-worthy view looking back at the town and its rustic yet charming seaside buildings lining Main Street in the central, and very quaint, hub of this tiny town. The wharf is an active marina for boaters, and guests mooring here can expect a fuel dock, guest moorage, pump out station, showers, cafe, kayak rentals, and an easy walking distance to coffee houses, shops, and restaurants.
One restaurant not to miss sits up the hill from the marina, overlooking Penn Cove. In the evenings, it provides a great spot to watch the lights flickering over the water as if they are stars meeting the earth.
The couple blocks jaunt is worth it to find the best Italian food along the shores of the Salish Sea.
The greeting is heard as you enter, with the aroma of roasting garlic and fresh spices hitting your olfactory senses. It’s as if you walked into your Italian grandma’s kitchen (or someone’s grandmother) full of vibrancy, warmth, and many mouth watering smells.
Big, spacious, and relaxed outdoor covered dining area with heaters for a chillier PNW evening.
From the moment you step into Ciao!, you step into a slice of Italy in this classically styled pizzeria.
If you ever appreciated Stanley Tucci’s “Searching for Italy,” then Ciao! Owner and Maestro Pizzaiolo, Mark Laska, has the meal for you, straight from Naples.
Laska apprenticed under Enzo Coccia in Naples, who was prominently featured in the television series. It is under Coccia’s tutorial where Laska learned the artistry to the perfect Neapolitan pizza. In fact, it is their most requested menu item, according to Laska. It all starts with handmade dough, made daily at Ciao!, along with the doughs, and fresh cheeses like burrata. Everything from the Italian flour to the dinner wine are hand picked by Laska and staff. They are partial to supporting small craft vintners and farmers both locally as well as in Italy.
Ciao! may be tucked up on the hill of this magical town but the walk to stretch your legs is well worth it! The view alone from the upstairs windows looking out over Penn Cove with the Cascade Mountain range behind is absolutely stunning. (Plus the walk back to the boat is a great way to walk off some of Ciao!’s delicious dinner. Try the creamy pesto gnocchi for a treat followed by a slice of Tiramisu for complete and utter decadence.)
Beginning in March, Ciao! will be offering a 4-course indoor dining experience in their upstairs lounge with panoramic views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. These meals will be offered at two evening intervals of 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. A perfect wine pairing may be added to the dinner.
For a more casual dining experience, sit outside under the elegance of their canopy and watch the daylight fade away into a spectacular sunset. Or to go even more casual, once you pull into port, and have your dinner delivered directly to your boat deck. Pour some wine and toast la dolce vita.
For any foodie, this is a town to explore by savoring every morsel.
Sometimes doing as the locals do is what is on the menu. And the locals of Penn Cove head to the Oystercatcher for a belly full of what else but Penn Cove mussels! Find the freshest seafood in the area served here, including the oysters — on the half shell, broiled, or fried. Add a specialty salad and it is a full meal washed down with a Washington brew or hard cider. The Oystercatcher is located on Grace Street, just one block up from the entry to the Coupeville Wharf. They are open Thurs – Sun 4:30 – 8 p.m. It is wise to make a reservation.
Heading to Langley
For another great and easy day trip from the Everett Marina, head across the bay to Langley, directly east of the Port of Everett. Langley is approximately nine nautical miles and only 90 minutes away. A great sail, cruise, and time on the water. More than likely there may be a westerly wind, even on a clear day, so be prepared to beat the currents and tack your sails a few times.
From the Port of Edmonds, the trip to Langley will take you in a northerly direction about 15.2 nautical miles. Begin this trip early in the day and if the weather is fair, a southerly wind will fill your sails.
An artist’s mecca and small town located on the southern tip of Whidbey Island, Langley is roughly 30 miles north of downtown Seattle and a very accessible, easy jaunt over the pond from the Edmonds Marina.
Langley proves to be a fabulous destination for a fun and quirky evening spent leisurely perusing all the locally owned businesses, oohing and aahing over the hand-crafted items. There is a small grocery cooperative carrying organic foods as well as local produce, and fine restaurants to be found up and down First Street as well as all over town.
For any foodie, this is a town to explore by savoring every morsel.
SAVORY, A RESTAURANT
Self described as “Eclectic Comfort Food” by owners Stefen Bosworth and Ron Rois, the dishes created by this duo reflect the many nuances and adventures in their lives. With handed-down family recipes inspiring many entrees like the red tomato sauce base from Bosworth’s grandmother, these distinctive flavors hail from experiences traveling abroad, through Mexico, as well as throughout the United States. Combine that with a Northwesterner’s understanding of Pacific Northwest cuisine and it is true synergy happening just beyond that kitchen window.
Savory is situated on First Street in downtown Langley yet is tucked away a bit off the sidewalk. This “hidden” feature only adds to its personality and charm. Walking into Savory is as if you are invited into Bosworth’s and Roi’s home for a dinner party. The dining space intimately allows seating for 16 with an additional 14 dining seats arranged on the deck overlooking the marina at Langley.
The restaurant, which opened in March of 2021, has quickly become a favored spot by many of the locals as well as returning visitors. “Recognizing our guests and getting to know their preferences is one of the greatest compliments,” says Bosworth. When asked for one of the more favored dishes, he replied “The good ol’ fashioned cake. We taste check the chocolate cake quite frequently.” Chalk that up to quality control so every diner receives the perfect, most mouth watering piece of chocolate cake they ever had.
The word “savory” means “full of flavor, delicious, and tasty.” Bosworth and Rois deliver on this promise.
Reservations are recommended for dining. Check out their website for dining in, take-out, and covid protocols.
For a French flare inspired by the Northwest, try Prima Bistro, also found along First Street.
Prima Bistro specializes in seasonal cooking, using the freshest local produce, seafood, and fare to bring out the flavors and joys of this Pacific Northwest town. The menu changes accordingly, giving that extra personalized touch to each dish they serve. There is an extensive wine and spirits bar to add that perfect pairing to a meal, be it the bistro burger, seasonal vegetable risotto, or the local and fresh Penn Cove mussels. Gaze out at the panoramic view from their rooftop patio while languidly sipping on one of the bar’s libations. Add in a few friends to this magical spot and there is a dinner party about to happen.
If seafood is the catch of the day, by all means head up First Street to the Saltwater, a sister seafood cafe brought to you by the folks over at Prima Bistro. After a day of cruising, fish and chips may just be the ticket or try their clam chowder, lobster rolls, crab cakes, clams, mussels, mussels, and more mussels for this is the town specialty, local and fresh. Add in a full cocktail bar, 10 beers on tap, and some good ol’ funky music to create a very fun time.
Open Fri – Tue 12 – 8 p.m. with a happy hour beginning at 3 – 5 p.m.
Open Mon – Thur 3 – 8 p.m., Fri – Sun 12 – 8 p.m. with indoor dining so come as you are for it is first come, first serve. If you are really making a day of cruising or perhaps an overnight stay is the plan, then try heading a little further west to tuck in at Port Ludlow for a Fireside meal. Situated along the Olympic peninsula coastline, this port is 16.4 nautical miles around the northern tip of Bainbridge Island. Leaving from the Port of Edmonds, this a couple hours of good water time through Admiralty Inlet.
On the Move to Port Ludlow
This port houses a 300-slip marina and is uniquely set up for boaters. After tying up at the dock, explore the beachfront for an evening stroll before dinner, making sure to take in the artistry of the native totem pole welcoming all into the waters of this marina.
This section of the journey crosses from Whidbey Island to the Olympic Peninsula, and like many towns here, Port Ludlow began as a logging and sawmill community. It was post-1960 and the completion of the Hood Canal Bridge, connecting the peninsula to the mainland, that Port Ludlow became the site of vacation resorts and get-away weekends. Let the Fireside at Port Ludlow immerse you in luxury and fine dining while enjoying the coastal beauty of this port.
The Fireside at Port Ludlow has become known for its farm-to-fork locally sourced menu. Changing daily and dictated by what is freshest in the moment, the dishes created by Chef Dan Ratigan showcase the best of Northwest fare.
Cozy up by the fireplace for an intimate dinner or relax on the deck with one of the Fireside’s award winning wines from their own extensive and private collection.
Take life down a notch and dine near the sea.