Land of Loops Pt 1: The Seaside Loop
Author: Richard Porter | Photographer: Jake Campbell
The Salish Sea, also known as the Puget Sound, is a dream world, a place where islands float in mirrored water.
I decided to go see it, to “unplug” from my workday reality and reward myself.
I recruited my friend Jake and we booked a yurt at Kayak Point County Park, a saltwater beach located along the Tulalip Reservation north of Seattle. We got a car in the Emerald City and drove north.
Outdoor recreation in the PNW requires access to a waterproof windbreaker and a sense of humor—regardless of the time of year. This proved to be important.
Here’s what we found in our trip to the Salish Sea.
Edmonds is an arts community just north of Seattle. Located along the beach, it’s good for watching ferries, catching a coastal train, or sipping on a microbrew. But the real attraction, I discovered, was its walkability. The beachtown is laid out on a nice scale for pedestrians who want to explore.
Salt & Iron (3135, 321 Main St) is a restaurant that serves American Northwest comfort cuisine. Cloth napkins, dining al fresco option on the patio, and fresh flowers. You can taste the sea here in the fresh air and shellfish.
Jake and I ordered oysters au gratin, avocado toast with egg sunny side up, and Moscow Mules. On our way out we spotted Salt & Iron’s blackboard that listed their oyster farmers. They’re not joking around when it comes to fresh bivalves.
The trouble with Edmonds is deciding which art gallery to go to. After eating, Jake and I visited Driftwood Modern (403 1/2 Main St), a small gallery filled with curated mid century modern furniture and art— teak credenzas, watercolors, and walnut coffee tables. For your inner Don Draper.
The Cole Art Studio (107 5th Ave S), also a gallery, curates mostly fine local art at a higher price point. “Local art” as in sculpture and paintings by artists who live down the street.
Again the coastline called, and so we went.
We drove north to the small lighthouse city of Mukilteo. Mukilteo is one of the oldest cities on this side of the Salish Sea, desirable for its deepwater port. The city is best known for its walkable beach park where you can build bonfires, fly kites, or simply sit on driftwood and stare out at the islands of Whidbey and Camano.
The lighthouse still works. You can climb a tower to see the lantern up close and get a panoramic view of the stormy Salish Sea.
We watched a Washington State Ferry pull out of the docks of Mukilteo. The boats are bigger than I had imagined. It was hard for me to understand how so many cars and people could fit in it, yet it floated gracefully away.
Next to the ferry terminal was Ivar’s (710 Front St). Locals appreciate Ivar’s as a local treasure; their restaurants have been in the Seattle area for over 80 years. The walk up counter is good for fish and chips and soft serve ice cream to go. Luckily the highly walkable and photogenic Mukilteo Beach is a five minute jaunt away.
We stopped for drinks at Diamond Knot Brewing Company (621 Front St), a gastropub next to the ferry terminal. The Diamond Knot, I learned, was named after a ship that was wrecked in the Mukilteo Harbor. The shipwreck still lies out there, below the waves.
Try the blackberry cider or mango IPA. The place offers patrons bowls full of complimentary peanuts that they can crack and drop right on the floor.
Everett, a quick trek up the coast from Mukilteo, is a former mill city-done-good. New culture is taking to its postindustrial downtown like seagulls to french fries.
We picked up a six-pack of watermelon kolsch at Toggle’s Bottle Shop (1420 Hewitt Ave). Toggle’s has coolers full of over 600 craft beer and ciders. You can also fill growlers here, or crowlers (tallboy cans) to go.
For camping grub (or any type of grub, really) try the Sno-Isle Natural Foods Co-op (2804 Grand Ave, Everett, WA 98201). It’s a truly local market that sells produce, cheese, beer and more from Seattle NorthCountry producers.
Thirty minutes north of Everett is Kayak Point, a saltwater park on the edge of the Salish Sea, next to an inlet called Port Susan.
The culmination of our trip: the majestic Salish Sea. I smelled the pungent low tides and saw piles of driftwood jumbled up into tangled pyres like abstract sculpture.
Our yurt came furnished with bunk beds, a futon, a coffee table, and electric outlets as well as a fire pit and deck outside. Indoor plumbing and showers were nearby. This was my kind of “roughing it.”
We roasted shish kabobs and bratwurst over a beachwood fire. We hiked to the beach down a path filled with fragrant cedar bark. The old growth forest around us was filled with emerald light. When we emerged from the treeline and looked out over the waves and the islands beyond I felt a chill.
Natural beauty this potent should be regulated, yet I kept drinking it in. This panoramic vista of Northwest beauty was beyond what I had expected.
WHEN YOU GO
The land of loops is how I describe Seattle NorthCountry.
It’s the idea that you can drive up and down the coast, or leave the water and loop through the mountains on a road trip. There’s space north of the city to meander in the wilderness, yet still be close enough to luxuries like high thread count hotel bed sheets, sumptuous beverages, or (in our case) a cushy yurt at the end of the day.
It’s there, quietly waiting and roaring to itself. It’s there for when you want to abandon your spreadsheets for driftwood and bonfires.
A place this good is hard not to share. See for yourself.