Washington Scenic Byway: Chuckanut Drive & Whidbey Island

Posted on: September 17, 2011

Hiyah… It’s been 3 busy busy busy weeks for me. First, Honey was sick and now she’s super good and running like an Energizer bunny ūüėõ Then the following week, my brother came here to study ~ on the same date as I was 8 years ago! what a coincidence! Then the third week, me & my fiance were just plain busy with work and helping my brother to settle down, i.e. buying textbook and other school supplies.

Two weeks ago, we decided to head to Seattle, WA. Our goals were to shop at Seattle Premium Outlet at Tulalip, buy super delicious cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory, and -of course- grocery shopping at Walmart because everything is cheaper in the USA than Canada nowadays ūüėõ However, me & my fiance always argue on who’s gonna drive there ~ yeah… we both detest driving on I-5 highway. Why? The highway road is bumpy, unlike smooth highway in Vancovuer hehehe…. So, I did some research and found alternative way to Seattle. It’s called Washington Scenic Byway. Yes, it’s gonna take longer time to get to the downtown, but the website claims the view from these byways will take your breath away… (Uhm… okay, I may¬†exaggerating¬†a bit.. But I think green trees and blue ocean views are better than one straight long highway).

However, I couldn’t find much information about this byway, except from Washington State Tourism¬†and some old websites: here and here. The Washington State Tourism has an interactive map that shows different route of byways in the Washington State that you can choose. I decided to only choose 2 out of 23 byways: Chuckanut Drive (#5) and Whidbey Island Scenic Isle Way (#20) because combined trips will take me about 4-5 hours drive time and they are on our way to downtown Seattle from Vancouver.

We started our little road trip at 6am and stopped at McDonald’s for a quick breakfast. The border wait was about 1 hour – not bad. So our first route was Chuckanut Drive¬†or Route 11. It spans along Pacific coast from exit 230 to 250. From Canada (north going south), we took Exit 250 Chuckanut Drive/ Old Fairhaven. Since there’s not much blog or map about this route, I had to google map it the night before. According to google map, after taking exit 250, just follow south of Old Fairhaven Parkway. At the intersection of 12th Street, there are 2 options: LEFT is the starting point of Chuckanut Drive and RIGHT is the Fairhaven District area. We turned right to check out the Fairhaven District. It is a small town where Amtrak station is. Its downtown is only about 6 blocks of small shops and restaurants. We stopped for about 15 minutes to get the feel of this small cute town.



Fairhaven District

We went back to the intersection on 12th Street and went straight to Chuckanut Drive. The road along this bypass was narrow 2 lanes road with big trees on the cliffs. At the beginning of the drive, we could see the ocean and some islands across the mainland. It was beautiful but there wasn’t a lot of stopping areas where you can take pictures until about half way. The road was pretty much empty but I suggest to go slow on this curvy road. Along this drive, you can stop at Larrabee State Park or go hiking at Larrabee Interurban Trail. It took us about 45 minutes to 1 hour to complete the drive. At the end of the drive, I accidentally missed a turn which led us to a corner of a town called Edison. This corner looked like a ghost town in the movie. There was a saloon, a thrift store, a small country-style caffe, and a curator shop. We just had to stop to take picture of this quirky neighbourhood.

Chuckanut Drive history


Edison, WA

Continuing our road trip via Whidbey Island Scenic Island Way, we put in “Deception Pass State Park” to our GPS, just to make sure that I didn’t get lost in case I forgot the route I got from google map. If you’re driving from Canada (north to south), you can take exit 230¬†Highway-20 / Anacortes /¬†Burlington. Yes, it’s the same exit as the Burlington factory outlet! From the exit, take left on State Road 20 and go straight until you reach Deception Pass Bridge. If you have time, you can also check out the State Park just before the bridge if you are driving to the south/ Seattle. The bridge has only 2 lanes but there are pedestrian areas on both sides of the bridge where you can take picture. There is a parking lot and rest area at the end of the bridge if you’re driving to the south/ Seattle. The view is pretty spectacular but be very careful since the pedestrian area and the road is only separated by a thin wire (do NOT stick out your hand to the road or else you’ll get seriously injured!).

Deception Pass Bridge

After resting for a while, we continued by going on State Road 20. About 15 minutes drive south, there’s a small town, Oak Harbour, with gas station, some restaurants, and a windmill! Yes, somehow at the corner of my eyes, I spotted the windmill and insisted to turn back to that spot although I missed the turn. Too bad that I was driving; thus, my fiance just had to agree with me hahaha… It turned out the area was a small park – I guess, it’s a dog park since there were some people with their dogs. If you want to take picture of the windmill, turn left at the intersection of State Road 20 and NE Midway Blvd, then turn right on the first intersection. You can park the car at the back of commercial area.


Windmill at Oak Harbour

Back on track, we went along State Road 20 to Lavender Wind Farm at Coupeville. It was about 20 minutes drive from Oak Harbour. The farm was very nice. They was distilling the grosso lavender oil when we were there, so the smell was soothing and relaxing. The small shop beside it sells potted baby lavender, lavender infused jam, homemade lavender body lotion, and even lavender ice cream! My fiance bought blackberry lavender and raspberry lavender jam. They are tasty! However, we seemed to miss the blooming time of the lavender because only one type of lavender was fully bloomed. Also, watch out for bees around the farm, there were lots of them. I never know that there are many types of lavender!


Lavender Wind Farm: (L) distilling lavender oil; (R) lavender bunches on the ceiling


Lavender Wind Farm: (L) different types of lavencer; (R) lavender babies!

Our next destination was Fort Casey Lighthouse. Just follow State Road 20 until you find the intersection of SR 20 and Main St S. ¬†Turn right on Main St S and go straight. This road will change name to Eagle Rd. Just follow this road then you’ll see the sign of Fort Casey State Park on the right (Remember we’re driving to south/ Seattle!). According to Wikipedia, Fort Casey was built in 1890’s to defend Puget Sound area. We arrived there when it was just opened. You can climb to the top of the lighthouse but you can only stay inside. The ‘light’ was taken down since the lighthouse isn’t functional anymore. We wandered around for awhile and continued our journey along State Road 20 to get to the ferry terminal at Clinton (about 30-45 minutes). The ferry leaves about every 30 minutes everyday. You can check the schedule here. The one way ferry trip for one car (sedan type) was US$9, regardless of the number of passengers. It takes you from Clinton to Mukilteo in about 30 minutes.


Fort Casey Lighthouse


Fort Casey Lighthouse – the museum

To get back to I-5 highway from Mukilteo, just follow State Road 525 until you reach exit 181 Alderwood Mall Parkway. From here to downtown Seatlle, it took approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, depending on the traffic. The rest of our trip was same old-same old, i.e. our regular trip to the States: shopping, chessecake-ing, and grocery shopping hahaha… We visited the Pike Place Market to show our friend the first Starbucks store. We ended our trip by having dinner at Outback Steakhouse. Me and my fiance shared a 20-0z Porterhouse steak that was HUGE! The side dishes: baked sweet potatoes and steam¬†broccoli¬†were super delicious!


(L) Pike Place Market; (R) Outback Steakhouse – the huge 20 oz. Porterhouse


These byways are surely on my list of things to explore in the future. If I have more days of vacation, I’d surely choose longer byway to the east of Washington state. ¬†So, until next time….


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