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Captain Whidbey Inn

New owners taking it slow

We recently spent a night in the lodge at Captain Whidbey Inn on Whidbey Island. We've been several times before and it's always been a pleasant break. This time was no different, although ownership of the Inn changed in May 2018. Matt and Mike French and Eric Cheong are the new owners: Matt and Mike purchased the Pioneertown Motel in Portland in 2014, turning it into a destination and local getaway. Eric is a Portland architect with previous experience turning historic buildings into boutique hotels.

While they intended to make changes, they've done it slowly, holding off for nearly a year to get the feel of what the Inn means to locals and travelers. Also, they're dealing with a property opened in 1907 that is an historic site. Update, yes, change completely, no. Each owner has updated portions of the property. While each area is different from the others, they all hew to historic details, with custom furnishings. This year, the Inn received a nearly $100,000 state historic preservation grant to replace the cedar shake roof. Wandering the property, you can see new wood has replaced the old in numerous areas.

Accommodations include the Lagoon Rooms with a lawn that sweeps down to the lagoon and a bridge to cross for fun. Inside, the rooms feel both old and new with new and vintage lighting and custom-designed furniture. Carpet is Mongolian cashmere goat hair and finishes are sustainably sourced.

Four cabins have a more private feel, tucked into the trees and overlooking Penn Cove. Each has a fireplace, King bed, and private porches. An ideal getaway. If you recall the cabin with hot tub, just know the hot tub has been gone for a while now.

Lodge rooms have been updated, but the basic premise hasn't altered much since the beginning. Small rooms, views of Penn Cove or the Inn's garden, shared bathrooms, and creaky floorboards and stairs. Stairways at both ends of the Inn lead to the rooms. One stairwell is so narrow, it's a little claustrophobic. If you have larger luggage, we suggest the other set of stairs. Along with the rooms, there is a lounge area with a library of sea stories, and the two communal bathrooms updated by the previous owner.

The Inn's lobby has not changed much - the stone fireplace warms the room where comfortable couches are perfect for relaxing. The check-in desk now hosts a plexiglass sheet, but service is friendly, and this is the place to get your complimentary coffee in the morning.

In the past, the dining room was a bit more upscale with tablecloths and flowers. This may be one of the biggest changes the new owners have instituted. The bar has been moved to one end of the room. Tables are bare (seriously bare, as with every other restaurant right now, no salt and pepper, no table settings, nada). Menu items have also changed. Chowder with Penn Cove mussels and clams, fish and chips, chicken and waffles, oysters, sandwiches, salads, charcuterie/cheese board. No more tomahawk steaks or high-end dishes. They are looking to draw a younger crowd and if the night we were there is any indication, they're making it happen.

As always, the deck is a wonderful place to be, overlooking Penn Cove, trees, and grassy area nearby. Across the Cove you can see traffic and hear it a bit, but where you are, it's another world. Judge Lester Still developed the original property; this summer "Summer at Still's Park" came alive with a seafood shack (same menu as restaurant), outdoor bars, picnic grounds, dock, canoes, lawn games, firepits, hammocks. Head over for your back to the future vacation.

Connie Adams/October 2020

Captain Whidbey Inn
2072 Captain Whidbey Inn Road
Coupeville, WA 98239

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