Camano offers beauty, B&Bs, fine art―and an easy drive

Chuck Hill


It's a familiar Puget Sound scene. The whistle blows as theferryboat, packed with island-bound vacationers, slowly pulls away.And you, still on the dock, stay by your car and lament that youhave another two hours to wait until your turn comes.

But there is one great island you don't need a ferry to visit:Camano Island, about 55 miles north of Seattle and reached by abridge over tiny Davis Slough. There's no ferry schedule tomemorize, no ferry lines to wait in. Camano offers as accessible anisland experience as you can find.

A landscape for artists

Originally the summer fishing grounds of the Tulalip tribe,among other Native Americans, Camano was known as Kal-lut-chin, or"land jutting into the bay," an apt description of the island'selongated shape. The first white settlers arrived on Camano in1855, seeking to take advantage of extensive stands of old-growthforest.

To get a feel for the wild island that these settlersencountered, pay a visit to Camano Island State Park, about halfwaydown the scenic west shore along Saratoga Passage. Bald eaglesperch in snags, searching the waters below for fish; trails maketheir way into dense green forest. More developed sections of thepark include a boat launch, picnic area, and campsites set onbluffs overlooking Puget Sound. Another Camano Island treasure justnorth of the park is scheduled to open in two years: the Cama Beachresort, where the state park system is restoring cabins andbuilding a lodge for retreats.

If you're looking for accommodations less rustic than acampsite, you have two good choices. Camano Island Waterfront Innis a 1904 Arts and Crafts building set on a bluff overlookingSaratoga Passage. The Inn at Barnum Point on the eastern side ofthe island is a Cape Cod-style house overlooking Port SusanBay.

Camano Island's proximity to the famous Pilchuck Glass School inStanwood has led many artists to move to the island. Of particularnote on the gallery scene is the History of the World Fine ArtsGallery near the island's southern tip, where you'll find seasonalexhibits of art glass (including the Pilchuck staff exhibition insummer) and local artists' paintings. This month, see landscapes ofrural America by co-owner Karla Matzke. And if, after this, youstill feel that the island itself is the nicest piece of artaround, the artists probably won't mind―after all, some havechosen to live here.

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Camano Island travel planner