The name may sound familiar, though many people who live in the Northwest don’t know where it is. Almost cutting Whidbey Island in half, the large cove is surrounded by natural beauty.

So why does the name sound so familiar? Could it be the sleepy small community that lies on its southern shore, Coupeville? Or the majestic, Captain Whidbey Inn watching over the Western shore?

More than likely the name these days can be recognized from the Penn Cove mussels that have become world-renowned.

These are just a few reasons to visit Penn Cove no matter what type of fun you are looking for.

Farming and Art

The lush hills and fields that surround Coupeville have long been a farming country since the west was being settled. With farm stands all over the community, there is no shortage of fresh produce to be had.

When you have natural beauty like that of the cove and the surrounding area, it is not a surprise that artists have flocked to the area to create their own version of this beautiful place.

Every year during the summer the town puts on the Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival, inviting around 190 vendors from throughout the Pacific Northwest and across the US to show their creativity during this two day festival.

During the rest of the year the town is not empty of art and things to do. A stroll along its main street or out onto the town wharf will give you plenty to see from the natural beauty to the history that permeates this town.

Historically Charming

If you are looking for history, just take a look around town. Historic inns abound in Coupeville, including the Captain Whidbey Inn, built in 1907. Captain Whidbey Inn’s innkeeper, Lloyd Moore, purchased the property 100 years later and has been lovingly improving and maintaining it ever since.

“It was a fascinating project,” Moore notes with a chuckle. “There aren’t too many truly authentic inns of that nature, and in the Northwest, they’re very rare. You have resorts, but most of them are fabricated versions of what the Captain Whidbey Inn is.”

captain whidbey inn, penn cove, coupeville whidbey island
The Captain Whidbey Inn

Given the historic, period furnishings, the Inn itself may not offer the most child-friendly accommodations and may be better suited to a romantic weekend away than a family vacation spot. “We welcome them (kids), but it’s not like Fort Casey where they have room to run,” notes Moore.

Those Famed Mussels

Besides the charm of Coupeville and nearby parks, what puts Penn Cove on the map?

Mussels. Famed in the finest restaurants and prized by chefs from coast to coast, the indigenous Penn Cove mussels quickly grow fat and happy in the clean, nutrient-rich, and protected waters of the cove.

Penn Cove Shellfish operations
Penn Cove Shellfish operations

Penn Cove is located on the more protected east side of Whidbey Island. The waters stay clean and nutrient-rich because of the local streams that feed into the cove. The absence of large-scale farming which would produce fertilizer- and waste-rich runoff helps keep the waters clean, too.

“Penn Cove is kind of nestled back,” notes Millie Goebel, Penn Cove Shellfish’s director of market development. “We’re not surrounded by a lot of agriculture really close-by. There’s tons agriculture around, but it’s not a place where a lot of stuff would run off into the water, like a feedlot.”

Chef’s Choice

To a chef, freshness is key and you can’t get much fresher mussels in the Seattle area than the mussels of Penn Cove.

Chef Wesley Hood recipe for simple Penn Cove Mussels, courtesy AQUA by El Gaucho
Chef Wesley Hood recipe for simple Penn Cove Mussels, courtesy AQUA by El Gaucho

Chef Wesley Hood of Seattle’s El Gaucho restaurant also loves Penn Cove mussels for their freshness and their meatiness.

Check out Chef Wesley’s recipe for Penn Cove mussels here.

Known for being especially meaty with a firm texture a sweeter flavor, the Penn Cove mussels also have a thinner shell than their Mediterranean cousins. Translation: more meat per pound. (One pound of Penn Cove mussels yields about 25 to 30 mussels in contrast to around 18 to 20 per pound of Mediterranean mussels.)

More to Eat

While strolling around town, there are plenty of options when you get hungry. The Knead & Feed is known for its baked goodies (like cinnamon rolls the size of your head). Christopher’s on Whidbey features a menu heavy on the local shellfish. Check here for a list of more Coupeville dining options.

Whether you are looking for a day trip with the family, a romantic overnighter with your significant other, or a camping trip that’s not too far away, Coupeville and Penn Cove have something for nearly everyone to enjoy. Quiet, stunning views. Fresh and delicious cuisine. Playing outside or just laying around. Coupeville and Penn Cove seem perfectly far away and still close to home.

Want more? Follow us on Instagram: @coastinghomemag