I’ve driven by Fort Casey Inn on my way to the Coupeville ferry dozens of times. Every time I see the row of Georgian Revival-style houses I say, “We need to stay there.” Then, shortly after the ferry leaves the dock that idea slips into the sea until the next time I take the ferry.
Luckily, a quick internet search for places to stay on Whidbey Island brings it all back.
Days later, on a warm July afternoon, I find myself driving across Deception Pass Bridge onto Whidbey Island. My destination–the Doctor’s House at Fort Casey Inn.
I pull up next to the yellow “Headquarters” building and as soon as I get out of my car, boisterous laughter emanates from the parade field full of summer campers and splashing from the heated pool greets me. On the other side of the parade field are barracks. To the west, a beach hugs Admiralty Inlet and in the distance is the humpbacked ridgeline of the Olympic Mountains.
Patty Encinas, a customer service agent for Camp Casey and Fort Casey Inn, checks me in and hands me a real key. A sign I’m transitioning into a different era when life was slower and technology less prevalent.
I make arrangements for a tour and head up to the Doctor’s House.
The first thing I notice is the large enclosed back porch, which is perfect for storing bikes. The farm-style kitchen has everything, like dishes, silverware, cookware, a refrigerator, stove and dishwasher. The sitting room has cozy furniture and a gas fireplace: the perfect space for conversations and board games. Upstairs are two roomy bedrooms and one shared bathroom. Patriotic memorabilia and old photos enhance the charm of the place, taking me back further into a time when military men and their families lived on these grounds. On the covered front porch, two high-backed chairs extend an invitation to relax and take in the view of Crockett Lake.
On my tour, I learn that Seattle Pacific University purchased Fort Casey in in 2001 and manages it along with Camp Casey Conference Center which consists of several barracks, classrooms, auditoriums, mess halls and a gymnasium. Abutting the property is Fort Casey Historical Park where visitors can tour Admiralty Head Lighthouse and Fort Casey.
“It’s a great spot for locals and travelers. We have a little bit of something for everyone―beach walkers, bikers, you can go into Coupeville to shop and eat,” says Encinas.
We tour the former junior officer’s quarters, which now accommodate guests. There are a total of four houses with eight available units. All of them have a similar floor plan to the Doctor’s House with the exception that some of the bedrooms have twin beds. There is also Eagle’s Nest, a queen studio, and Garrison Hall, a reception area with a kitchen. Onsite Wi-Fi is available, although I’m told it might mean a walk down the street to get a better connection.
When I make a comment about the inn being perfect for family gatherings Encinas tells me, “Each unit sleeps four to five, but we have no check-in headcount and don’t charge extra. When large families or groups come some use the back porches as sleeping areas for all the kids. The only thing to remember is that each kitchen is stocked with dishes for as many as it sleeps.”
After the tour, all I want to do is soak up the atmosphere. I prepare dinner and while it’s cooking I sit on the porch and wait for the rest of my party to arrive. A lone deer wanders through the yard to graze. Birds chirp. The occasional car heads to the ferry. There’s a quietness that reminds me of days without blaring televisions and buzzing cell phones and I can’t help but settle soundly into its rhythm.
After dinner we hike up to Admiralty Head Lighthouse. Besides us, there are only a couple of other visitors and we have the place to ourselves. As the colorful sunset shifts from orange to pink we all agree this historic setting is one heck of a perk.