Whidbey’s Langley a town of great tastes, sights and sounds

Gary Smith grew up in south Snohomish County and in 1983 started his coffee business in Mukilteo.

But now that Mukilteo Coffee Roasters is located in the woods near Langley, Smith finally feels at home.

Langley is his favorite place around. Great restaurants, shops, lodging and, of course, coffee, said Smith, who clearly enjoys being a tourist in his own town.

He’s a cheerleader, too. Most of his cafe customers are local, attesting to the strong feel of community on south Whidbey Island, Smith said. Plus it’s just downright beautiful.

He encourages people to bike around Langley, kayak in the calm waters of Saratoga Passage or just play on the beach at low tide along Seawall Park.

On a clear day, the views of Camano Head, Everett and Tulalip and the Cascade Range are outstanding, Smith said.

But when making a day trip to Langley, stop first at Smith’s place. Off Highway 525, turn north on Crawford Road and keep going through the forest until you see the company sign on the right.

Mukilteo Coffee Roasters also is owned by Smith’s wife, Beth, who got started in the Seattle coffee scene fairly early on. She began her career with Stewart Brothers Coffee in 1979 on Pier 70 and worked in all aspects of the coffee business until joining Gary in Mukilteo in 1990.

Mukilteo Coffee Roasters’ location includes a 6,000-square-foot facility for its European-style coffee bean roasting operations, packaging and shipping.

The adjacent Cafe in the Woods, where coffee tastings are a daily happening, has indoor and outdoor seating. It serves house-made bakery goods, breakfast, lunch and, on Wednesdays, dinner.

Much of the food served at the cafe is locally sourced. Also, look for work by local artists.

If you ask, tours of the roasting area are possible. The warehouse also doubles as a concert venue. Smith, a longtime guitarist, has had Maria Muldaur, Lydia Pense and Country Joe McDonald perform there.

In Langley, know that most of what you want to see is on First and Second streets between Park Avenue on the west and Loop Road on the east.

After a walk along Seawall Park or down by the marina docks, pick up another cup at Usless Bay Coffee Co. on Second Street, and a pastry from P S Suisse Bakery in the alley shopping area between First and Second streets.

Look for shops that cater to kids, wine aficionados, knitters, music and book lovers, and antiques and art collectors.

Browse through the landmark mercantile called the Star Store on First, check out the South Whidbey Historical Museum on Second and the Langley Whale Center at the corner of Second Street and Anthes Avenue.

There you can pick up a walking map of the town and see the jawbone of a blue whale. If you spot a whale (pretty late in the season now) you are asked to ring the bell in the park next to the historic (and currently closed) Dog House Tavern on First Street.

Take a family photo next to the bronze sculpture by Georgia Gerber, “Boy and Dog,” in the little park on First Street overlooking the seawall.

In the summer months, arrive early at Primo Bistro on First Street for a table on the rooftop terrace with views of Saratoga Passage. Also nearby, try Cafe Langley or Village Pizzeria.

Take in a movie at the 1937 Clyde Theatre on First or see a play off Loop Road at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, which offers the classic “Our Town” on three weekends in June.

For your summer calendar, note that the Choochokam Arts Festival in July features fine and performing arts; Island Shakespeare Festival offers “Taming of the Shrew” beginning July 26; and the Island County Fair is in early August on the south end of town.

“Langley is a great place,” said coffee roaster Gary Smith.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

Tourist in Your Own Town

In each of our cities in Snohomish and Island counties, we have tourist attractions often overlooked by the people who live in this region. Have you taken the time to be a Tourist in Your Own Town? This the fifth in a continuing series of monthly explorations of our hometowns.

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