Try Camano Island for a Summer Getway!
John Kruse, September 19, 2020
Camano Island offers an easy to get to vacation option away from the city through two saltwater state parks located within a mile of each other. Sitting just 67 miles away from Seattle and across two saltwater sloughs west of Stanwood, Camano Island is a rural getaway. There are no towns here, just a few crossings with stores, gas stations and cafes amongst the roads winding through woods, fields and pasture along with passing views of Puget Sound.
At the southwest tip of the island is Camano Island State Park and a mere mile north of it is Cama Beach Resort, which is also run by Washington State Parks. Both locations border Saratoga Passage, facing west towards Whidbey Island, but each park is unique in what it offers.
Camano Island State Park is a traditional 244-acre property. After passing the North Beach day use area you drive to the upper wooded portion of the park which includes two campground loops with 77 standard sites, five cabins sleeping up to six individuals each, and a group camp. If you enjoy hiking there are a number of short trails (three miles in total) allowing you to explore forested paths where sightings of birds, squirrels and rabbits are common. The most popular is a ½-mile interpretive loop, the Al Emerson Nature Trail, named after a former longtime park ranger.
A drive through the park takes you downhill to the day use area at Lowell Point. Here you’ll find a busy boat launch and dock, covered picnic shelter and a number of picnic tables sitting above the high tide mark of the rocky beach. With 6700 feet of shoreline there is plenty of room to spread out along the beach. Many spend the day watching yachts and pleasure boats pass through Saratoga Passage, and sometimes a seal or orca whale will surface as well. Others launch kayaks or power boats and most of latter have crab pots. The crabbing here can be very good. Red rock crabs are found in the shallow water while bigger Dungeness crabs are hauled up from deeper depths. Fishing is an option too, though there are restrictions this summer to protect Chinook salmon so you are limited to flounder, other bottomfish or the occasional coastal cutthroat trout near shore.
Cama Beach Resort, just to the north, is a converted 1930’s fishing resort offering families the opportunity to stay in a cabin either right on the water, or a row back from the waterfront cabins. One unique thing about this setting is guest vehicles are not allowed in the cabin area. You either bring your belongings downhill from a parking lot with a wheeled cart or take a shuttle from one of the parking lots to the cabins below. This makes this area very kid friendly and fast friendships develop among children running or bicycling around the cabins or playing some of the outdoor games available here. Adults on the other hand, if not just relaxing, are often seen kayaking or paddling SUPs in front of the resort.
In addition to the cabins there is a volunteer run gift shop (closed this summer) and the Center for Wooden Boats, which is open and dedicated to restoring and maintaining the types of wooden boats found at this resort during its hey-day. In fact, you can rent a wooden rowboat or powerboat for by the hour or for the day to explore the nearby waters or drop a crab pot (available for free with a full day boat rental).
If you are looking for a place to eat the Cama Beach Café in the parking lot area above the resort offers wonderful views of the Sound and excellent food. Breakfast choices include a family breakfast with all the fixings, Swedish pancakes, or hearty meat, cheese and vegetable filled omelets with seasoned potatoes.
Both state parks are popular. It’s best to reserve a cabin as soon as it becomes available (nine months in advance of your stay). You can find out more and reserve online through the Washington State Parks website. https://parks.state.wa.us/
John Kruse – www.northwesternoutdoors.com and www.americaoutdoorsradio.com
The waterfront cabins overlooking Saratoga Passage at Cama Beach Resort – J. Kruse
Freshly boiled rock crab makes for a great campground dinner! – J. Kruse