Photos and Words by Taylor Simpson
Having travelled Southeast Asia for the past five months, I return to America feeling equally exhausted and inspired. Exhausted from nonstop travel and navigating new surroundings, and inspired from a region of tight knit cultures and stunning natural beauty. But what stood out the most was a consistent respect and welcome of visitors no matter who you are or where you come from. Never have I experienced such selfless yet cutting edge hospitality. Attention to detail is everything, down to a welcome drink of local coconut water and an ice cold toilette for a brief respite from oppressive heat. Services and amenities included in stays that aren’t listed in the booking, just a nice surprise upon arrival. Complimentary breakfast and yoga and a general ease of coming and going no matter your specified ‘check-out time.’ It is with this backdrop that I return to the USA, where stays can feel rushed and the outsider no longer feels welcome. I am skeptical that I will be able to find equally thrilling boutique stays in a place that, at times, can feel anything but accommodating.
Enter: The Captain Whidbey on the shores of Penn Cove in Washington state. I book a one-night solo stay in the historic lodge, excited to experience this new property by the French brothers, creators of the Pioneertown Motel in Joshua Tree, CA. I always keep my eyes peeled for boutique, designed-focused stays in unassuming locations, so at first glance, Captain Whidbey fits the bill perfectly. I pack light, one outfit change, a camera, and my current novel, anticipating a quiet night reading by the fireplace overlooking the sea. And that’s exactly what I got, and then some.
After a three hour drive, I arrive at the inn, already impressed by the all encompassing grounds. I am transported right back to camps of summers past, in the best way. There’s a fire pit, cabins, canoes, and the most perfect quintessential lodge. I’m greeted by an inviting staff and a relaxed environment, free of stuffiness and pomp and circumstance, just want you want on a getaway from the city. Checking into my room, I’m told there’s a complimentary wine tasting at the bar as well as free use of the multiple activities on the property. “You had me at hello,” I think to myself.
The inn was built in 1907 and is now fully restored to its former glory. I cannot get enough of the original wood structure that creaks with every step, creating a truly hygge setting. Vintage photographs hang on the walls with interiors encapsulating the essence of the Pacific Northwest. My little room is up the stairs at the end of the hall, which means it has sweeping, uninterrupted views of the water. Ditching my knapsack, I head to the bar for some local red wines, enjoying the atmosphere and chatting with fellow guests from the area. Waiters flow in and out of the restaurant catering to wedding parties and rehearsal dinners, adding a cheery buzz and energy to the property. I am content to read and watch the sunset while eavesdropping on guests from all walks of life. The overwhelming vibe of the inn is one of comfort, a true home away from home. It’s as if it’s saying: ‘kick back, relax, and enjoy the day, leaving behind the cares of the outside world,’ of which there are many.
I return to my room that night, and look out over the water while tales of life-long memories float through the warm summer air and into my room from the deck below. Swimming in my plaid fleece robe, I quietly think to myself, this is American hospitality at its best. A place that caters to locals, folks from out of town, and city-slickers looking to disconnect. A place that is relaxed and welcoming, brimming with history and innovation. A place that serves as a home away from home for so many people. This is the America I wanted to come home to.