I'm standing on the Mukilteo pier, drinking in some salty water views of Puget Sound. A ferry docks, loads and departs, shuttling islanders and day-trippers to Whidbey Island. Behind me, Mount Baker and Mount Pilchuck are nearly hidden by silver clouds. Seals parade by and – I kid you not – a bald eagle glides on the wind. In this moment, Mukilteo is postcard-perfect.
Washington state vibes
The view gets even better when I scale the 36-step Mukilteo Light Station. The charming, white-washed lighthouse pays homage to the community’s maritime history. It was established in 1906 and save for the automation of its fourth order Fresnel Lens, the lighthouse remains largely unchanged. The Mukilteo Light Station hasn’t employed a lighthouse keeper since 1996, but a shore diver tells me that Mukilteo Man lives nearby. ‘He’ is an intriguing local, whose identity I’ll leave visitors to discover for themselves.
From this vantage point, I spy a commercial airliner descending toward Mukilteo. It feels all wrong because Sea Tac Airport is located some 65 kilometers south of here. But obscured from view lies Paine Field Airport, the area’s chief tourist attraction. Home to no less than four aerospace museums, Paine Field is an aviation hub that invites visitors to celebrate the past, present and future of flight.
Later in the day, I feel firmly planted in the future. Our group is standing on an elevated platform in the Boeing Factory. Below us, Boeing aircraft are being born. 747s, 767s, 777s and 787 Dreamliners are queued in various states of assembly. It’s all housed in the world’s largest building by volume. The scale of operations is almost vertigo-inducing, yet deeply fascinating. You don’t have to be a flight fanatic to appreciate it; air travel is of universal interest to today’s jetset, but it is also a story of human ingenuity.
Observing modern commercial aircraft come to life is intriguing, but I’m equally interested in exploring aviation’s historic origins and conflict-riddled evolution. Next door at Historic Flight Foundation, I find a collection of handsomely restored war birds. Swing music drifts cheerfully through the hanger where 12 vintage aircraft are parked wing-to-wing. With slick paint jobs and gleaming chrome engines, they feel to me like the hot rods of aviation. What’s more, from biplanes to war birds, each of the Foundation’s planes have been lovingly restored to flying condition. And yes, scenic rides are available.
If these planes could talk, each would share a sensational story. They would describe harrowing aerial dog fights, tales of surviving crashes, and epics that recount early trans-continental air races. It’s not a conversation to rush, so why not stay a few nights in Mukilteo?
When you go:
ML Harris | Adobe
Where to stay
We recommend you take a self-guided walk through the 14 points of interest in Mukilteo Lighthouse Park, or a leisurely stroll through Japanese Gulch. Or, for those seeking retail therapy, score designer discounts at the Seattle Premium Outlets, located in nearby Tulalip.
Enjoy waterfront dining at Ivar’s, specializing in all things tide-to-table. The ceviche would do a Peruvian proud. Sample local craft beers on the peanut shell-littered floor of Diamond Knot Brewery & Alehouse.
This article originally published in Canadian Traveller's America Yours to Discover 2017 special issue.