Matt Brown

Get away from it all on this Puget Sound Island.

By Linda Hagen Miller

I am hunkered down at the Camano Island Inn enjoying a hot tubon my deck and a view of Puget Sound. I can have breakfastdelivered (skipping the daily hair-and-makeup ordeal), sit in mycozy alcove, and browse the Seattle Times in my pajamas. This is the ideal place to testthe island's seductive Web site claim: donothinghere.com.

What a concept. Doing nothing. Even in the most languiddestinations, I never manage it. There's always a beach to comb ora museum to explore. Because this Washington island has artgalleries, a magnificent state park, and a funky plant nursery,I'll need convincing. Is it really possible to do nothing here?

Historically, 16-mile-long Camano has been a busy place.American Indians fished and clammed here for centuries, and by themid-1800s, lumber was king. A century later, Camano was a summerhaven for mainlanders who built cottages or visited fishingresorts. The most popular, Cama Beach, will reopen as a state parkin the spring looking much the way it did nearly 80 years ago, with34 refurbished cabins, a general store, a dining hall, and alodge.

"I can't believe how much the island has developed," says BetsyElam, visiting from Texas. "My sisters and I spent summers in the'50s and '60s at our grandmother's cabin, and my memories are of arural place. No real houses―just beach cottages and cabinsand barely paved roads."

Camano's population has grown from around 13,000 two decades agoto around 30,000 today. It's roughly an hour north of Seattle, anda steady stream of year-round residents crosses the bridgeconnecting the island to the mainland during rush hour. But to acity dweller, this is still quite a sleepy little outpost.

Visitors can keep busy, though. Many discover Out on a LimbOrchids, a working nursery open to the public only four times ayear. However, if you phone ahead, owner Mark Bamber will let youhave a look around. Green thumbs can buy a potted orchid, and thegardening-challenged can indulge in a bundle of spiky lavender orscented lotions.

Or you can take in the island's natural beauty. Some 50 yearsago, locals submitted a petition to create a park on the westshore, claiming, "The fishing is good, the clams delicious, and thewaterfront is easy on a fellow's feet." When the petition wasapproved, 900 residents showed up with shovels and picks, andcreated Camano Island State Park in one day. It has more than amile of shoreline, several tiny cabins, and miles of hiking andbiking trails.

Admittedly, doing nothing might be tough here. But theactivities I discover―beach hiking, gallery browsing,lavender sniffing―are decidedly slow-lane. So is the rest ofthe island: just a few houses; a half dozen low-keybed-and-breakfast inns; and a marketplace fine-tuned to servelocals and visitors with a no-fuss combination of restaurant, artgallery, tiny bookstore, coffee roaster, boutique, and wineshop.

On my last morning, the beach calls, and I slip out of theCamano Island Inn just as the sun melts away the fog. Seagullsgather in an opportunistic huddle. A woman walks by with two blackLabs. She smiles; the dogs wag their tails. I've found a piece ofdriftwood the shape of a chair, and I settle in to watch the cloudsclear over the Olympic Mountains. There's no denying it: I am,quite blissfully, doing nothing on Camano Island.

If you must do something
Enjoy private decks at Camano Island Inn. Rates range from$108 to $225; 888/718-0783 or camanoislandinn.com. Ortry Asian-inspired Camano Blossom B&B. Rates start at $108;866/629-6784 or camanoblossombandb.com.

Find casual dining at Islander's Grill & Pizzeria;360/722-7470. Pair Northwest wine with local seafood at StanwoodGrill; 360/629-5253.

Don't miss Brindles Marketplace; 360/722-7480 or brindlesmarket.com. Alsofun: Out on a Limb Orchids (call first); 360/387-2341 or outonalimborchids.com.

For more information, contact the Camano Island Chamber ofCommerce at 360/629-7136 or camanoisland.org, andWashington State Parks & Recreation at 360/902-8844 or parks.wa.gov.

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