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Captain Whidbey: The Pioneer (and Communal) Spirit Revived at a New Old Resort

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Captain Whidbey: The Pioneer (and Communal) Spirit Revived at a New Old Resort

September 24, 2019

I was surprised to learn that Captain Whidbey, nestled among the majestic evergreens of the Pacific Northwest, was founded by the same team behind Pioneertown Motel, set against the dusty backdrop of the Mojave Desert—but I shouldn’t have been. Both traffic in nostalgia for the American West, both prioritize a casual-aesthete style, and both are housed in historical structures.

Captain Whidbey, on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, is the newer project, but it feels like the older, more sophisticated brother to Pioneertown. “Our experience in Pioneertown helped frame our approach to Captain Whidbey and guided us towards more of a ‘restoration’ mentality. Not only did we restore the physical property, but we aim to restore the culture and hospitality of the past,” say the owners, brothers themselves, Matt and Mike French.

The two tapped Eric Cheong, an architect who used to work for the Ace Hotel group, to join them in re-opening the 112-year-old resort. The first thing they did? Nothing. Rather than rush into construction, they decided to spend a summer in town to get a sense of local rhythms and better understand the inn’s role in the community. Renovations started in the winter, and after just five months, they were able to open its doors again, updated, refreshed, and ready to charm.

Let’s take a look at the results.

Photography by Alexandra Ribar, courtesy of Captain Whidbey.

Captain Whidbey is set on six acres in Whidbey Island. Visitors can access the inn by car, ferry, or private boat; if you choose the latter option, you&#8
Above: Captain Whidbey is set on six acres in Whidbey Island. Visitors can access the inn by car, ferry, or private boat; if you choose the latter option, you’ll be greeted with this view, on the inn’s picturesque dock.
While most of the renovation was cosmetic, the public area in the main lodge was opened up quite a bit so that it&#8
Above: While most of the renovation was cosmetic, the public area in the main lodge was opened up quite a bit so that it’s now one large space that encompasses a “living-room style” lobby and adjoining restaurant.
A scene-stealing data-src=
Above: A scene-stealing 112-year-old fireplace, built from stones found in the area.
The restaurant, with a horse-shoe-shaped bar.
Above: The restaurant, with a horse-shoe-shaped bar.
Diners have views of Penn Cove.
Above: Diners have views of Penn Cove.
The main lodge has data-src=
Above: The main lodge has 12 cozy guest rooms, each with an ensuite sink, and shared bathrooms.
The log paneling is all original to the inn.
Above: The log paneling is all original to the inn.
Across the street are  suites, each with a private bathroom and lagoon views. This part of the inn was added in the 70s. The lagoon rooms feature custom furniture by John Gnorski, cashmere goat hair carpeting, and hand-woven blankets by Hannah Ruth Levi.
Above: Across the street are 14 suites, each with a private bathroom and lagoon views. This part of the inn was added in the 1970s. The lagoon rooms feature custom furniture by John Gnorski, cashmere goat hair carpeting, and hand-woven blankets by Hannah Ruth Levi.
An in-room soaking tub in the Scandi-inspired suite.
Above: An in-room soaking tub in the Scandi-inspired suite.
A cute snack-prep station.
Above: A cute snack-prep station.
In addition to the lagoon rooms and the rooms in the main lodge, there are four cabins overlooking Penn Cove.
Above: In addition to the lagoon rooms and the rooms in the main lodge, there are four cabins overlooking Penn Cove.
The founders tasked four Pacific Northwest tastemakers to outfit each of the cabins. &#8
Above: The founders tasked four Pacific Northwest tastemakers to outfit each of the cabins. “Seeing these spaces transform through the lenses of local creatives breathed fresh life into the property and also gave us the opportunity to use Captain Whidbey as a platform to showcase the folks that inspire us,” say the brothers. This one is by Filson.
The sitting area of the Filson-decorated cabin.
Above: The sitting area of the Filson-decorated cabin.
The kitchenette and breakfast nook in the cabin designed by Vancouver studio We.The.Nomads.
Above: The kitchenette and breakfast nook in the cabin designed by Vancouver studio We.The.Nomads.
The three founders.
Above: The three founders.

Cheong also worked on the Ace Hotel’s New Orleans outpost. Read about it in Hotels & Lodging: The Ace Hotel in New Orleans.

For more places to stay in the Pacific Northwest, see:

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