Meerkerk Gardens is a private oasis open to the public, in the heart of Whidbey Island. It sits south of the (very) tiny village of Greenbank. The first time I passed the gardens, I was 16. That was a very long time ago. I lived on the far Northern end of Whidbey Island then, and so it was a wooden sign pointing down a dark, forested road. When an island is 50 miles long, well, you might never get there and explore it.
This spring when we moved to South Whidbey, our middle son Walker got to go on a field trip to the gardens, which I missed. He told me all about it, and I knew we had to go soon. I figured it was going to well manicured gardens. Well, I was right a bit, but also really wrong.
From the moment you enter the grounds, till you leave, you simply feel bathed in nature. It is both sprawling flower gardens, walking paths to hiking paths, that go into wild forest. You can stroll a few easy wide paths, or be like us and wander off into the woods. Grab a laminated map in the visitor kiosk, or download one. The entrance fee is $5 per adult, children under 16 are free. Payment is in an honesty box.
Over the years my hiking sensibilities have changed – I find it very easy to appreciate the wilds and also love spaces that have been preserved. If anything, we need more of these. Anxiety lessens with every step.
My Mother In Law clued me in on these thistles, and how popular they are in flower arrangements.
The colors are so popping.
Rhodenrons are native in the Pacific Northwest, and this garden specializes in them and also hybrid versions. The Eastern Olympic Mountains are full of them, and can make hiking interesting. However, I had never seen such old specimens, with thick bark, moss and curled, contorted branches.
The gardens have 3 ponds, and the “nature trails” take you back to them, and up and down gentle ridges.
The boys and I explored the Marine Trail, which is tucked away. It goes down, down and down, then levels out for a peek-a-boo view.
I also realized this trail didn’t get a lot of feet after we battled our way out through a pile of Stinging Nettles.
At the top, there is an open lawn, shaded, with a gazebo and some amazing views of the top of Holmes Harbor. The top of the harbor is across the water, the land in the distance is Camano Island. The Northern Cascade Mountains were out in the distance.
Greenbank Store recently opened just down the road. While the renovations happen on the big store, they opened up the very cute Greenbank Pantry & Deli next door. Let me put it this way, the Greenbank Store was a landmark. For years, when I lived on the North end of the island, to me it was when you left the Central of the island, and entered the magical land of hippies, hermits, farmers and random filthy rich. Who knew I’d call that home one day, but I was sad when I saw the store shutter a few years back. The village is seeing a resurgence this year, with a new restaurant having opened, and now the store (and also home to a cannabis store). The store carries cold drinks, colder beer, and a really well-selected array of quality food (especially if one is cabin “camping” in the area!).