Spending a Weekend in Northwest Whatcom County

Northwest Whatcom County is a hotspot for family-friendly adventures. Home to two state parks, miles of beach access, a brewery and fresh seafood eateries, it’s the go-to destination for folks seeking a beach vacation near Bellingham. From Semiahmoo to Birch Bay and Blaine, here’s how to spend a weekend in Northwest Whatcom County. 

Semiahmoo

Surrounded by Salish Sea saltwater at the end of a mile-long spit, Semiahmoo is the ideal beach basecamp for your trip to Northwest Whatcom County. This area offers plenty of activities whether you’re staying at Semiahmoo Resort or just visiting for the day. You can rent bikes to cruise the scenic Semiahmoo Spit paths, tee up at the golf course, or simply walk the beach to take it all in. When you get hungry, grab a quick bite at Seaview Cafe. Or go all in with waterfront dining at Packers Kitchen and Bar. While you can’t go wrong either way, the views from Packers Kitchen and Bar are hard to beat. 

Semiahmoo is well worth a day trip, but best enjoyed by spending the night. We visited Semiahmoo Resort during summer, when the warm days call for seashore strolls, balcony beers and bonfires. Before checking in, we walked Semiahmoo Spit for views east to Mount Baker and seals sunning themselves on the breakwater. Upon arriving at the resort, we enjoyed happy hour on our balcony — complete with a bucket of local beer! After a lovely dinner at Packers, we caught the sunset from Semiahmoo’s west beach with views north to White Rock, BC and distant Canadian peaks. 

Each night at sunset, Semiahmoo staff ignite beach bonfires and provide complimentary s’mores to hotel guests. It’s the perfect way to end a day at the beach. 

Birch Bay

From Semiahmoo, Birch Bay is a 15-20 minute drive south. The main attraction here is Birch Bay State Park. Featuring 8,255 feet of saltwater shoreline, Birch Bay State Park is a large park with plenty of room for groups to spread out. Snag a picnic table for a barbeque, or bring your beach blanket and chairs to chill on the beach. Like Semiahmoo, Birch Bay enjoys views north to Canada and west across the Salish Sea. You can camp in the state park or stay at one of many vacation rentals nearby. 

If you’re up for a slightly longer beach outing, venture south of Birch Bay to Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve. Take a flat, shaded walk 0.75-miles through the forest to Point Whitehorn’s windswept beach where you’ll be greeted by expansive sea views and bluffs. This area feels far wilder and is generally less busy than the state park. Remember that as a marine reserve, no pets are allowed here. 

Thirsty? Check out Beach Cat Brewing, opening summer 2020 in the heart of Birch Bay. Several nearby restaurants offer food options in Birch Bay. Or head to Blaine for fresh oysters!

Blaine

Drive 15-20 minutes from Semiahmoo around Drayton Harbor to reach the border town of Blaine. Most summers, you can ride the historic Plover Ferry between Semiahmoo and Blaine, eliminating the need to drive (in 2020 the Plover Ferry is closed due to Covid-19).

Head to Blaine Marine Park for more waterfront views, walking trails and an impressive playground for the kids. Then pop up to Peace Arch Historical State Park on the US-Canada border for a history lesson and Peace Arch photo-opp. The park is especially pretty in summer with seasonal blooms. 

When you’ve had your fill of parks and beaches, stop by Drayton Harbor Oyster Company for the freshest oysters around. Harvested less than a mile from the waterfront restaurant on Drayton Harbor, oysters don’t get any fresher than this. They are available to enjoy raw, grilled and in various menu items. Drayton Harbor Oyster Company offers indoor and outdoor seating, along with 11 local beers on tap.  

Visiting During Covid-19

If visiting Whatcom County during the Covid-19 pandemic, be sure to check which phase Whatcom County is in. During Phase 2, masks are required in public (except for when seated at a restaurant) and party size is limited. Businesses are open, but it’s best to check with each restaurant/hotel before visiting. 

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Brandon Fralic

Brandon Fralic is the author of Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest, a guidebook pairing hikes with breweries in Washington, Oregon, and BC. Based in Bellingham, he writes about trails, beer, and travel for numerous regional publications. Follow Brandon at @beersatb on Instagram and at his website: beersatthebottom.com

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