Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve
Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve
Published May/June 2015

Summer Getaway: Birch Bay, Washington

A quiet coastal retreat in the Pacific Northwest

BYNancy Mueller
Long stretches of sandy shoreline, calm waters, and panoramic views make up Birch Bay, a quiet coastal community off the beaten path in Washington. With tidal flats to wander and brilliant sunsets to admire, Birch Bay is a tranquil retreat.
 
Located approximately 100 miles north of Seattle near the Canadian border, crescent-shaped Birch Bay boasts the warmest waters north of California, enticing multigenerational families to stay and play for a weekend escape or summer vacation. Build sand castles, dig for clams, or soak up the sun. Go golfing, biking, or birding in open meadows and protected estuaries. With so many ways to play in Birch Bay, families can find something fun for everyone. 
 
Here are a few must-see attractions and activities to get started. 
 
Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve
Settled by the Semiahmoo and Lummi Native Americans in the late 1800s, this 54-acre reserve offers a rare, unspoiled habitat of wooded wetland, bluff, and beach. No dogs, horses, pets, or bikes are permitted on-site to conserve the pristine environment. 
 
Follow the three-quarter-mile, fully accessible trail through a forest of Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and western redcedar, considered the “Tree of Life” for its wealth of uses to native nations. Keep an eye out for an eagle’s nest overhead and plants like purple fireweed, elderberry, and salmonberry shrubs. At the end of the trail, soak up the stunning views of the Strait of Georgia and the San Juan Islands before taking a short switchback down to stairs that lead to the beach.
 
Historic Plover Ferry
For up-close encounters with harbor seals, herons, and nesting gulls framed by island and mountain views, take a 20-minute ride on the Plover, the state’s oldest foot passenger ferry. Like the small shorebird after which it’s named, the 32-foot vessel doesn’t stray too far from shore. 
 
Originally crafted of fir and cedar in 1944, lovingly restored, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Plover once shuttled cannery workers across the channel between Blaine and the former APA salmon cannery on Semiahmoo Spit. Today, the ferry transports locals and tourists instead. Passengers can earn an honorary captain’s certificate by steering the Plover between ports. 
 
Sweets at the C Shop
The C Shop has been a family favorite destination in Birch Bay since the 1970s. Family owned and operated in a cheery yellow building, the candy shop welcomes everyone who loves items from bonbons to homemade caramels, cotton candy to caramel apples, and peanut brittle to saltwater taffy. Sugar- and gluten-free substitutes also are available. 
 
Ask about the C Shop’s antique candy-making equipment, watch how candy is made, and stick around for free samples. If your treasured treats start with a “c” or rhyme with “sea,” chances are you can find it at The C Shop, which also serves up coffee, pizza, ice cream, and baked goods. The C Shop is open Friday through Sunday beginning May 8, and will be open daily from June 19 through Labor Day weekend.
 
Waterslides
While it’s not warm enough in Birch Bay to need a cool-down swim — the warmest month of the year is July with an average high temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit — that doesn’t mean visitors can’t partake in summertime water play. Open rain or shine, Birch Bay Waterslides is a waterpark that features heated water on 11 water slides, activity and kids’ pools, and a hot tub. On most of the slides, children can ride on a parent’s lap. Or they can ride three smaller slides at the kiddie pool.
 
Thrill-seekers flock to the Black Slides, which include a 60-foot drop for ages 12 and up and single black tubes for those over 5 years of age.
 
NANCY MUELLER is a freelance travel writer, blogger, and wanderboomer based in Seattle.
Learn More 
Interested in booking a trip like this? Visit AAA.com, or call your local AAA Travel agent at 1-888-870-9392.
Paddle and Pedal Adventures
Paddle and Pedal Adventures
If You Go
Getting there: To reach Birch Bay from Seattle, head north on Interstate 5 toward Vancouver, British Columbia. Take exit 270 toward Birch Bay-Lynden. Turn left onto Birch Bay-Lynden Road. Follow for approximately 4 miles. Turn left onto Harbor View Road. Take a left onto Birch Bay Drive. 
 
Where to eat: For panoramic views of the Salish Sea with tableside dining, check out Via Birch Bay Café & Bistro, featuring an assortment of seafood menu items like fried lobster ‘n’ chips. 
 
Weather: Weather is mild, but variable, in the Pacific Northwest. In the summer months expect sunny days and temperatures average 75 degrees, with occasional temperatures in the 80s or low 90s for short periods. Dress in a few light layers and pack your favorite comfort clothes.
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