Craving a beach experience without the high surf? Consider a trip up North (less than 2 hours up I-5, just prior to the Canadian border) to the Semiahmoo and Birch Bay areas. Semiahmoo (pronounced Semi-ah-moo) is located at the tip of a one-mile “spit” of land bordered by Drayton Harbor & Semiahmoo Bay with views of White Rock, BC. No roaring ocean surf here; just gentle waves from passing fishing boats lapping at the shore of the rocky beach. When the tide goes out at either Semiahmoo or nearby Birch Bay, you can explore the sand flats for miles. Bring the beach shoes for the rocky part and plan to go barefoot when the tide is low!
Just a short 2 hour drive from Seattle, Semiahmoo Resort is ideal for a beach weekend. You can literally park your car at the resort and not leave again for the whole stay. The hotel, reminiscent of a New England seaside resort, is welcoming to families. Kids love the outdoor swimming pool and the sprawling beachside lawns are fun for volleyball, croquet, horseshoes, and just running around. The hotel offers G & PG-rated family movies every night at 6pm, evening bonfires, and daily scavenger hunts. Grown-ups will like the fitness center and a fantastic full-service spa
Another option on Semiahmoo spit is to rent a condo at the adjacent Beachwalker Villas. You may purchase a day pass to use the hotel pool/gym etc. Nearby Birch Bay (more boisterous and not as self-contained as Semiahmoo) is home to numerous condo rentals of many vintages. Check out www.vacationville.com, www.vrbo.com , or even Craigslist for assistance here. You’ll have to cross the road to get to the beach here and will often find people “cruising the strip” in the summer months. Like Semiahmoo, low tides in Birch Bay provide plenty of beach fun.
In addition to beach walking, shell-finding, clamming-digging, kite-flying and wildlife-watching (bald eagles, seals, and more), Semiahmoo has a paved trail, perfect for biking and walking, that runs the length of the spit (about a mile). Summer of ’09 brought the addition of Paddle and Pedal Adventures which set up shop right next door to the hotel. If you don’t bring your own bikes, they can rent you one (kid trailers and kid-tandems available too). They also rent kayaks and sell an assortment of sand toys. (Hint: This little spot tucked behind the water tower has the best sandy beach on the spit…great for sandcastles!) During the summer months, short rides around the bay are offered on a charming, vintage passenger ferry named Plover . Kids get to steer for part of the journey and become honorary captains.
Open Memorial Day through Labor Day, the Birch Bay Waterslides offers fun for all ages with advanced slides and a kiddie area with 3 tame slides. The nearby Miniature World Fun Center has an 18-hole mini golf course, go-karts, and a miniature train ride through a quirky “Forest of Imagination.”
Whatcom County’s newest park, the Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve, just opened in May ’09 offering a blend of hiking and beach walking. The 3/4 mile trail from the parking area to the beach winds through lush forest (with water viewpoints) and is do-able for little ones. The final stretch descending to the beach is a bit steep. You may want to pack the kiddo backpack rather than a stroller as the beach is rocky. Be sure to check the tide tables (can find these online or pick up one at a local store) to visit at a time when the tide is out for the utmost in exploring. Crabs, starfish, and more abound here.
For casual and lively dining, hit Packers Lounge at the water’s edge of Semiahmoo Resort. A kid’s menu with the typical fare is offered as well as a coloring page and crayons. Dine early to beat the crowds and score an outdoor table on the patio. You’ll often find little ones playing in the adjacent sand or on the hotel lawns while parents finish their meals and enjoy the fantastic sunsets. Packers is open for lunch and dinner (you can find breakfast at the hotel’s Stars Restaurant or a quick coffee/muffin at the gift shop).
A trip to Birch Bay is never complete without a visit to The C-Shop. The “C” is for candy, candy, and more candy…over 30 types of homemade goodies. You’ll find delicious peanut brittle, chocolates, carmel apples, and, of course, ice cream and snow cones! The cafe serves bakery items, sandwiches, and pizza in the evenings. Like most of the attractions in Birch Bay, the C-Shop closes for the season after Labor Day.
-Angie J. Ballas