For an escape that feels hours away — but is located a mere 15 minutes from Bellingham and 50 minutes from Vancouver, BC — head to Semiahmoo Resort and Birch Bay. Spend a weekend at this laid-back, waterside location and experience total relaxation. Oh, and did I mention that it’s great for kids too? There’s just enough to do to not feel bored, but not so much that you feel like you have to hurry-hurry all weekend.
Semiahmoo Resort sits on a long spit, with picturesque views of Semiahmoo Bay and White Rock, BC. It’s great weekend getaway with kids – the resort strives to offer families plenty of fun little extras. Kids can watch movies in the movie-theater-like auditorium, swim in the indoor-outdoor pool (although it may get a little chilly in winter, it’s heated to 80F year-round), relax in the hot tub, or complete the scavenger hunt and pick a little toy from the treasure box after completing the on-site scavenger hunt. Front desk staff can lend buckets and shovels, and you’re just steps from the pebbly beach.
The resort’s Seaview Room looks out onto Semiahmoo Bay. Pick out a board game from the resort’s collection (Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly Junior, Sorry, Connect Four) or bring your own. In the library, a roaring fire burns in winter (or you can ask the staff to start one for you). Pick up a hot chocolate for the kids at the resort’s gift shop/coffee bar, and a hot toddy for the grown-ups at Packers Lounge. This resort is upscale enough to host weddings, but low-key enough for families to feel comfortable.
Often, resort food is known for poor quality and overpriced totals, so I was pleasantly surprised by Packers. Our meals were generously sized, very good and reasonably priced.
A variety of hotel rooms are available, but I recommend the The Deluxe Waterview Rooms, which open up to the outside grassy area via a door. The rooms aren’t super-swank and feel more like homey hotel rooms, with knotty pine built-ins. It’s not an exclusive resort, so there’s no need to pack anything but jeans and a sweatshirt. Rates range all over the place, but rooms are frequently available for under $100 in the off-season, with deals for multiple nights and midweek stays.
In summer (June 18-September 6), ride the cute-as-a-clover Plover Ferry between Semiahmoo and Blaine’s dock. This ferry ride was a hit with the kids, as it putters through the harbor past fishing boats and barking seals. Blaine, the last stop in Washington before the U.S.-Canadian border, doesn’t have a whole lot to offer – but the town’s main street holds a decent Mexican restaurant and a few little shops.
So I recommend heading south for 15 minutes to Birch Bay, a quaint saltwater community where families have vacationed for generations. Birch Bay itself is rumored to be the warmest spot on the Pacific, north of California, and it’s easy to see why — the land shelters the estuary in a gentle c-shape. You’ll see families crabbing in the calm waters and combing the tidepools for treasures, including hermit crabs, seastars and sea urchins. The 194-acre Birch Bay State Park is open year-round for camping and tidepooling.
Not loving the crab? In summer, Birch Bay Waterslides offer six low-key slides for families to slip down. During weekends (weather permitting), families drive go-karts and play mini-golf at Miniature World. And they always bring bikes, it seems. I frequently see dozens rolling along calm Birch Bay Drive.
Year-round, pick up chocolate, candy and other perfect sweets in the vintage-styled The C Shop. The Bay Café slings sandwiches, chips and other straightforward fare.
Other local attractions include the windmillish town of Lynden (modeled on a Dutch village) and the shopping and movies and kid-friendly fun in Bellingham. But once you arrive in Birch Bay or Semiahmoo, I doubt you’ll want to leave. It just has that sort of effect on a family.