(Editor’s note: During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lummi Island ferry traffic is limited to only essential trips.)
This winter we have been forced to enjoy life in a new way. We’ll only be spending time with those closest to us, gathering inside is off the table, and jet setting off to sunny weather has been strongly advised against. The weather has officially turned on us, so now what do we do? Do we hibernate like the bears— or bundle up and get out and explore all that Whatcom County has to offer? I say: Let’s explore.
Whatcom County is chock full of incredible options for year-round adventuring, and Lummi Island is high on the list. This small island, sitting just off the coast, is a simple five-minute ferry ride from Gooseberry Point. The ferry runs every hour, and while cars can line up at times, the ferry will make extra trips if people are waiting, so you’ll never wait long. If you choose to walk or bike on you get to cut to the front of the line, guaranteeing your adventure stays on schedule. After boarding the Whatcom Chief one of the crew comes around to get your payment and before you know it you’re pulling up to the dock.
Lummi Island is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, offering access to both hiking amongst the trees and exploring the rock-covered shores. While walking on to the ferry is an option, having a bike or car will give you the ability to explore the expanse of the island. With quiet roads and beautiful views, it lends itself nicely to exploration by bike.
When departing the ferry, turn to the right and you’ll see Beach Access Park. There is a small deck with benches at the top and stairs giving you access to hours of beachcombing fun. The tides will impact what you find when you get there, so if you’d like to experience the shore from rock to sand, schedule your trip around a low tide.
On the beach you’ll find all the wonderful sea life our area has to offer. The kelp-strewn shore is covered in scurrying little crabs and barnacles securely attached to their chosen rock. While less common than in years past, star fish have been making a comeback and you’re likely to spy an otter or seal enjoying life just offshore.
Driftwood washed up from the latest storm offers resources to build whatever your mind can dream up or a nice bench while you explore the dazzling array of rocks. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and the treasure on this beach is sea glass. Different shades of blues, greens, and browns accompany the clear glass found in all shapes and sizes. Warning, this treasure hunt can become all-consuming as you search through the gravely part of the beach where most of the glass lies. While the beach is not covered in glass, you will be rewarded often enough to keep you searching for just one more piece.
Leaving the park and continuing north, you’ll travel the flat part of the island, which is still slightly hilly, and quickly find yourself on the westerly side. From here you’ll look out to other islands, the most dominant being Orcas Island and its high peak of Mount Constitution. Sunset Beach, on the west side, offers another public beach access location while providing a different view. With patience, you may catch a glimpse of a whale or porpoise on this side of the island.
As you wind around the island, heading south and then east, you pass Legoe Bay on your right. You’ll eventually begin crossing the center of the island and while climbing uphill will reach a stop sign that gives you the option to turn left, which will take you back to the dock, or right, which will take you to the upper portion of the island. If you’re biking around the island, be aware that at this point you will have a couple large hills to conquer. The upper portion of the island is where you’ll find most of the hiking.
The two most well-marked options are the Baker Preserve Trail and the Otto Preserve Trail. The Baker Preserve Trail is moderate in difficulty at 3.6 miles round trip and 1,000 feet of elevation gain. The hike starts out very steep for about half a mile, and then flattens out as you wind your way to the view point that, on a clear day, offers a view of the islands below and the Olympic Mountains to the southwest.
An easier, but quite enjoyable, walk through the woods can be offered at the Otto Preserve Trail. This 1.6-mile loop has modest elevation gain a few side trails you can venture on, to add a little more distance.
The island does offer some food options, as well. The Beach Store Café, near Beach Access Park, is on the more casual side of dining. The Willows, near Sunset Beach, is a world-renowned restaurant. A quaint little store called the Islander can provide all your snacking needs. In the summer, walking distance from the dock, you’ll find a Saturday market providing local produce, goods, and food.
After enjoying all the island has to offer, it gives you one last gift where, on clear days, you see Mount Baker in the distance as you cut through the waves heading back to Gooseberry Point. This open-air ride, on the 20-car ferry, makes the journey just as enjoyable as the destination itself.