Birch Bay State Park
Birch Bay’s featured attraction is its beach, and one of the best places to enjoy it is the 193-acre Birch Bay State Park (360/371-2800, www.parks.wa.gov) at the west end of Helwig Road. This park follows two miles of shoreline along the bay, with campsites in the trees. The beach is a favorite place for swimming, kite flying, windsurfing, clamming, and volleyball. Other facilities include an underwater park, fishing (though there’s no boat launch), a picnic area, and the half-mile Terrell Marsh nature trail through an estuary that is home to beavers, opossums, muskrats, and great blue herons.
Birch Bay Events
Birch Bay Discovery Days (360/371-2070) is the main summer event, with a “clampetition” clamming contest, parade, golf tournament, and arts and crafts show. It’s held in mid-July. The Birch Bay area also has monthly sandcastle contests all summer. For something different, come here on January 1 for the annual Polar Bear Swim (360/371-7800) with other hardy fools.
The annual Hands Across the Border Peace Arch Celebration, held the second Sunday in June, brings together veterans and Boy and Girl Scouts from the U.S. and Canada to celebrate friendly relations. After ceremonially transferring the flags, the gathering turns into a big merit-badge swap for the scouts. Another summertime attraction is Blaine’s 4th of July fireworks show. Return on the first Friday of December for the Christmas Lighting Ceremony, when Santa visits the Peace Arch.
At the bottom of the price category in Birch Bay, but not in popularity or friendliness, is the 49-bed Birch Bay AYH-Hostel (467 Gemini St., Birch Bay, 360/371-2180, www.birchbay.net). Dorm beds are $14 per person for hostel members or $17 per person for others. Couples stay in one of four private rooms for the same rate, and families ($7 for kids ages 7–18, free for younger kids) stay in two adjacent rooms that share a bath. A full kitchen is on the premises. Reservations are advised if you’re arriving in the summer. The hostel is closed 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, and October–April.
For a bit more privacy, Driftwood Inn Motel (7394 Birch Bay Dr., Blaine, 360/371-2620 or 800/833-2666, www.driftwoodinnmotel.com) offers studio units ($80 d), rustic cottages and suites with kitchenettes ($99 for up to four), and condo units ($130–190 for eight), all with access to the outdoor pool and canoe rentals.
Border-hoppers looking for a cheap night’s stay will find a number of options in Blaine, including Anchor Inn Motel (250 Cedar St., Blaine, 360/332-5539, $59 d, $71 d with kitchenette). Like other places in town, the rooms have older furnishings, but these are clean and well maintained. The owner is fluent in French, Farsi, Afghani, and, of course, English. Another alternative is Motel International (758 Peace Portal Dr., Blaine, 360/332-8222, $57 s or $81 d). All rooms have fridges here, and many come with decent views of the harbor.
Birch Bay is full of condo rentals for those who want a little more space to kick off their shoes. Cabana Club Condos (7503 Birch Bay Dr., 360/371-2511 or 206/481-6975) has a range of units, from one-bedroom condos that sleep four for $110 daily or $605 weekly, up to two-bedroom and loft units that sleep eight and cost $145 daily or $775 weekly. All have fireplaces and kitchens, as well as access to an outdoor pool, hot tub, and sauna.
Birch Bay Get Away (4973 Cottonwood Court, 877/627-2229, www.birchbaygetaway.com, $135–225 d) has one-, two-, and three-bedroom cottages.
The restaurant options in Birch Bay and Blaine are limited; locals head across the border to White Rock for the best regional cooking. In Birch Bay, procure sandwiches, pizza, and sweets from the summer-only C Shop (Alderson Rd. at Birch Bay Dr., Birch Bay, 360/371-2070).
Otherwise, jaunt over to Blaine for some simple eats. Get breakfasts from Cafe International (758 Peace Portal Dr., 360/332-6035), a diner-cum-small-time casino with poker and blackjack tables.
The most popular local restaurant is Harbor Café (295 Marine Dr., 360/332-5176), a Blaine hangout where you’ll find oyster stew, clam chowder, and ample servings of cod fish and chips.
For espresso and pastries, head to Blackberry House (321 H St., 360/332-9342).
The best Blaine burgers are at Nicki’s Restaurant (1700 Peace Portal Dr., 360/332-7779). Conto’s Pizza (825 Peace Portal Dr., 360/332-3222) is good for pizza and pasta.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition