by W. Ruth Kozak
A friend and I set off on a weekend road trip across the US border from Vancouver BC to visit some historic locations in Washington State. Just a few miles from the US/Canada border on the shores of a beautiful bay, we stopped first at the Semiahmoo Resort Spa, an idyllic place to spend a few days while touring the Pacific Northwest. The resort is near the border town of Blaine, down a tree-line drive edged by a lush golf course and gated estates. It is located on a spit situated between Semiahmoo Bay and Drayton Harbor within sight of the Canadian resort town of White Rock just across the bay.
The Semiahmoo Spa Resort has existed for many years but it was recently refurbished with an airy lobby and luxurious rooms. We were welcomed by the congenial staff and shown to our comfortable rooms which opened onto the beach.
The Spa is part of the resort and offers a tranquil setting for spa treatments and a large outdoor swimming pool that even in the Spring season was warm enough to enjoy. The spa treatment was a highlight of my stay there, a great way to relax after a long journey or a busy week in the city. If you make physical fitness part of your day, the resort has an excellent fully equipped Fitness Centre ringed by an indoor running track.
After our visit to the spa, we were greeted at the dining room in the Packers Oyster Bar and introduced to the chefs who presented a sumptuous five course meal with wine pairings. While we dined, we enjoyed the view of the bay and a spectacular sunset, a lovely way to end the day.
There are many things to enjoy at Semiahmoo and in the Watcom Country area. If you’re a golfer you can enjoy a day on the two golf courses at the Semiahomoo Gold & Country Club. The resort is surrounded by nature so whether it’s a walk on the beach or on a forest trail, exploring the historic outlying buildings, a picnic at Peace Arch State Park or an afternoon of gambling at a nearby casino, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Boat cruises are available as well as whale watching, sea kayaking, scuba diving or fishing. We enjoyed wandering around the resort area exploring the old boat sheds and waterfront area where they have signs posted with bits of local history or of ecological interest.
Whether you are a traveler from abroad or a local looking for a pleasant weekend get-away, the Semiahmoo Spa Resort was certainly worth a visit.
The next day, we headed south and stopped to visit the Whatcom County Museum in Bellingham where there was an outstanding photography display of work by Edward S. Curtis on the North American Indians. The original museum is housed in the historic old City hall, built in 1892, but just around the corner there is a modern extension of the museum, the Lightcatcher building where there is a Family Interactive Gallery. This museum displays paintings and sculptures by local artists as well as history exhibits.
Several miles south, located just a few minutes east of the 1-5 exit 201, an hour north of Seattle, is the newly refurbished Angel of the Winds Casino Hotel in Arlington. It is owned by the Stillaguamish Tribe which has operated the casino since 2004 on their lands. The new hotel just opened in December 2014 and has 125 guestrooms as well as gift shops, dining and entertainment.
The casino was a buzz of activity even in the early morning when we arrived with visitors old and young crowded around the slot machines, table games and poker tables. The casino is open 24 hours a day. We tried our hand at a couple of slots and sat in on a lesson on how to play black-jack. Great fun, but the best part of the day was the bar entertainment at night with a lively band out of Seattle playing all the disco favorites of the 60’s and 70’s. We sipped our mojitos and had a late snack while enjoying the music, even participating in some of the dancing!
From the Angel of the Winds, we spent the following day visiting some of the other interesting locations around the Skagit Valley. This area is well-known for its annual daffodil and tulip festivals throughout March and April, and we were lucky to be there just before the season ended. The fields were still a burst of colour. The Valley is known for its farms and produces crops such as strawberries and raspberries, potatoes and spinach. In fact, the Skagit Valley produces almost half of the world’s supply of spinach and beets. There are stands by the roadside where you can buy the fresh produce in season.
Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
Our first stop for the morning was Tulip Town The landmark windmill was built by owner Tom de Goede, a replica of his family’s windmill in Holland. We enjoyed an hour of browsing among the gorgeous varieties of tulips still blooming In the vast fields as well as displayed in the beautifully decorated gallery where there are landscape murals depicting various scenes in Holland . We were greeted by the owner’s wife, Jeanette Boudreau, who happens to be originally from French Canada. She explained the various species of tulips and told us about the operation of the farm. There is entertainment for children at Tulip Town too, with face painting and a kite flying display every weekend.
Next on the road trip was RoozenGaarde, another lovely tulip farm near Mount Vernon Wa. Where the flower fields were still blooming. I was especially impressed by the wide yellow fields of daffodils. There were flower beds and a picturesque park area to browse through. The founder, William Roozen emigrated from Holland in 2947 and started a bulb farm on five acres of land which has now grown to be the largest tulip-bulb grower In the country. Roozen Gaarde was established in 1985 by the Roozen family (the name means ‘rose’) and is an official sponsor of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.
On our way back to the Angel of the Winds resort, we stopped in the historic town of La Conner, situated on the delta near the mouth of the Skagit River. The area was first settled by the Swinomish Indian tribe. The town was founded in the 1800s and is the area’s oldest community. We walked along the boardwalk and stopped to view Swinomish Swadabs Park where there is cedar shelters built in the shape of native hats. La Conner is definitely worth a longer visit but a light rain was starting to fall so we didn’t linger long.
Our fun-filled road trip lasted four days and every moment of it was a special delight. If you are visiting the Pacific Northwest it’s worth taking the trip.
If You Go:
About the author:
Ruth is the former editor/publisher of Travel Thru History and president of the BC Association of Travel Writers. She has been a published travel journalist for many years and is usually traveling in Europe, mostly England and Greece. But trips close to home can be fun too, and this road trip she made with a friend, invited by Richmond Tourism to explore these resorts, and the Skagit Valley were definitely something to recommend to those travelers who want an interesting road trip in the Pacific Northwest. www.ruthkozak.com – travelthroughhistory.blogspot.com
All photos by W. Ruth Kozak