It takes a little less than two hours to drive to Semiahmoo from Seattle, but in the last 30 minutes of the journey, as you wind your way around Drayton Harbor and thread your way down Semiahmoo Spit, it feels a bit like you are traveling to the end of the earth. The ribbon of land disappears behind you, and water and sky increasingly take up your view, with an occasional mountain sighting. Gulls wheel, eagles soar. In other words, it feels just the right amount of remote.
Semiahmoo Resort is a 212-room lodge located on a finger of land (Semiahmoo Spit) across to Blaine, Wash., just minutes from the border. Recently upgraded, it's worth a visit in any season, with activities and amenities that make it appealing as a couples getaway or family vacation — park once, stay all weekend. For the kids, there’s a beach just steps away, kayaks and paddle boats to rent, an indoor-outdoor pool, bike and walking trails, a game room, and a vintage ferry to take. On inclement days, families can play racquetball or indoor tennis, set up a board game in front of a crackling fire in one of the lodge rooms, or cozy up for a movie in a small onsite theater room.
And if you're heading there with no kids in tow, you'll find plenty of grown-up-friendly fun as well, including top-notch restaurants, a full-service spa, and — if golfing is your thing — two acclaimed golf courses. You can also simply relax with a book on the wraparound porch dotted with Adirondack chairs.
Ready, set, eat!
My husband and I were lucky enough to experience the childless version of Semiahmoo recently, heading up on a windy spring Sunday to spend one night. The main lodge was quiet inside, and dramatic outside — wind, whitecaps on the Sound and gulls wheeling and screeching. This was exactly to our liking. We settled into our cozy room, decorated with nautical blue-and-white accents, and then made our way to dinner at the Pierside Restaurant.
As with most parents, we’d enjoy a childless dinner out even if food was not included. But our experience at Pierside was spectacular. The dining room itself is stunning. Floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides of the restaurant offer expansive views of the harbor — in summer, you can eat outside on the deck. Touches such as rustic, whitewashed timbers across the high ceiling, Salish culture art pieces and an open kitchen — with a pizza oven at the center — add to the historic/modern feel of the restaurant.
The cuisine at Pierside is farm-to-table, with as many ingredients sourced locally as possible. More to the point, our dinner was superb. Seafood chowder that was the best in our memory (and I grew up in Boston); farm-fresh honey butter lettuce salad, tender short ribs and wood-fired pizza that was equal to the offerings of our favorite gourmet pizzeria in Seattle.
The restaurant is on the site of a former cannery, which was operated for 80 years by the Alaska Packers Association. Don’t miss the series of photos showing the cannery's history — old bunkhouses, women boating in their summer finery. In the summer, you can also visit a cannery museum on the premises.
Semiahmoo also offers another, more casual restaurant onsite, Packers Oyster Bar (with a 180-degree view of Drayton Harbor). Up the road at Semiahmoo Golf and Country Club, there's Blue Heron Grill. In the summer, you can eat at a beach barbecue on Friday and Saturday nights from 5:30–8:30 p.m. ($13–$15.95, kids 5 and under free), sunsets included.
One-stop shop for family activities
Confession: Our visit to Semiahmoo was not packed with activities. We did nothing besides eat, sleep, take short walks and (for me) try out an hour-long massage at the excellent spa. But should you wish to be more ambitious than us, there is loads to do, especially in the summer. Here are just a few that are on offer:
- Bike or walk the spit: At Semiahmoo County Park, there are approximately 1.5 miles of pathways ideal for walking and biking; you can also connect to the Coast Millenium Trail for rides up to 7 miles. Look out for seals, porpoises, maybe even a whale or two.
- Go birding: The spit is one of the premier coastal birding sites around Puget Sound; and the resort offers regular birding walks (one of the staffmembers is a master birder).
- Kayak or paddleboard: During the summer, Blane's Paddle and Pedal Adventures rents kayaks and paddleboards right at Semiahmoo Marina (also bikes).
- Take the 20-passenger Plover ferry to Blaine, 25 minutes away. The Plover is a restored foot ferry, the oldest in the state, which used to shuttle cannery workers, for the 35-minute ride to Blaine, Wash. (In the summer, it operates Friday–Sunday, and holidays.)
- Swim at Semiahmoo's heated outdoor pool; you can also take advantage of the sauna and steam room. This summer, a spa cafe opened for pool visitors as well.
- Check out the cannery museum: Right on the shore across from the main lodge, a cannery museum, housed in an original building, chronicles the area's 80-year history as a center for salmon processing. Find antique machinery, historic photos and a 29-foot Bristol Bay sailboat.
- Play golf at one of two top-notch golf courses: Semiahmoo Golf & Country Club and Loomis Golf Trail Club. If your family is more into soccer than golf, try Friday footgolf on the Semiahmoo golf course.
- Book a spa treatment: Just steps away from the main lodge, the lovely Semiahmoo spa offers massages, couples massages, hair removal, and a vast array of skin care treatments. Robes and sandals are provided.
- Go whalewatching: Outer Island Expeditions is a local whalewatching outfitter that leaves right from Semiahmoo.
- Go to a water park: If you can stand a short drive, bring the kids to Birch Bay Waterslides, an affordable water park just 15 minutes away, with a family-friendly size that makes it easy not to lose the kids.
Or hit the reset and relax button and read in an Adirondack chair on the wooden porch, enjoying mountain and sea views and (as in our couse) intentionally ignoring the fact that you ever have to leave.
ParentMap writers sometimes receive tickets, entrances and stays at press rate. All our content is independent and reviews are our own opinions.
If you go ..
Rooms: Semiahmoo offers 212 rooms of various sizes, including two suites with kitchenettes. Tip: if you book a first-floor lodge room on the beach side, you can open your door to the beach and let the kids play while you relax on the terrace).
Prices and deals: Prices vary depending on season and availability. Check the special offers page (such as 20 percent off mid-week stays through Sept. 30) and sign up for the enewsletter to find about the latest promotions. Also, follow the Facebook page.