Lummi Island is a perfect getaway for families looking to unplug and enjoy time in nature.
This easy day trip from Bellingham is just 25 minutes to the Lummi Island ferry terminal at Gooseberry Point. From there, the ride across the channel aboard the Whatcom Chief takes less than 10 minutes. Of course, be prepared to wait in line for the ferry; wait times will vary depending on the day and time you’re crossing. Get the ferry schedule here.
The Whatcom Chief is an adventure in itself! The tiny ferry can hold up to 20 vehicles (far less if a truck hauling a trailer or large work truck is crossing) and up to 100 walk-on passengers. If you’re used to traveling on the massive Washington State Ferries, this will be a very different experience!
Once we landed on the island, we started our adventure with a driving tour – which in actuality doesn’t take too long. The southernmost section of the island can’t be accessed by roads, and there are just two main loops to drive, to get a sense of the place and take in the scenery. There are no gas stations on the island, so be sure you have plenty of fuel before you leave the mainland.
Note: The Whatcom Chief goes into dry dock for maintenance once a year. In 2019, the ferry will be in dry dock from Saturday, September 7 – Tuesday, September 24. During these three weeks the ferry can only service foot passengers and walk ons.
Riding in the front row of the Whatcom Chief feels like you could launch off into the briney deep at any moment. All the more fun to start our adventure!
Parents, be prepared to manage expectations (as parents often do) when taking kids to the island. Case in point, my 8-year-old friend, who accompanied me on this trip with her two siblings, looked around dubiously at all the trees during our driving tour and asked, “Is there a McDonald’s here?”
No. There is not.
No fast food. No mini-golf. No toy stores.
So long story short, let kids know up front this is going to be a day spent in nature.
Having said that, the Saturday we visited was filled with fun community activities to keep us occupied, including a farmers market and a rummage sale at the community church. The summer farmers market is just up from the ferry terminal. It’s located on a cheery green next to the Islander, Lummi’s only grocery store. (The store is also a great place for Lummi Island T’s and hoodies.)
The farmers market offered produce, seaweed art, quilts and crochet. It was a great place to pick up some blueberries for our picnic, then we stopped next door to at the general store to buy drinks.
You may want to choose a picnic lunch for your visit to Lummi Island, or at least plan ahead to know which of the few restaurants on the island are open when you visit. The Beach Cafe is the place to eat on a sunny day. The shady front porch or the sunny back patio are a sure bet for dining al fresco, or there’s always the cafe’s cozy inside seating.
The SauseBurger stand, located near the Islander, serves gourmet burgers and sausages – as the name suggests. It also serves breakfast on the weekends.
The Willows Inn is a world-renowned restaurant on the island, and perhaps best saved for a day when you can treasure the experience without the kids. In fact, there would be a lot of reasons, including touring the island’s wine offerings and other artisan shops, to plan an adults-only visit to the island.
Above photo credits: Charity Burggraaf / The Willows Inn
Most of the island is private land, which means no public access along much of the shoreline. But fear not, you can still find places to scout around and enjoy the scenery. The island has three public access points for the beach.
- Lummi Island Beach Access – Across the street from the Beach Cafe, this small lookout area has a view of the ferry crossing and a picnic table. When the tide is low, visitors can walk down the stairs to explore the rocky beach.
- Sunset Beach – On the west side of the island, this spot is true to its name – a great place to catch the sunset – as well as being a great place to beachcomb for rocks and shells. The access point, just south of the Willows, can be hard to spot, so keep an eye out!
- Church Beach – The Lummi Island Congregational Church owns a stretch of beachfront property located behind the church. Park in the lot and follow the path, and be sure to check out the nearby stone labyrinth as well.
In the future, the island will have another public access point, the Aiston Preserve on the southeast side of the island. According to the Lummi Island Heritage Trust website, the preserve is currently in the permitting phase, so stay tuned.
With a minivan full of tired kids who’d had a day of sun and fresh air, and a camera full of memories, the day’s journey felt like a success.