Monday, August 11th, 2014
Launch your Paddle Adventure from Wildcat Cove at Larrabee State Park
Todd Elsworth

Wildcat Cove is conveniently located at Larrabee State Park, six miles south of Bellingham on scenic Chuckanut Drive. This is my favorite public boat launch, whether it’s for an overnight excursion or a day trip up and down the coast in Bellingham Bay. From the protected inlet I chose to go north to Governors Point and beyond into Chuckanut Bay and Clark’s Point for a leisurely day trip.


Along the shoreline, the Chuckanut Sandstone features are sculpted by the wind and water to form interesting pockets along the cliffs. The surface is like a finishing sandpaper you’d use on a special project- smooth yet gritty in its own right. The sheer cliffs drop straight into the water and host marine life below the sea’s surface. Sea Stars (aka Starfish), urchins, anemone and colorful plant life are visible from a kayak or canoe.


There are a few spots along the shore where you can get out of your boat and stretch your legs, have a snack and watch as others paddle past. I found a spot to lounge and enjoyed the views of Anacortes to the southwest with the tankers in the background. On the horizon in my viewscape I could see the islands of Fidalgo, Guemes, Sinclair, Vendovi, Lummi as they appear to be floating on the horizon.


We’ve had some magical days (and nights) with our beautiful weather this summer. This was one of those days. The sun was beaming down and the air was still- which leads to calm water and the best paddling conditions. It showed in the numbers of people on the water. Experienced solo sea-kayakers, novices in tandems, couples in canoes and photographers in stable inflatables were OUT THERE on this epic day.


The still air enables conversations of the crew of passing vessels to skip across the water with ease. The occasional breaking of a wave from a boat wake or the call of a gull complemented the chatter of people out having a great time. The coastline is rugged and when you’re skirting the shore, you feel like you’re much further from civilization than reality. A group of paddlers with Moondance Kayak pass by as we lounge on the beach.


There’s a time to paddle and there’s a time to take pictures. Being in a boat does provide many impromptu opportunities for getting the shot. In a small boat, you often unexpectedly see wildlife up close (see Eating Eagles) and must be ready to shoot (your camera) to capture them in their natural setting. Sometimes, the wildlife is just used to having people around and enjoy posing for a shot of their best side.


These Black Oystercatchers were enjoying the paparazzi . In preparation for this story, I wanted to confirm the appropriate name of these Halloween-colored creatures. The confirmation came from naturalist Saul Weisberg, Executive Director of North Cascades Institute, who added his professional insight as to the value in their name, “Doesn’t take much skill to sneak up on an oyster. Or a mussel or a limpet or snail. All good with garlic butter and white wine.” (via facebook)


As I rounded this last turn, the sight of campers and visitors to the beach at Larrabee were a warm welcome home. Families scattered along the sandstone cliffs and across the small beach waved as the day came to a close. The boat launch was still busy with activity, even in the evening, as a father-and-son team headed out in their canoe to drop a freshly baited crab pot. It’s your adventure and this is a great place to start.


If you’d like to explore Bellingham Bay, but need gear, a guide or an outfitter to show you the way check out your options at Basecamp Bellingham.



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About the Author:

As the co-Executive Director of Recreation Northwest and the founder of the Bellingham Traverse, Todd promotes outdoor recreation and brings people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. He enjoys biking, hiking, paddling, skiing and will try anything twice. Get connected at


  1. Those pictures are inspiring and make me want to be out on the water! Any suggestions for overnight camping if paddlers are leaving from Larrabee and heading south?

    Comment by Sarah Hare — August 13, 2014 @ 4:50 am

  2. Thank you Sarah. If you head south from Larrabee, most of the shoreline is private property until you get to Bayview State Park near Anacortes. If you want to go camp, I’d recommend heading across Bellingham Bay to the Lummi Island Campground. Read all about it: Kayak Camping on Lummi Island.

    Comment by Todd Elsworth — August 13, 2014 @ 10:41 am

  3. Thanks for the launch info, I figured there was a way to reach that area but didn’t know where or the difficulty level, when we drove that area last summer.

    That’s why I started my own kayaking blog, because I can’t be the only transplant new kayaker to have a hard time getting started in such an amazing sport.

    I’m glad to have found your blog. Do you also know of any other paddle bloggers in the area?

    Comment by kyrstin — July 4, 2015 @ 11:23 am

  4. Thanks Kyrstin! I don’t know of any other paddle bloggers…

    Comment by Todd Elsworth — July 5, 2015 @ 12:18 pm

  5. Bummer, well if you ever do find them let me know, I’m sure they’re out there somewhere! 🙂

    Comment by kyrstin — July 17, 2015 @ 9:30 pm

  6. Great article Todd! I think that might be a few of our boats featured in one of your pictures – so cool!

    Also, If anyone is looking to further your local seaside knowledge or needs support from a Bellingham kayak outfitter, we are always here to help answer questions, safety boat with you or guide you through the stories of the geology and intertidal diversity in our area! Reach us Thanks!

    Comment by Kristi Kucera — February 21, 2017 @ 2:59 pm

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