If youâ€™ve breezed through the City of Blaine, WA which sits on the doorstep of the US-Canadian border at the Peace Arch and Pacific Highway border crossings, youâ€™ve likely seen it as a quiet place with not much in the way of excitement. Donâ€™t be fooled by your first impressions, though. Linger a little longer and youâ€™ll discover the discreet charms of this city of 4,900, perched on the cusp of Drayton Harbor. Whatâ€™s there to do here, you ask? Plenty. Here are our five top picks.
1.Â Â Â Â Â Â Ferry Fun: Take a ferry ride on the Plover from Blaine Harbor to the shores of Semiahmoo Resort. Built in 1944 this historic 32-foot vessel is the oldest foot passenger ferry in Washington State and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built to carry cannery workers back and forth across the channel between Blaine and the former APA salmon cannery on Semiahmoo Spit, and today it plies pretty much the same route. En route, the two-person crew provides interesting commentary on the Ploverâ€™s restoration and the many diverse sights along the short crossing, which includes British Columbia’s Coast Mountains, seals, eagles and herons. The Plover provides a pleasant shortcut for cyclists pedaling the coast and makes a great water taxi from Blaine to a midday meal at the Semiahmoo Resort.Â Passengers and cycles are boarded free as space allows, but donations are welcomed. The Plover runs weekends Memorial Day through Labor Day, Friday and Saturday 12-8 and Sunday 10-6. Info: www.draytonharbormaritime.org
2.Â Â Â Â Â Â Savor a Locally-Made Ice Cream Cone: With milk and dairy products among the highest-in-demand products moving across the border, Edaleen Dairyâ€™s new ice cream shop and the store has become a fast favorite for inexpensive but delicious ice creams. Named for its owners, Ed and Aileen Brandsma, the shop opened on Peace Portal Way, steps from the border crossing, in 2014. It sells milk, yogurt, cream, ice cream, cheese and other dairy staples. All ice creams are made from dairy products from the Bransdsma family dairy farm in Lynden, and ice cream flavors include all the usual varieties and some neat others, among them chocolate chip peanut butter nut, blueberry cheesecake, white chocolate raspberry, fudgy wudgy and coffee almond fudge. A kidsâ€™ cone will set you back US$0.90, while regular cones are just $2.10. American sizings apply and they are significantly more generous than those north of the border! Ice creams can be eaten on site in the sunshine overlooking Drayton Harbor, or taken home in quart-size containers. The shop is open Mon-Sat 8am-10pm. www.edaleendairy.com
3.Â Â Â Â Â Â Take a Stroll Under the Arch: Peace Arch Parkâ€™s rolling green lawns and beautifully landscaped garden beds provide the backdrop for many a wedding and family celebration. The arch itself represents the only international gateway ever erected in the interest of peace among nations and was dedicated back in 1921 by Washington businessman and philanthropist Samuel Hill. Look out for the flower beds planted to resemble the US and Canadian flags each summer, – they are eminently photograph-worthy. And take a stroll through the gardens to peek at the rotating series of outdoor sculptures. Peace Arch
A great time to visit is the annual International Arts & Music Festival, June 24-26 2016, when the park will be abuzz with music and local artists displaying their work and demonstrating how it is made. Info: www.peacearchart.org
4.Â Â Â Â Â Â Blaineâ€™s Best Meals: In the mood for a picturesque drive and a well-plated meal? Drive or take the Plover Ferry to Semiahmoo Resort, where there are two mouthwatering options: Packers Oyster Bar for lamb burgers, flatbreads and beer-battered fish and chips, or Pierside Kitchen for exquisite brunches and a fabulous selection of fine dining options. The views, especially if youâ€™re on the patio, are unbeatable. www.semiahamoo.com If youâ€™re an oyster lover youâ€™ll enjoy the Drayton Harbor Oyster Company on Peace Portal Drive, which sells shucked oysters by the dozen.
5. Enjoy a Festival: Drayton Harbor Days is the first weekend of August. The City of Blaine looks out onto Drayton Harbor, where fishing fleets and salmon canning were the city’s historic economic drivers. Today the community celebrates this waterfront festival each year with a homemade raft race, pirate crafts for kids, steamboat displays and rides on the Historic Plover. In 2016, the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain will also participate in the maritime festivities. Click here for more details.