A Day at Point Roberts

Moreno and I have been coming to Point Roberts to enjoy the waterfront for some time, but now that we have most of our Africa gear, and since we’re planning on doing a couple of multi-day hikes while we’re there, Moreno and I decided to take a multi-hour hike around Point Roberts to break some of our stuff in.

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Point Roberts lies on a 13km2 peninsula on the west coast of the United States. It is part of Washington State, but as it’s not attached to the mainland whatsoever (see map), you have to go through Canada to get there by land.

A day out to Point Roberts

09:34 The border crossing is quick – visitors are only Point Roberts bound – and this ease of access makes it an easy getaway for Canadians who flood the town during the summers swelling the population of 1,500 to three times that number.

09:45 On Tyee Drive, the two-lane artery that runs down the length of the peninsula, you pass a couple of gas stations and realize one of the main reasons for those from up north to visit: cheaper gas. Immediately on the right are a handful of post offices and shipping services on the right – the other big reason to visit.

09:50 You can see the marina up ahead, and beyond it, the ocean. Though small, Point Roberts is blessed with big vistas on all three of its coasts: coves looking out onto the ocean in the west, waterfront cabins facing Saturna and other islands to the south, and the forest viewpoints looking out onto the cityscape of Vancouver and Mount Baker to the east.

10:30  Off Apa Road to the east, the tide is low and the locals enjoy the sandy flats interspersed between the otherwise rocky shore. This area was once a favoured spot for the Cowichan, Lummi, Saanich, and Semiahmoo tribes, and the Salish Indians gathered together at Point Roberts to fish the salmon that came through during the summers.

11:45 Walking along South Beach, you reach another mudflat and take a left into the tall yellow grass towards the hill. The path veers under a small gathering of trees to expose a rusted boiler the size of a sedan, one of the few remaining signs of the cannery that resided here.

Walking through tall bushes in Point Roberts
In our safari gear it was like searching for lions

While the first Europeans came around 1791, it wasn’t until the late 1800’s that the government turned the area into a giant fishing district. A cannery was set up right on shore and was eventually bought out by the great Alaska Packers Association[1].

Now the only remnants are dilapidated boilers, rusted and discarded over the beach and fields.

13:10 After a short picnic under some trees lining the back of the cobbled beach, you decide against walking towards Birch Bay, and find a route up towards upper Lily Point instead. There is a barely visible path straight up the bush covered walls past the cliff face, and you lunge up a 45° path for the next hundred meters with the dirt shifting below you, grabbing on to branches you hope are attached to the earth, at times being chest to the ground.

13:15 It is hot, but you have made it onto solid, horizontal ground and are under the cover of forest. Lily Point Marine Reserve contains a series of trails (as well as a newly constructed wooden staircase to get up and down the hill) and preserves one of the most significant ecosystems in the region[2].  The lookout point is near the entrance to the Reserve and overlooks the Straight of Georgia and the beaches below. With the low tide and blue skies, Mount Baker is clearly visible and the ocean stretches out in front of you.

2:30 The walk along Apa Road back to the car is mindless, and you’re ready to relax with a cold beer and some snacks. Not too far is the Southbeach House Restaurant where you can enjoy a delicious and generous helping of the seafood salad and a quaint lawn terrace overlooking the cobble beach you had started on, but you opt for a refreshing gin and tonic with fish and chips at the Pier restaurant instead. Situated near Lighthouse Marine park on the opposite end of the peninsula, it offers a change of scenery and the opportunity to visit the Point Roberts Marina.
The vista from Lily Point - Mount Baker and beyond.
The vista from Lily Point – Mount Baker and beyond.

4:30 Stuffed and satisfied, you declare the Point Roberts day out a success. Your two choices now? Head back towards the border, or enjoy the beach as the locals do.

Fun Fact Trivia

Why Point Roberts is called Point Roberts?

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