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.

[google_maps id=”5026″]
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?

Seat 8A [arizona]

On flight from Phoenix to Seattle.


6:35AM I keep hoping I’ll see the Grand Canyon out of my window but know it’s wishful thinking. I catch a glimpse of the propeller out of the corner of my eye and stop looking. But soon my face is glued to the window again. Red rock and atmosphere as far as the eye can see.

I can’t help but wonder: here, in these mountainous plains, have all the miles of rock been stepped upon? Has any stone been left unturned? These hills look flatter than what I imagine the Canyon would be- that is, vertical cliff – which makes me assume inhabitation somewhere.

And soon: neat lines of humanity carved into the earth. I love this terrain: the weather, the colour; something makes me feel good, something makes me feel right and I vow to only travel at or below this latitude from now on.

6:40AM and I think I see the Canyon. The previous range began to look like anthills when these giants arose. They are so jagged and their limestone façade glows so vibrantly red in the sunrise that I am sure I am right. The plane tilts and the sun shoots directly through the window on the other end of my row. Blinding light and I am in heaven. I know I could do this again and again.

6:46AM Either we are not that high up or the sky is cloudless. From the window the red rock turns translucent until it reaches a monochromatic rainbow – a belt of colour ranging only from white to dark blue. And it is here that I can see the atmosphere bend: I see the world is round with my own eyes and I get a weird sense of being above it, viewing it in its totality.

6:50AM and I think I see the Canyon again. We are at 36,000 feet altitude and approaching a snaking crevasse in the mountains. The gorge is obvious, recognizable, and I think it silly to have thought the previous cones of rock were significant.

6:51AM And I’ve changed my mind: Up ahead, something even more brilliantly vibrant, more gorgeously jagged, and impossibly more grand appears. And I have my confirmation. Below to my left, the pilot declares, slowly winds the Grand Canyon.

But there is nothing gentle about it: the gorge seems to plow its way, ripping the rock, twisting through the red earth in a way that affirms its very existence. I can only call it mighty and realize ‘Grand’ is not just a marketing ploy. Against a background of monochromatic crevices that sneak amidst these mountain ranges, the Grand Canyon stands out flamboyantly, demanding awe for as long as I can see it.

I take many inspired photographs though the haze. The clouds roll in but my trip is complete.