Vacation’s Over: Last chance for summer trips

Cap Sante Boat Haven in Anacortes is open to the public, (and unlike Squalicum Harbor, there are no locked gates). You'll see a variety of vessels, including commercial boats and live-aboards.
Cap Sante Boat Haven in Anacortes is open to the public, (and unlike Squalicum Harbor, there are no locked gates). You'll see a variety of vessels, including commercial boats and live-aboards. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Many public and private schools begin in the next couple of weeks, and it may be time to hit the road for one last summer fling. Here are a few suggestions for day trips and overnighters.

▪ San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands ferries depart from Anacortes and stop at Shaw, Lopez, Orcas and San Juan islands. Reservations and fare information are available at wsdot.wa.gov. And don’t just stay inside the ferry on your cell phone: Get out of the car, walk the passenger decks, and watch for whales. Each island has its own personality. The most-visited island is San Juan, with Friday Harbor’s numerous shops and restaurants. Orcas Island is known for its arts and the gorgeous Moran State Park. Bicyclers love Lopez, the least hilly of the islands. And Shaw is the smallest of the four San Juan Islands served by the ferries; travelers can enjoy Shaw’s University of Washington’s Cedar Rock Preserve or visit the working farm run by nuns at Our Lady of the Rock Monastery.

Details: visitsanjuans.com.

▪ Port Townsend

Downtown Port Townsend, on the Olympic Peninsula, boasts numerous shops and restaurants in restored turn-of-the-century buildings. And don’t miss Fort Worden State Park at the edge of town, with two miles of beach, hiking trails and bike paths that offer gorgeous vistas and historic buildings to explore. The Jefferson Transit is a good option if you don’t want to take your car on the ferry.

To get there, take the Keystone ferry from Whidbey Island for a 45-minute ride. It’s called the Port Townsend-Coupeville ferry on wsdot.wa.gov.

Visitors can walk onto the ferry, saving money and avoiding worries about the need for reservations.

Details: enjoypt.com.

▪ Coupeville

This charming waterfront burg on Whidbey Island echoes with the spirit of a frontier seaport. Today, it’s packed with nature trails, artists and historic buildings.

It’s a pleasant 90-minute drive from Bellingham, but you’ll be tempted to stop at Deception Pass for the great views from the bridge. Once you arrive in town, there’s much to see, including Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, and nearby Fort Casey State Park showcases the remains of a coastal artillery battery.

Details: cometocoupeville.com.

▪ Anacortes

It’s only an hour away, yet many tourists see Anacortes as a jumping-off spot to the San Juan Islands. Next time, make Anacortes your destination for a day of sightseeing.

Among the more than 60 miles of trails in Anacortes and on Fidalgo Island, the climb up Mount Erie offers one of the most stunning vistas of Skagit Valley, Whidbey Island and the San Juans. Much like Bellingham’s Squalicum Harbor, Cap Sante Boat Haven is open to the public, (but unlike Squalicum Harbor, there are no locked gates). You’ll see a variety of vessels, including commercial boats and liveaboards.

Details: anacortes.org.

▪ Winthrop

This burg is a fun Old West-style town that’s worth a visit. Be sure to visit Shafer Museum, which has a collection of vintage and replica pioneer buildings. It’s akin to Ferndale’s Pioneer Park, but on a smaller scale.

Driving tip: Head east on State Route 20, follow Cook Road east from exit 232 off Interstate 5 south, and pick up State Route 20 in Sedro-Woolley. This avoids the commercial congestion in Burlington.

Details: winthropwashington.com.

▪ Seattle

Seattle museums offer visitors numerous interactive exhibits, shows by world-renowned artists and displays with fascinating facts about our region’s maritime, musical and historical heritage, as well as family-friendly activities year-round.

Allow plenty of time (usually at least three hours) for each place you visit, and check the museums’ websites ahead of time to learn about what’s on display and what special events are taking place. Go to visitseattle.org/things-to-do/arts-culture/museums.

The EMP Museum (Seattle Center, 325 Fifth Ave. N., empmuseum.org) now has on exhibit “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds,” as part of the franchise’s 50th anniversary celebrations, with more than 100 artifacts and props from the “Star Trek” television series, spin-offs and films, including set pieces from the original series like Captain Kirk’s command chair and the navigation console (on display for the first time in 25 years); Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and McCoy original series costumes; the 6-foot U.S.S. Enterprise filming model from Star Trek: The Next Generation; plus state-of-the-art interactives and video ops.

▪ Olympia

It takes just over two hours to drive from Bellingham to our state capital, and while Olympia is smaller than Bellingham, it’s chock-full of history and offers much more.

Check out the state capitol and legislative buildings and the Governor’s Mansion. Free tours are available 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends. Or take a self-guided tours; prepare by taking an online tour at ga.wa.gov/visitor/guide.htm. Walk the historic downtown district and stop by Sylvester Park, Burfoot Park, Hotel Olympian, State Theater and the Rockway-Leland Building. Watch for historical markers along the way.

Details: visitolympia.com.

▪ White Rock, B.C.

White Rock is just a 10-minute drive from the Peace Arch-Douglas crossing on Interstate 5 (Highway 99 in Canada), and, yes, you can see it from Semiahmoo Spit on our side of the border, even when it’s overcast.

Stroll onto the pier on West Beach, or dive from the lower-level docks, have a picnic on East Beach, a picturesque grassy spot and sandy beach packed with tide pools and warm water, or eat at one of the restaurants on Johnston Street (the main drag in town) that seem to be in competition for the cleverest name, such as Charlie Don’t Surf, Moo Moo’s Ice Cream Parlour, and Holly’s Poultry in Motion.

Details: inwhiterock.com.

▪ Harrison Hot Springs, B.C.

When a visit to Harrison Hot Springs comes up, most people think of the luxurious resort with its warm pools and fancy restaurant-ballroom. But there’s much more to the small British Columbia town, which was once a stop along the Gold Rush trail. It’s about a 90-minute drive from Bellingham if you take the Sumas border crossing. You can hike, canoe or kayak the lake, ride a bike on nearby old logging roads or in farm country just south of the village, visit the Ranger Station Art Gallery or enjoy a concert at Memorial Hall.

Details: tourismharrison.com.

Margaret Bikman: 360-715-2273, @bhamentertainme