With fall colors settling over Whatcom County, it’s a great time to explore new parks, get kids off the couch and off their screens and into the fresh, crisp air. Pack a picnic lunch before you head out, or stock up on snacks, binoculars, a Frisbee and a sense of adventure. And consider introducing your family to birdwatching, outdoor sculptures or identifying the San Juan or Gulf islands in the distance. One of my favorite phrases is “families that play together, stay together.” And there’s no better place to play than these beautiful parks!
Peace Arch State Park
Most people think “border crossing” when the word Peace Arch comes up, but the truth is there’s way more to this gorgeous green space than just the international border. The white peace arch is on the National Register of Historic Places and it marks the division between Canada’s Peace Arch Provincial Park to the north and the Peace Arch State Park to the south. The 19 formal flower beds in this 40-acre park are maintained by both the U.S. and Canada and kids can run freely on the green lawns, admire the gardens, check out the sculpture exhibit (held April through September) and picnic at the picnic tables. Two remarkable summer gardens are the United States flag bed, comprised of 3,500 flowers, and the Canadian flag bed close by.
Amenities include a swing set for kids, picnic tables, washrooms and the “American kitchen,” a full kitchen that can be rented for private events. The park hosts several annual festivals including Hands Across the Border and the Arts Festival in June. Info: peacearchpark.org.
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Blaine Marine Park
If you’re going to introduce your kids to bird watching, the Blaine Marine Park is one of the best places to do it. A prime spot for ornithology, it attracts thousands of water fowl and other avian species, as well as a two-mile walking trail. Parents and grandparents will appreciate the benches, where you can lose yourself in the views across Boundary Bay and Semiahmoo Bay. If the children get bored watching birds, there’s more to entertain them. Last year new play structures were implemented in the form of the Blaine lighthouse playground, as well as a pirate ship for the 5-and-under crowd. Well equipped with amenities, this park has restrooms, an amphitheater, parking, picnic spots and public art on display. It’s also ADA accessible.
Lily Point Marine Park
One of the county’s lesser known beauties, the Lily Point Marine Park in Point Roberts consists of 275 acres and 1.4 miles of saltwater shoreline along Boundary Bay. There are four miles of trails that range from forested areas to high banks and lead down to the shoreline. This is a good place for eagle watching and an even better one for kids to putter around on the beach at low tide! A staircase descends 200 feet from the high bank to the beach and there are viewpoints overlooking the Strait of Georgia and the San Juan Islands. The park has restrooms and a parking lot and offers fishing, crabbing, hiking, bike trails and birdwatching. To get there you’ll need to cross two international borders, so bring passports or Nexus cards. Follow I-5 to the Peace Arch border crossing, continue on Highway 99 to Exit 28 and follow Highway 17 South to Tsawwassen. Turn left on 56th Street to the Point Roberts border crossing and then follow Tyee Drive, turning left on APA road until you reach the parking lot at the road’s end.