Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about beaches along Whatcom County’s nearly 130 miles of saltwater shoreline.
If you want to spend a day at the beach — by yourself, or with friends and family — then head to Birch Bay State Park and its 1-1/2 miles of saltwater shoreline. This 664-acre park in north Whatcom County will make you feel oh so lucky to live here.
Why you’ll like it: First off, and the most obvious, it’s beautiful. Sparkling Birch Bay is gorgeous as are the views of the North Cascades mountains and Canadian Gulf Islands.
You can explore a long stretch of beach, even if it’s primarily of the pebbly and rocky variety.
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Because the bay is shallow, the water is warm so you can actually play in it without parts of you going numb as they do along other coastal shorelines in Whatcom County.
The park has a lot going for it if you want to do more than kick back with a good book or listen to the water lapping onshore. Like swim, sail, paddle or kiteboard offshore. Or go crabbing.
Birch Bay State Park is also a popular spot to dig for clams in the wide mudflat at low tide. You’ll find native littleneck, butter and horse clams as well as cockles. Oysters also can be found there, but they’re not as plentiful, according to the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife. Just remember to get a recreational license and check biotoxin levels before you dig.
If clamming is not your thing, you can explore near-shore life exposed at low tide, especially extreme low tide. Just expect to walk out a ways when the water is that far out.
This is also a good spot to laze away a day and enjoy a picnic with the family.
You can watch great blue herons stretch their long necks to pluck fish from the water or gulls repeatedly pick up clams, fly up and then drop the bivalves to open them.
Follow a half-mile trail that loops through the woods to Terrell Creek Marsh to see one of the few remaining saltwater/freshwater estuaries in north Puget Sound, according to parks officials.
Users: Beach-lovers of all ages. Dogs need to be on a leash.
Getting to Birch Bay State Park: From Interstate 5, take exit 266 and turn left onto WA-548 N/Grandview Road. Continue on Grandview to Jackson Road. Turn right. Take Jackson to Helweg Road. Turn left and follow Helweg to the park. From downtown Bellingham, it’s a roughly 22-mile drive.
You should know: A Discover Pass is required to park. The cost is $30 a year or $10 a day if you buy it directly from an automated pay station at the park. Otherwise, you’ll pay $35 and $11.50, respectively, to buy from a vendor, online or over the phone.
Or you can wait for days when it’s free to park at state parks during the weekend. Free days in 2018 are Aug. 25, Sept. 22 and Nov. 11.
Other stuff to do: You can check out the nature and musical programs at the park, which are on Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 1. Details are at the Friends of Birch Bay State Park website at fobbsp.org.
Amenities: Restrooms, picnic tables, campsites for tents and RVs, showers, boat launch, basketball court and a playground near the BP Heron Center.
Before you go: Check the tides by going to tides.net/washington. On phones, try apps like Rise for iPhones and Tides Near Me for Androids.