Peaceful Retreat

A quiet island takes clients back to simpler times

By: Marty Wentzel

Anyone who grew up in the shadow of an older brother or sister can relate to Lummi Island, a precious destination often overlooked by visitors heading to the better-known neighboring San Juan islands. Lummi doesn’t make a big play for tourists. Instead, clients who give it a try discover a distinctive retreat providing all the beauty of its nearby siblings balanced by peaceful pastimes all its own.

Lummi Island is convenient enough to justify a day-long visit, yet isolated and intriguing enough that clients might want to spend a few nights here. From Seattle, it takes less than two hours to drive north to Bellingham and, just beyond, to Gooseberry Point. From there it’s a six-minute ride to Lummi Island on the Whatcom Chief, a steadfast ferry holding 20 cars and a handful of walk-on passengers.

Clients rarely encounter traffic jams on Lummi Island; in fact, it doesn’t even lay claim to a gas station. Folks can’t get lost, or at least not for very long, since the island measures just nine miles long and two miles wide. They don’t have to navigate through big crowds, because only 800 people live here. The island’s single grocery store, The Islander near the ferry landing, carries essentials like milk, a few vegetables, sundries and movie rentals. When the urge arises for a mall or theater, clients can simply hop on the ferry and take a quick trip to bustling Bellingham.

While other San Juan islands may offer more accommodations, Lummi’s inventory serves it well. On an island with just three restaurants, a vacation rental with a full kitchen makes good sense for island visitors. The person to call is Island Vacation Rentals’ Gudrun Gutsche, who masterfully matches clients with upscale, yet affordable vacation homes.

For instance, the Beachwood Cottage, with its views of Mt. Baker and Bellingham Bay from the outdoor hot tub, creates a classy home-base for two couples. Family reunions might want to take over the roomy Compass Rose, whose main house and guesthouse are fronted by a pristine, private beach. On the west shore, The Orchid caters to couples attracted to Asian decor in a Northwest landscape.

In all of her 10 Lummi properties, Gutsche pays close attention to detail, from making sure there’s enough wood for the fireplace to stocking the refrigerator ahead of time on request.

For clients in search of peace, quiet and access to nature, Lummi Island is a gem. Deer graze on the side of the road and eagles roam the skies. July through September brings prime whale watching from the land, as Orcas chase after the salmon running along the western shores. With a generous coastline and minimal traffic, especially in the off-season and on weekdays, Lummi Island lends itself to scenic walks and bike rides. A seven-mile loop around the north end of the island rewards clients with ocean views. Travelers can also set aside some time for kayaking, either on their own or with a guide.

As artists and creative spirits have discovered the charms of Lummi, studios have sprouted up around the island. Potters, jewelers, painters and sculptors welcome visitors, although it’s wise to call ahead and make sure they’re home. Driving around the small country roads, clients might turn a corner and suddenly encounter big bronze sculptures at Windy Hill Art or outdoor creations at Sculpture Woods. They can peruse beautiful handmade pottery at Good Thunder Arts and sniff aromatherapy essences at Tree Frog Farm.

If they come during the summer, clients can marvel at the works of over 20 island artists in one spot Sisters Gallery. And they can time their visit for Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day weekend or the first weekend in December, when Lummi Island’s galleries collaborate to present open-house-style studio tours.

From May through September, Lummi’s Saturday morning farmer’s market is an excellent source of fresh seafood, organically grown produce and lively conversation with locals. The Lavender Festival, scheduled this year for July 15-16, features plenty of food, crafts and pick-your-own herbs. During the island’s Reefnet Festival, held this year on Aug. 19, clients can see how salmon are caught, sample fresh fish in various preparations, sip brews at the beer garden and listen to live music.

Such singular special events give Lummi Island the occasional well-deserved moment in the spotlight.



Island Vacation Rentals

Commissionable rates on Lummi Island accommodations.

Bellingham Whatcom
County Tourism