Travel

The Oasis across the Bay

Semiahmoo Resort is just a stone
Semiahmoo Resort is just a stone's throw away from the U.S. border, perched on the edge of a spit separating Drayton Harbor in Washington State and Semiahmoo Bay, offering dining options including Packers Oyster Bar (below).
— image credit: Jason do Carmo photos

Perched on the edge of a spit separating Drayton Harbor in Washington State and Semiahmoo Bay is a cozy and upscale resort boasting 212 rooms, a full-service spa, a pool, two challenging public golf courses, two charming restaurants and the finest view of White Rock there is.

At just a stone’s throw away from the U.S. border, Semiahmoo Resort is a wonderful, relatively inexpensive getaway to recharge your batteries while watching the twinkling lights of Marine Drive and beyond. Spend a couple of nights here and you’ll feel like you travelled much farther than 20 minutes across the border.

Skipping the pricier summer season, I visited in May and October and both stays were exemplary. I chose an upgraded room that featured a view of Semiahmoo Bay and wood-burning fireplace, and was not disappointed. For me, it was well-worth the extra $50 but if you’re not fussed with having the ocean (and the aforementioned twinkling White Rock) right outside your room, choose a lawn view and use the savings at the spa.

Though I have yet to try the spa (that’s for another sojourn), their menu is extensive with massage, body treatments, facials, manicures, pedicures and a special couples’ massage that sounds divine. If being active is your thing, the resort offers a full fitness centre with cardio machines, free weights, an indoor running track and a variety of fitness classes that includes Pilates and yoga, all complimentary for guests. There are also indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a sauna, steam room and a heated outdoor pool that’s open year-round. And that’s just the fitness centre! Head outside into Mother Nature’s gym and you’re surrounded by 300 acres of tideland and nearly 2.5 kilometres of level pathways that are perfect for walking, biking, kite flying and beachcombing. The two golf courses are just up the road. In the summer, an activity centre rents out kayaks and paddleboards.

Packers Oyster BarBeing a foodie, I was anxious to check out the resort’s two restaurants. Lined with floor-to-ceiling windows that show off the sunset, Packers Oyster Bar, a locals’ favourite, is open for lunch and dinner along with Happy Hour and late-night dining on weekends. The menu focuses on fresh, local seafood (the oysters and mussels are harvested just off the beach), with a few inspired salads, meat-based mains and inventive pizzas thrown in. The wine and beer list is excellent and you could easily spend a few hours here sipping and nibbling away. There are a couple of large televisions with permanent ESPN but they are unobtrusive and don’t detract from the seaside vibe. If you’re lucky enough to score one of the leather armchairs or a spot on the sun-drenched patio in the summer, I predict you won’t ever leave.

Pierside Kitchen serves breakfast, weekend brunch and dinner and specializes in casual but sophisticated farm-to-table cuisine. With an expansive view of Semiahmoo Bay, it’s a relaxing spot for a lingering breakfast (try the all-you-can-eat option – it’s a great deal and most of the regular menu items are included). I ordered one of the house specialties – the “PB&C” which is an organic egg omelet with peanut butter and cheddar cheese. It sounds odd, but was delicious and filling. From lemon pancakes and eggs Benedict to pink grapefruit brûlée and quinoa granola, you’ll find something tantalizing and hearty to start your day. Room service is always an option, too, if you feel like a lazy morning in bed.

I found the rooms to be very clean, quiet and comfortable. The pillow-top bed was sublime and extras like bathrobes, a mini fridge, Keurig coffee maker and free Wi-Fi were a nice touch. Speaking of Wi-Fi, though my cellphone switched over to AT&T at the border, by the time I reached the resort, I was back on Bell – so no roaming, which is a bonus.

Semiahmoo Resort has a rich history that dates back to 1987, when it first opened as a golf resort. Through the years, it earned a reputation as an idyllic spot for weddings and business conferences, but was hit hard by the 2008 recession and never recovered. Shuttered in 2012 when its majority owner, the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, failed to find a buyer, the resort sat empty for close to 10 months until Wright Hotels, Inc. bought the property. Since then, $14 million has been invested in renovations.

Today, the resort hums with activity and three years after a facelift, looks better than ever. From the blonde hardwood floors to the cozy reading area with wingback chairs flanked by a fireplace and a wall of windows, the place practically begs you to unwind. Relax in an Adirondack chair and listen to the waves crash against the shore or take a stroll on one of the many trails that line both sides of the spit and check out the nature and wildlife in abundance. They also offer cooking classes and wine tastings and, in the summer months, a beach bonfire with s’mores is held each evening at dusk. Trust me when I say that the next time you’re on Marine Drive and squinting across the water at the twinkling lights on that side of the bay, you’ll be reaching for your passport.

Bookings can be made at www.semiahmoo.com, and be sure to sign up for email promotions; I scored great deals for both of my stays.

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