1. Willows Inn
A five-minute ferry ride from Bellingham, little Lummi Island (pop. 1,000) is becoming a big culinary destination, thanks to 26-year-old Washington chef Blaine Wetzel. He and his kitchen team personally deliver dishes like candy-size bites of sockeye salmon that’s been reef-net caught by local fisherman Jeremy Brown and comes smouldering in a cedar box. Or, in season, there’s the basket of spring shoots dusted in hazelnut malt “dirt” from the inn’s Nettles Farm, where you can stay in a yurt. Our favourite, though, is the Haven, a whitewashed oasis that feels like a souped-up summer cottage.
2579 W. Shore Dr., Lummi Island, 888-294-2620, willows-inn.com
2. Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro
Settle in here for the hopping happy hour with the Sampler: six classic and seasonal half-pints like the hibernation-inducing Cabin Fever, an earthy beer with hints of dark chocolate. Or try the auburn Dunkles Bock lager that’s aged for three months. The pub doesn’t filter any of its brews, producing meatier suds that are like meals in themselves. (But you can’t go wrong with the warm pretzel.)
1107 Railroad Ave., 360-647-5593, bbaybrewery.com
3. Quel Fromage
The only shame about this playfully named cheese shop is how few foodie gifts will actually make it back in your suitcase. (Sorry, Mom.) Owner Beth Bagne stocks everything from the briny, black-truffle-laced boschetto to the lavender-and-ground-coffee-kissed Barely Buzzed. Seattle’s Boat Street Pickles and other artfully packaged goods lining the walls make for more great snacks – er, souvenirs.
1200 Old Fairhaven Pkwy., 360-671-0203, quelfromage.com
4. Taylor Shellfish Farms
This family-run establishment offers everything from petite Washington oysters to the king of clams, geoduck (meaning “dig deep” in Chinook – they like to hang out a metre under the mud). If the sun is out, sit at one of the tables overlooking Samish Bay and take a crack at the Dungeness crab that’s cooked on site. Or join a night tour of the farm at low tide, when diggers light up the water with their headlamps in search of buried treasure.
2182 Chuckanut Dr., 360-766-6002, taylorshellfishfarms.com
5. Samson Estates Winery
Sure, you can pick up a merlot or chardonnay, but the fruit wines here are also ripe for discovery. (This is the only winery in the Columbia Valley located on a working berry farm.) From the roaring fireplace overlooking the North Cascade Mountain Range, we get a hit of summer when a bottle of blackberry wine is uncorked, filling our noses with warm, jammy goodness and finishing with a subtle fizz.
1861 Van Dyk Rd., Everson,360-966-7787, samsonestates.com
Bellingham Via Seattle or Vancouver
Air Canada offers convenient service to Vancouver from many Canadian, international and U.S cities. Air Canada also offers daily non-stop service from Toronto to Seattle. From Vancouver or Seattle, Bellingham is a pleasant drive away.