Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Bellingham's Chuckanut Drive Loop
On sunny spring days, I like to take road trips. Recently, I chose to take Chuckanut Drive from Bellingham south to the Skagit Valley. You can go in either direction, but heading south gives you the best views of the Puget Sound and San Juan Islands.
Take the Cuckanut Drive (State Highway 11) exit from I-5 in Bellingham. The road passes Old Fairhaven, an interesting destination of its own with lots of quaint shops and restaurants. There is excellent signage for Highway 11. You will take a left at Fairhaven and then bear to the left again before starting on the scenic drive.
The first part of Chuckanut Drive is lined with private homes on both sides of the road. When you get six miles south of Bellingham, the road enters Larrabee State Park. Follow the signs to the Boat Launch in Wildcat Cove on the right. Parking is free, but it costs $5.00 to launch a watercraft. The gates close at dusk.
From here, there are unobstructed views of Samish Bay. There are restrooms, picnic tables and both sandy and rocky shores to explore. I could see myself launching a kayak to paddle around the surrounding headlands. I settled for some photo opportunities. Right now it is uncrowded, but I can imagine it is very different when summer arrives. There is a nearby campground that is open year-round for those who want to stay a little longer.
All along the drive there are spectacular views. This is particularly true south of Larrabee Park. Turnouts are available to stop for pictures. There is also trailhead parking for a variety of Chuckanut Mountain Trails and the Interurban Trail that runs all the way back to Fairhaven. Some trails allow mountain bikes.
On this trip, I did not stop at any restaurants along the drive. There are two well known ones, the Chuckanut Manor Seafood and Grill and The Oyster Bar. Parking is limited along the busy road and both are somewhat pricey. If you've been to either of them, maybe you can leave a comment with a review.
I continued on Chuckanut all the way to I-5 and made a loop back to my starting point in Bellingham. It was a nice spring afternoon trip. One resource I use for travels and activities in Bellingham is the Insider's Guide: Bellingham and Mount Baker. It covers just about every topic you might want. You can check it out at Amazon.com.
Do you have any favourite day trips around Bellingham? Let us know. -- Margy