Lummi is one of those islands, like Lopez and Shaw, that people mention and then follow up by declaring, “but there’s really nothing to do there.” If the criteria are based on the bustle of San Juan and Orcas islands, those people would be right. With fewer than 1,000 full-time residents and just a handful of businesses, including the esteemed Willows Inn, and accessible only by a 20-car ferry, the allure of Lummi lies in its deliberate lack of bustle.
“Lummi is insanely beautiful,” says Blaine Wetzel, chef at the Willows Inn. “It’s a very special place—fully Northwestern, with pine trees, salmon, killer whales, silence and nature. It fits what people from this area want from their island vacations.” A sentiment echoed by photographer and naturalist Sharon Grainger who, along with marine biologist Victoria Souzé, leads guided hikes along the approximately 10-mile-long island’s pristine beaches and on the Baker and the Otto nature preserves, two of three preserves on the island (the third, Curry, is largely private).
Must see: Take a three-hour naturalist tour with Grainger ($150, through Willows Inn), a 30-year Lummi Island resident and master storyteller, and you’ll fall in love with the island’s diverse landscape—which includes a rich marine ecosystem that feeds an active underwater world of fish and sea life (including the essential salmon, which has been fished via traditional reef-netting in these waters for hundreds of years), an orchid-dotted mountain and beaches marked with dramatic geological striations from the slow-moving glacial ice that shaped the region. “Lummi is less oriented towards tourism,” Grainger admits, and cautions that many of the beaches are private, so if you see a sign indicating such, believe it. There is no island police force, she explains, but if there’s an issue, “it gets taken care of.”
Also, plan a Saturday-morning trip to the island’s seasonal farmers’ market (May–September) and pop into Sisters Gifts and Art Gallery, next to The Islander market, for a peek at some island-made art (360.758.2190; islandergrocery.com).
Where to eat: Dining options are limited to the excellent and inventive restaurant at Willows Inn (360.758.2620; willows-inn.com), helmed by Wetzel, who sources as hyperlocally as possible—and its siblings, the casual Taproot Café on the ground floor of the inn, good for snacks and light nosh, and the Beach Store Café, which offers affordable and delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner fare.
Where to stay: In addition to Willows, there is Hales Passage bed-and-breakfast (360.389.0545; halespassagebnb.com), and former Willows owner Riley Starks’ Nettles Farm (360.758.7616; nettlesfarm.com), which offers two lodging options with gourmet kitchens, and a farm full of fresh produce and eggs.
Ferry: Gooseberry Point to Lummi
Frequency: Monday–Friday, every 20 minutes from 5:40 a.m. to midnight, Saturday–Sunday, every hour on the hour from 7 a.m. to midnight (check co.whatcom.wa.us for schedule)
Duration: 5 minutes
Fare: $7 per pedestrian or passenger, $13 per car round-trip, cash or check only