Lummi Island is the smallest of Washington’s San Juan Islands, and also the least developed. It’s like visiting a time-warped island of 20-30 years ago, which remains untouched by the gentrification and yuppification of the larger San Juans. It’s old-style island life here, and the locals like it that way. It is sparsely populated. The Lummi Island Heritage Trust has purchased properties here, with the goal to keep the island rural.
This is a pleasant place for a laid-back holiday of a day or two. Bicyclists and hikers will enjoy the seven-mile loop on the island’s north side. Or, bring over kayaks from the mainland, and put them in the water at the island’s SE side near Reil Harbor (map on website). If staying at the Willows Inn, the owners can arrange a private boat trip over to sandy Clark Island for a picnic. Orca whales are sometimes spotted off the island’s west coast. Bird-watching is good, with 167 species.
My interests run to art, and the island has many local artists and artisans. This photo shows a Bellingham artist, Ben-Mann, installing pieces of his newest artwork at the Willows Inn, reflecting the island’s emphasis on organic farming of produce. The Willows Inn has rotating exhibits on its walls by local area artists.
From the Willows, a drive to the south brings you to artist Michael Oppenheimer’s outdoor wind sculpture garden (photo #2). His expansive property typifies not only the rural landscape, but showcases some intriguing large-scale sculptures that are wind-driven. In photo #3, two pieces of his kinetic sculpture are shown. To the left, “Chime Lines” has a weather vane that moves with the wind, and its clapper strikes a different musical tone accordingly to the wind direction. “Douglas,” at right, is a monumental sculpture in the shape of a Northwest Douglas fir tree, and rotates in the wind.
And, the artist’s signature quote neatly sums up this island – “I am compelled to make art that moves in concert with the environment.” That’s little Lummi Island in a nutshell.
Getting from the mainland Bellingham area to Lummi Island is easy on this mini ferry, which must be the smallest car ferry in Washington State, carrying only 23 vehicles. But it's like a little workhorse, with the quickest loading I've ever seen, and then chug-chug-chugging its way for the 10-minute ride from the mainland to the island (photo #2).
The cars are often so close together on the ferry that you can barely open your door to get out and gaze at the scenery. And the scenery is grand -- you can often see the Cascade Mountain range. If you look closely in photo #3, right in the center of what looks like a cloud bank is the glacier-covered peak of Mt. Baker, one of Washington's six major volcanoes, at 10.775 feet (3,284 meters).
The ferry runs at intervals of about every 20 to 60 minutes, although on weekends it will step up the number of runs depending on the number of cars needing transport. The cost is about $9 roundtrip for a car, driver and passenger. You only pay on the island-bound run. Walk-ons and cyclists are welcome.
To find the ferry dock, from the Bellingham area take Interstate-5 to exit 260. Take Slater Road west for 3 miles to a traffic light (big casino here). Turn left, and head south on Haxton Way to the ferry landing at Gooseberry Point. This drive takes about 20-30 minutes. Along the way, you will be driving through the Lummi Indian Reservation, which is interesting itself.