Some of the most stunning sunsets can be seen right from the Pierside Restaurant while eating dinner. (photo by Baila Lazarus)
As a realtor with more than two decades of experience, Joel Korn knows the golden rule that location is everything. That’s one of the reasons he and his wife have started frequenting a new getaway just south of the border.
Semiahmoo Resort, located across Semiahmoo Bay from White Rock, is just an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver (with a Nexus pass), making it the closest resort of its kind outside of the Vancouver area.
“I always knew the resort was there,” said Korn. “Mostly I knew about the golf course.” It’s so close (approximately 55 kilometres), he said, they can make it a day trip. Even the hotel manager lives in downtown Vancouver.
Located on a spit of land a short tugboat ride away from Blaine, Wash., the 212-room resort features a pool, full-service spa and diverse restaurants.
The sheer area it covers is impressive. It’s so large, it has a racquetball court (with plans for a second), tennis court, and full-size exercise centre and yoga room that rivals any fitness club. Enormous outdoor spaces on the beach and the restaurant patio serve as great meeting spaces, especially for events like weddings. Just a short drive away are two acclaimed public golf courses: Semiahmoo Golf and Country Club, and Loomis Trail Golf Club.
“We love the spa,” said Korn, who raves about the hot rock massage. “It’s great just to go down and stay all day in the spa. We love the saltwater whirlpool and the steam rooms.”
Being on a peninsula means a large portion of the building (one quarter of the rooms), including the main restaurant and sports bar, have stunning water views. (Squint your eyes a bit and you can see the white rock on the Canadian side of the border.) And, because of the spaciousness, even when many of the rooms are taken, there’s never a crowded feeling.
The mostly flat surrounding land, bordered by water, makes for great family activities like biking, kayaking, clamming, sand sculpting, kite flying, picnicking or just strolling lazily through the mud flats when the tide is out. The hotel has bikes, croquet or badminton sets you can rent for the day. For the indoor-inclined, there are free fitness and yoga classes daily.
Visitors with pets can book ground-floor rooms that exit directly onto the beach.
Weekends in the summer, guests can participate in outdoor barbecues and marshmallow roasts and take a tugboat called the Plover, which has been running since 1944, across to Blaine for pizza, ice cream, Thai or Mexican food.
Birdwatchers will have an especially enjoyable time as the region’s tide pools and waterways attract thousands of geese, ducks, gulls, loons and shorebirds. The area has made the Audubon Society’s list as one of Washington State’s top birding destinations, and Drayton Harbor attracts endangered species such as bald eagles and peregrine falcons.
For those looking to stimulate their palates, the kitchen of French-born culinary director Chef Eric Truglas creates heavenly plates, such as melt-in-your mouth branzino (European sea bass), pecorino cream risotto, minted pea soup and watermelon salad. For breakfast, the orange-zest blintzes and smoked salmon are to die for. The restaurant also boasts an extensive wine list. For more casual dining, Packers sports bar is right on the water with patio seating. Both eateries are perfect spots to catch a sunset.
Semiahmoo Resort has gone through growing pains in the last decade. It was owned for 25 years by the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, which closed it at the end of 2012, due to low occupancy, blamed partially on the 2008 recession. It was then bought by Seattle-based Wright Hotels in mid-2013 and remained closed as it underwent a $10 million facelift. The new owners gave it a major renewal with interior upgrades that included new furniture and carpeting, improvements to the restaurants, spa and fitness facility and a completely new image.
The changes have been noticed – the hotel was declared the Northwest’s best resort in the Best of 2014 Readers’ Choice Award in Seattle Magazine.
And, if all this isn’t enough to put the resort on your bucket list, it is so close to Canada that Rogers customers never lose their wifi connection.
Baila Lazarus is a freelance writer and media trainer in Vancouver. Her consulting work can be seen at phase2coaching.com.