A Weekend (Almost) North of the Border: Point Roberts, WA

by  Darren Murph | Sep 11, 2013
Whatcom County, Washington
Whatcom County, Washington / Aaron Wells/iStock

At a glance, the 48 contiguous United States seem pretty well glued together. A few oddities may stick out – like Florida dangling limb-like out into the ocean, or that big hole in the northern Arizona desert – but for the most part, with a full tank of gas and the open road, you can pretty much get anywhere you need to go. Which makes it even harder to believe there's a part of Washington state that can only be accessed by crossing the Canadian border, and then re-entering the country. Located just 22 miles south of Vancouver, Point Roberts, Washington is indeed out-of-the-way, it's what you'll find there that makes the trek worthwhile.

What is it? Point Bob, as it's known locally, is technically in Whatcom County, Washington – all five square miles of it. The 1,300 or so residents vote for our president, pay taxes, and make local phone calls to other U.S. residents. But in order to get there, you'll either need to take a boat over from the mainland, or drive through Canada. Yes, you read that correctly. It's a pene-exclave of the U.S., located at the extreme southern tip of the Tsawwassen Peninsula – a peninsula that mostly belongs to British Columbia, Canada. The reason Point Roberts exists is due to the decision made way back in 1846 for the 49th parallel to act as the international boundary between the U.S. and Canada, and given that this tiny bit of land hangs below that invisible line, it was then determined to be a part of the United States. Today, it's a lovely summer getaway for those who want small-town charm with marine activities galore.

How do you get there? For those with means, you can charter a flight from Blaine or Bellingham, Washington. Or, you can set off in a boat. For everyone else (and anyone looking for a real adventure) you'll need to grab an automobile and a passport. If you're already in the Seattle or Vancouver areas, Point Roberts is a great weekend getaway. From Washington, you'll need to cross over into British Columbia, hook a left on Highway 99, and then cross yet another border checkpoint into Point Roberts. It's unequivocally one of the most odd, rarely used land border crossings between the two nations, yet it's remarkably easy to get to. Beyond having your passport, no additional arrangements are necessary to visit for U.S. and Canadian citizens.

The location is also ideal for those road tripping from Washington to Whistler, as it's an easy 45 minute detour for those already en route to the Sea to Sky Highway. If you have more time, nearby ferries are available to visit a number of Washington's San Juan islands, or the islands surrounding Victoria, British Columbia.

Things to see and do: Point Roberts is surrounded on three sides by water, which makes it a boater's paradise. There are ample opportunities to stand on abandoned, rocky shorelines enjoying the view, as well as plenty of marinas to hire a boat and explore the surrounding bays. Oddly, it's also a great place to purchase fuel and alcohol; both of these are taxed far lower than in neighboring British Columbia, so it's not unusual to see Vancouverites making liquor runs on the weekend. For longer term stays, there are plenty of beach homes for rent, offering waterfront access, next to no traffic, and all of the amenities you'd expect from being in America – including access to all of the major mobile operators with no roaming fees.

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