Paraglider over ocean
Featured Northwest Lifestyles Outdoor Activities Washington

Chuckanut Drive Scenic Byway is a scenic pleasure trip

Caption: A paraglider takes off at Larrabee State Park. Photo by Jason Hummel

Chuckanut Drive is a 20-mile jaunt between Burlington and Bellingham, Washington, that takes visitors through tidal bays, coastal views and rolling farmland.

Near the drive’s southern terminus, just outside of Burlington, Bay View State Park serves as a jumping-off point to explore the 11,000-acre Padilla Bay Naitonal Estuarine Sanctuary. Hike on the 2.5-mile Padilla Bay Shore Trail to search for herons, eagles and falcons, and check in with the naturalists at the nearby Breazeale Interpretive Center.

To the north in Edison, stop at the down-home Edison Café, or take a seat at the Oyster Bar in Bow to splurge on local Samish Bay and Kumamoto oysters in a picturesque setting.

Man with frisbee and dog
A golden retriever plays Frisbee with his human friend at Larrabee State Park

As the Chuckanut hugs the forest-fringed Samish Bay to the north, drivers can take advantage of multiple roadside viewpoints peering over the San Juan Islands before reaching Larrabee State Park.

Larrabee State Park is known for its postcard views of Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands. It is also Washington’s first state park. This unique camping park on famed Chuckanut Drive offers boating, paddling, fishing, shellfish harvesting, diving and teeming tide pools.

Though the shore is the main draw at Larrabee, freshwater Fragrance and Lost lakes provide excellent trout fishing. Hiking and mountain bike trails wind through a forest of Douglas-fir and salal.

Train-spotting is also part of the Larrabee experience. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and Amtrak run trains up to 16 times a day (including at night) on the Burlington Northern track by the beach. This can be a noisy proposition for light sleepers but great fun for train buffs and kids.

The Chuckanut’s drive ends in the restored red-brick-lined downtown of Fairhaven, a Bellingham neighborhood brimming with parks, shops and cafes.