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Semiahmoo Resort and Spa-2

Semiahmoo Resort and Spa is an easy over-the-border hop for Vancouver and the Lower Mainland (a 90-minute drive from Seattle if you’re headed north). The resort’s a perfect spot for relaxing, bird watching, and exploring tidal pools, offering a myriad of onsite activities.

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The drive out here is beautiful: once you’ve crossed Peach Arch at the Canada/US border, you come to the little seaside hamlet of Blaine before making your way along the spit and along a lush road leading past two golf courses, ending at the resort.

The resort is housed on Whatcom County’s first and former salmon cannery (opened in 1881). Nearly a century later, salmon canning remained the chief source of revenue in the area until the land was purchased by a developer. Semiahmoo Resort opened in 1986 and received a major renovation in 2013.

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This extremely family and pet-friendly resort contains 195 guest rooms (plus another 15 at Loomis Trail Golf Course and Country Club). Speaking of golf, Semiahmoo has two 18-hole golf courses (3.4 miles/5.5 km from the resort), while Loomis Trail’s golf course is just eight minutes away by car.

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The resort is created for active-minded guests of all ages, with indoor and outdoor tennis courts, indoor basketball and squash courts, nearby bike and kayak rentals at the marina, a health club, full-service spa, and outdoor pool and jacuzzi.

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[Health club with indoor running track]

Semiahmoo Health Club offers fitness classes from Monday through Thursdays with a Saturday morning Hatha yoga class. Guests pay a $15 drop-in fee for any one of the classes.

Outside, there’s plenty of spots to relax with a cold drink. Even though guests are allowed to walk around the resort with alcohol in hand, we never noticed things getting out of hand. Once the sun sets, the beach fire pits see s’mores-making action. On Friday nights, the resort lawn is filled with outdoor seating for an optional BBQ; Saturday is clam bake night. A live band does a couple of sets between 6 and 10 pm right in the middle of the party.

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The weekend of our visit held a couple of milestone birthday celebrations as well as a wedding. Semiahmoo Resort has about 35,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space and can cater to functions of all sizes and configurations.

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We took a property tour upon our arrival and were amazed at how many spaces look out to Drayton Harbour, a gorgeous sight made even more romantic as the sun sets.

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History

The Semiahmoo First Nation people once dominated the area between Boundary Bay in the north to Birch Bay (just south of Semiahmoo). The current Semiahmoo band occupies 328 acres near the boundary between Canada and the US, along the bay, bordering Surrey and White Rock.

Their history can be traced prior to the 18th century, when the first Spanish explorers arrived in the area. Prior to contact with the Spaniards (the first Europeans to see the Coast Salish peoples), the natives primarily fished, the community choosing fishing over hunting. Semiahmoo translates to ‘half-moon’, describing the shape of the bay.

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Spa

Located adjacent to the pool and fitness center, Semiahmoo Spa is aimed at providing personalized massage treatments. Therapists use sea-based products including algae and SeaFlora, a Sooke, BC line of organic products where seaweed plays the starring role. The spa is open to resort guests, health club members and locals alike, and a dry sauna and steam room are located in both men’s and women’s locker rooms for before and after-treatment enjoyment.

We were led into a quiet room with soft lighting and tea and water service while awaiting our couples massage. Both our therapists were keen on making sure the pressure was just right and worked their magic during the 50-minute session ($108 per person; 100-minute version for $198 per person).

These ladies know their stuff! Before long, we were both deeply relaxed, our muscles soothingly worked on, lemongrass essential oil enveloping the space. Our massages incorporated Swedish, deep tissue, and hot stone techniques. Once we were through, it was time to head back to our room, where a king size bed with an amazingly comfortable mattress awaited us.

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Other treatments include mother-to-be-massage, sea salt body polish, seaweed body exfoliation, detoxifying algae wrap, men’s rejuvenating facial, plus facials and spa packages (a combination of 50-minute marine-based spa services; choose from five different treatments).

A short afternoon nap is the perfect indulgence following a massage. Next on our agenda was a private oyster shucking and tasting with Pierside Kitchen’s Culinary Director Eric Truglas and Chef de Cuisine Andrew Cross.

Dine

Oyster sampling at Pierside Kitchen, Semiahmoo Resort Oyster sampling at Pierside Kitchen, Semiahmoo Resort
[Oysters with fresh lemon and lime; oysters with goat cheese, herbs, hand-crafted fish roe]

Oyster sampling at Pierside Kitchen, Semiahmoo Resort
[Oysters en cocotte]

We sat at the bar while the two shucked and prepared a variety of oyster sampling dishes, paired with two wines (Nobilo Icon 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand; Seven Hills 2012 Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington) and Veuve Cliquot. Nothing like a glass of bubbly, a waterfront view, and fresh oysters from nearby Drayton Harbor to end an amazing afternoon.

Pierside Kitchen: Chef de Cuisine Andrew Cross, Culinary Director Eric Truglas
[Pierside Kitchen: Chef de Cuisine Andrew Cross, Culinary Director Eric Truglas]

Pierside Kitchen chilled pea soup, edible flowers, carrots
[Chilled pea soup, edible flowers, carrots]

Both chefs have a passion for inventive dishes using locally-sourced ingredients. At the front of the restaurant is a chalk board listing the distance in miles from their suppliers. Chefs Eric and Andrew have helped to create a hidden culinary gem close to home!

Pierside Kitchen Branzino (Mediterranean Sea bass)

A Mediterranean Branzino (categorized as a European sea bass) is flown in regularly from Greece, served with Dungeness crab bites, haricot vert, pearl onions, arugula mousse and tomato vinaigrette for a sumptuous meal, complemented by freshly-baked olive bread, served with creamy butter topped with Hawaiian black lava salt. Not exactly brought in from next door, however the freshness and flavour are key here, and with the majority of ingredients coming from local farms and fisheries, we’re willing to accept a few out-of-town foodstuffs.

Deconstructed tiramisu with espresso ice cream
[Deconstructed tiramisu with espresso ice cream]

Pastry Chef Kristie George is responsible for some of the gorgeous desserts we sampled over the weekend. A deconstructed tiramisu contains some of the most amazing chocolate crumble and espresso ice cream we’ve tasted to date.

Chocolate Royale: Dark chocolate mousse, hazelnut crunch, ganache, coffee ice cream
[Chocolate Royale]

The richly divine Chocolate Royale is enhanced with hazelnut crunch and topped with a fine ganache (we made it even more delectable with a scoop of coffee ice cream).

Viper Skerritt: Campari, lemon, lavender simple, egg white
[Crafted cocktails with a view: Viper Skerritt: Campari, lemon, lavender simple, egg white]

We were treated to a six-course tasting menu the following evening by Chef Andrew, a culinary whiz who creates flavourful dishes with unique ingredient combinations. 

Chef de Cuisine Andrew Cross; tasting menu Chef de Cuisine Andrew Cross; tasting menu
[From the tasting menu: Watermelon sorbet, Spanish jamon; scallop]

Chef de Cuisine Andrew Cross; tasting menu
[Frisse lettuce topped with a runny poached egg, surrounded by edible flowers and roasted pork-enhanced gastrique]

One course in particular stood out for us: a bed of frisse lettuce topped with a runny poached egg, surrounded by edible flowers and gastrique containing diced lardon underneath. This was paired with a glass of Seven Hills Columbia Valley Riesling, its strong minerality neither too sweet nor too dry, marrying nicely with the pork. 

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Pierside serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and Friday/Saturday/Sunday brunch: The Field to Fork American Breakfast. For $18.95, there’s numerous options to enjoy. Wood-fired pizza for brunch? Consider the creativity of the kitchen staff when a sausage and biscuits with gravy pizza comes out of the oven!

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We loved the decor and white-washed walls and ceiling with a variety of interesting lighting fixtures. The back wall has a colourful map of the area that contrasts nicely with the white tones. The restaurant has a commanding waterfront view; many diners pop outside to watch the sun set. There’s also wooden outdoor tables with umbrellas on the deck.

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Semiahmoo’s also curated a collection of chocolates, hot cocoa mix, spices and loose-leaf teas (sourced from Bellingham’s Spice Hut) for sale in the gift shop.

Pierside Kitchen brunch pizza

Next door, Packers Oyster Bar is a casual venue for enjoying locally-harvested oysters, wood stone pizzas, fresh seafood, burgers, salads, open-faced sandwiches and desserts.

Drayton Harbor oysters on the half shell Semiahmoo Resort and Spa-4

There are several flatscreen TV’s with support banners for both Seattle and Vancouver sports teams. Beer taps focus on local brewers, while Washington wines take center stage alongside an international selection of reds, whites, and sparkling wines. If you bring in your own wine, note the $20 corkage fee.

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[Waterfront Balcony King room]

Sleep

Beds are super comfortable, not too firm nor too soft. A junior suite gives added luxury of a fireplace as well as a sleeping alcove tucked away in the back of the room. The A/C circulates in the main part of the suite, so the sleeping area is nice and quiet even with the fan on.

There’s free wifi throughout the property, bedside charging docks, flat screen HDTV’s, a desk and work area, Keurig K-Cup brewing system, ironing board and iron, bathrobes, Environmentally Sensitive Amenities bath amenities and windows with screens allowing some of that wonderful sea air to circulate throughout your room.

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As mentioned earlier, the mattresses are amazing, with Simmons Beautyrest Black Georgetown Plush Pillow Top bedding to boot, making for a couple of luxurious sleeps.

A word of warning: If you’re sold on sunsets from your window, bear in mind that Waterview rooms are definitely on the noisier side of the property. Choose a Classic over Waterview room for a quieter experience, especially in the evening. Semiahmoo Resort and Spa is located at 9565 Semiahmoo Parkway in Blaine, Washington.

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We were guests of Semiahmoo Resort and Spa, experiencing the property for this feature. Opinions, as always, are our own.

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