Enjoy stunning beauty, seafood on Chuckanut Drive

It’s a sure cure for that I-5 drudgery.

Chuckanut Drive always has some kind of amazing scenery going on. This time of year, it’s a kaleidoscope of fall colors.

The two-lane road curves 21 miles along the coastline between the Skagit Valley and Bellingham. It was the state’s first scenic highway, carved out of the woods and sandstone cliffs in 1893 for logging purposes.

Now, its purpose is a joyride, away from the rumble of I-5.

Sit back and enjoy the show.

The drive is an ogler’s jackpot, with panoramic views of forest, mountains and islands.

Moss covered trees lean sideways toward the road. Bridges rise over bubbling creeks with waterfalls and jumping salmon. Light sparkles through a canopy of lacy leaves.

You’ll want to touch, not just look through a car window. There are bike trails, hiking paths, scenic lookouts and beaches.

Bring your Discover Pass for a detour through Larrabee State Park, a 2,683-acre camping park with 8,100 feet of saltwater shoreline on Samish Bay.

The only problem with Chuckanut Drive is that it’s not long enough.

Depending on traffic, cyclists and wildlife, it can be accomplished in under an hour, even with a stop or two to shoot the pristine beauty with your cellphone.

One way to prolong the experience is to stop at one of those roadside oyster restaurants with windows showing diners perched at white-linen tables. The packed parking lots make you long to be part of the fun.

The rustic stone-cottage exterior of The Oyster Bar belied the sophistication and prices inside.

The tall windows have an IMAX-like view of the bay and shellfish beds below, hence an old slogan: “The oysters that we serve today slept last night in Samish Bay.”

A glance at the menu with entrees that start at $25, and I was ready to bolt, but there was no way my husband was leaving. He was already fantasizing about a chorus of oysters dancing from the bay to his plate.

As the sun dipped into the sea, we drank in the spectacular views with ice water rather than a glass of something from the award-winning wine list the waiter boasted about.

I have to admit: the pricey oyster place ($70 before tip) was a fun thing to do. Even though I’m a buffet kind of girl, it could be a fall tradition for my family, maybe next time with some Cabernet Sauvignon.

Yeah, even at $9.50 a glass.

Another option is keep on trucking.

If you’re heading north, cap off the drive at the variety of cafes in Fairhaven or at Boundary Bay Brewery in downtown Bellingham.

In addition to lots of brew options, Boundary Bay has a menu that includes reuben, tofu and pesto salmon. And oysters.

Heading south? Take a short jag to Edison.

The historic colony named for inventor Thomas Edison was once headquarters of a national Utopian socialist project. It has eateries, shops and cool stuff to see.

You’ll want to grab a cellphone shot of the mural that is a homage to famous former resident Edward R. Murrow.

Painted on the side of The Lucky Dumpster art shop, it has a caricature of the journalist as a lanky teen and the quote: “Anyone who isn’t confused really doesn’t understand the situation.”

If you’re still hungry for something, you can always stop at the “Espresso &Hot Dogs” stand in Bow.

Oysters on Chuckanut

  • The Oyster Bar, 2578 Chuckanut Drive, Bow. For more information, call 360-766-6185 or go to www.theoysterbar.net.
  • Chuckanut Manor Seafood &Grill, 3056 Chuckanut Drive, Bow. For more information, call 360-766-6191 or go to www.chuckanutmanor.com.
  • Oyster Creek Inn, 2190 Chuckanut Drive, Bow. For more information, call 360-766-6179 or go to www.oystercreekinn.net.
  • Taylor Shellfish Samish Farm Store, 2182 Chuckanut Drive, Bow. For more information, call 360-766- 6002 or go to www.taylorsamish.com.

Other stops

  • Boundary Bay Brewery, 107 Railroad Ave., Bellingham. For more information, call 360-647-5593 or go to www.bbaybrewery.com.
  • The Lucky Dumpster, 14011 Mactaggart Ave., Edison. For more information, call 360-766-4049 or go to luckydumpster.blogspot.com.

Getting there

Take exit 231 from I-5 at Burlington and head west. Chuckanut Drive, officially called Highway 11, runs between Bow and Fairhaven.

Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com

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