By Ashley Stewart Herald Writer
Winter is a great time for road trips.
The trees have mostly shed their leaves, providing a better view of local landscape.
Take a day trip along Chuckanut Drive, where you can see past the trees into Samish and Chuckanut bays, and through farmlands between Skagit Valley and Bellingham.
You can stop along the way for a hike at one of the route’s many outdoor attractions, then continue on to Fairhaven for Christmas shopping and a bite to eat.
It’s slower than the interstate, but the drive is more enjoyable.
To get there, take I-5 north to Exit 231 toward Bow-Edison. At the roundabout, take the third exit onto Chuckanut Drive and keep right.
Blanchard Mountain and Larrabee State Park
Blanchard is the only place in the Cascades where the mountains meet the sea, and its Oyster Dome Trail provides a full view of this remarkable union.
The climb to the dome is quite a workout at more than six miles round-trip, but a little sweat is a small price to pay for unparalleled views of the Samish Sea and the soaring Olympics.
If you can’t make time for the trail, skip it and stop by Larrabee State Park. It’s right along Samish Bay with secluded beaches, two fresh water lakes and more than 2,000 acres to explore.
You’ll need a Discover Pass to park at either. It’s $10 daily or $30 annually at www.discoverpass.wa.gov.
About five miles north of Larrabee, park your car and wander through Fairhaven.
The next few stops are close enough to walk to.
Gallery West is the perfect place to make a dent in your Christmas list. From paintings and prints to wood and glass works, the shop has great gifts for just about anyone.
See a pocket-sized wooden box that slides open to reveal a small compass ($18 to $23) or check out an artsy wooden iPhone stand to rest your device on when you’re playing music or charging it at night ($20).
Gifts come in a range of prices, so you won’t have to spend more than you’d like.
Stop by Avenue Bread for lunch. The local darling serves gourmet sandwiches on house-baked bread — fresh sourdough, ciabatta, foccacia, rustic French and New York deli rye — and the prices are reasonable at less than $10 per item.
Grab the portable adaptation of a holiday favorite, the cranberry turkey sandwich, priced at $7.50. It’s a heavy helping of sliced turkey, cucumbers, mixed greens and cranberry cream cheese (with clusters of dried cranberries) slathered between two slices of rustica bread.
If you want something hot, try their Breakfast Eggenue, a warm English muffin with eggs and fresh topping combinations, such as Swiss cheese, bacon and tomato, or ham, red pepper, pesto and provolone.
They have wraps, soups, salads and sweets too.
After lunch make your way through Village Books. It’s a charming indie book shop that rivals Powell’s Books in Portland or The Elliot Bay Book Co. in Seattle.
It offesr a great selection of new and used reads for everyone in the family, an in-house cafe and adjacent gift shop with neat little finds: greeting cards, journals, stationary, lotions and soaps, candy and homemade fudge.
Boulevard Park is a great place to unwind at the end of the day. Stroll through the park’s boardwalk that overlooks Bellingham Bay and stop into Woods Coffee, a local favorite, for coffee or tea and a tasty baked treat, such as their white chocolate raspberry scone.
A woodland trail begins in the northernmost corner of the park and continues into downtown Bellingham. It’s a long walk, but a fun route if you want to further explore the city.
To get back, drive east on Old Fairhaven Parkway and take I-5 south.
If you go
• Avenue Bread Fairhaven: 1135 11th St., Bellingham; 360-715-3354, ext. 2; www.avenuebread.com.
• Gallery West: 1300 12th St., Bellingham; 360-734-8414; www.artgallerywest.com.
• Oyster Dome Trail: The trailhead is just after the 10-mile post on Chuckanut Drive, with parking on the west shoulder.
• Larrabee State Park: 245 Chuckanut Drive; 888-226-7688; www.parks.wa.gov.
• Village Books: 1200 11th St.; 360-671-2626; www.villagebooks.com.
• Woods Coffee: 470 Bayview Road; 360-738-4771; www.thewoodscoffee.com.